We get asked about metal edges regularly. Since skis and snowboards need metal edges, it seems only natural to expect Drift boards to have them. While they would very easy to add to the Drift boards, we are sticking to our guns we do not have plans to add metal edges. Why not? Despite conventional wisdom that says you need metal edges to climb well, we have not found them to be worth the extra cost and weight in our testing. Drift boards were designed exclusively for uphill travel. Metal edges and sidecut on skis and snowboards exist primarily to help them turn while sliding downhill, not to provide grip when climbing. There are approach skis on the market that include full metal edges, sidecut, and even p-tex base material. These are not design features for uphill travel, they are holdovers from conventional downhill construction. When it comes to firm snow or sidehill traction with Drift boards, there are a couple factors much more important than metal edges: 

First, leverage. 

While a metal edge my sometimes help skis cut into firm snow, their impact is negligible compared to the existing edge on our Drift boards.This is especially true with the standard Drift boards because of their width. really setting the edge of a ski depends on leverage. Traditional touring skis are narrow and use hardshell ski boots and bindings designed to minimize lateral movement. This allows the skier to easily put their weight directly on the edge of their ski. Drift boards are extra wide, the binding is minimal, and snowboard boots and bindings are actually designed to allow lateral movement. All of this adds up to a lack of edge leverage. 

Drift boards don't edge like a ski because they can't be leveraged like a ski, not because they don't have a metal edge. Standing directly on the edge of the Drift boards requires an extremely rigid boot and binding setup. Even split bindings don't make much difference. For now, this is a trade-off we are willing to make to maximize Drift board performance in soft snow and retain their quick transition speed and low profile on a rider's back although we are always working on minimizing the edging issue. 

Our Cascade boards, which are significantly narrower than the standard edition, provide quite a bit more leverage and are more comfortable side-hilling in firm snow.

The second factor is surface area contact on snow. 

Ultimately it's the skins that provide uphill traction. If a ski or splitboard is only on the metal edges at an degree of angle, they are going to slide downhill. Traction depends on skin material in contact with the snow, period. We bring our skins all the way the edge of the Drift boards, so the edge is never meant to contact the snow anyway. If a ski or split has an advantage in firm snow, it is the relative skin surface area that is still able to contact that snow when sidehilling compared to the much shorter Drift boards. In such situations we find taking a more direct uphill route works well.

If the snow is really firm, we recommend the Drift crampons. They quickly take care of any traction issues. If you're in this kind of snow regularly, we recommend our Cascade model as the narrower width allows for consistently better edging. 

Be safe and have fun out there!

December 05, 2022 — Dave Rupp