The scenic mountains, crisp cool air, and snow crunching under your board: these are the reasons people go snowboarding. The only thing better than hearing your board shred the slopes is seeing it – from every angle.
Signal Snowboards wanted to give people this experience, so they set about to make a board entirely out of something most people would think was impossible: glass.
Everyone, at some point or another, has dropped a glass or bottle and watched it shatter into a million tiny pieces. So how exactly can you make a snowboard that can withstand a person’s full body weight twisting and turning on top of it as they drop in on a run? Or as they make a sharp side cut, placing all the pressure on the edge of the board?
Signal Snowboards, in an episode of their web series Every Third Thursday, recently traveled all the way to Italy to make this dream a reality. The Italians are well known for their glass expertise, and by teaming up with two specialty businesses the crew from Signal achieved the unthinkable.
The process started at Vetreria Aurora, which is an Italian company that specializes in glass processing for more heavy-duty glass applications such as glass doors, wired glass, stair railings, and glass partitions. Here, two separate pieces of the board were cut, melted and custom formed in a glass oven, and carefully drilled for the inserts.
The board was then taken to Viraver Technologies where it was tempered, much like a car windshield. The two pieces underwent a series of heat exposure and chemical salt baths to make them tougher and less likely to shatter. After the tempering process, the two pieces were baked together with a graphic insert in a vacuum-sealed bag. After that, the only thing left to do was test it out.
Signal took the board to the local Abetone ski resort to put the board through the paces. In testing, the board proved unpredictable. It was incredible fast and unthinkably slow all within the same breath – flying down particularly steep sections and coming to a halt as the gradient lessened. The board, while slippery, turned extremely well, but in the end couldn’t withstand the pressure. Before the day was up, the custom build showed radiating cracks, much like a windshield that’s nicked by stones and other road debris.
In all, the board took around a year to plan, five days in Italy to make, and one afternoon on the slopes to destroy. Nevertheless, the board was functioning and rideable – even if only for a short while. Despite its short lifespan, the all-glass board certainly takes its rightful place among Signal’s pantheon of custom boards, which includes the inflatable snowboard and the surfboard-snowboard hybrid.
Perhaps the experiment will continue. Maybe next time they should go all out and use bulletproof glass. Then, at least, they could market themselves at the official sponsor of James Bond.
Check out the episode of Every Third Thursday below: