Mountain boards are a mash-up of snowboards and skateboards, exactly what you'd expect from this board-sport hybrid. The deck of a mountain board -- the board itself -- looks a lot like a snowboard. It has roughly the same dimensions and is built from the same materials, wood and carbon fiber. Mountain board decks are more flexible and springy than skateboards, contributing to better shock absorption and smoother steering control.
The nose and tail of a mountain board deck are angled like a skateboard, but they don't serve the same function. Skateboarders use these flared edges to make sharp turns and to initiating certain tricks. Since mountain boarders are strapped into the board, they don't use the nose and tail in the same way. On mountain boards, the nose and tail are angled to allow the rest of the board to be lower to the ground, giving the rider even more balance and control.
One of the biggest differences between a mountain board and a skateboard are the tires. Skateboard tires are solid plastic and rotate on bearings. Mountain board tires -- known as tyres -- are like miniature mountain bike tires. They're big -- between 8.5 and 10.5 inches in diameter --made of knobby rubber and filled with air. The pressure in the tires can be adjusted for greater traction or speed.
Tires are attached to axles called trucks. Mountain boarding trucks are thicker and longer than skateboarding trucks and made of rust-proof aluminum. The trucks are attached to the board using a unique suspension system called a channel truck. Channel trucks pivot on a central pin, like a see-saw. This pivoting design offers a large range of motion. The trucks are cushioned by springs and shock absorbers on both sides of the central pin. This allows for deep, carving turns even at high speeds.
Most mountain boards come with bindings. Unlike snowboard bindings, mountain board bindings are "heel-less," which means only the front part of the foot is strapped to the board. This allows the boarder to easily step in and out of the bindings while riding. Mountain board bindings can be as simple as rubber stirrups, although most use either adjustable velcro or ratchet-style straps.
Hand brakes are handy options on a mountain board. A mountain board hand brake looks exactly like a hand brake on a mountain bike, except it isn't attached to a handlebar. The rider simply holds it in his hand and squeezes it to slow down. Hand brakes are especially useful on single-track trails where it's too tight to turn.
Before you hit the slopes, check out some of our mountain boarding tips on the next page.