Snowboard Propulsion System Motors You Through The Flats


One advantage that skiers have always had over snowboarders is the ability to move through flat sections with ease. [Matt Gardner] built this prototype to help even the playing field. When he would normally need to kick, hop, or remove the board and walk he can now engage his snowboard battery propulsion system.

The rig works much like a paddle boat. The two wheels sticking out to either side of the board push against the slow to move the board forward. The drive train is built from an RC plane speed controller and battery, a motor and gearbox from an 18V drill from Harbor Freight, and a couple of 3D printed gears and mounting brackets. He used a 3D printer to make one drive wheel, then used that to make a silicone mold to cast the wheels used above. The entire assembly is attached to the board with a door hinge. This way the rig can be rotated out of the way (and we assume strapped to his boot) when he’s shredding down the mountain. When paired with an in-goggle HUD this will take snowboarding to the next level!

Unfortunately since it’s already April there’s no snow left to test it on, which means no demo video. But he does tell us that a test run on both grass and carpet went well.

76 thoughts on “Snowboard Propulsion System Motors You Through The Flats

        1. The hinge actually works pretty well. You can lean enough to turn without either wheels losing contact with the ground. This is very much a work in progress. I drove 8 hours total looking for snow to test this and all I could find is a small patch of powder off in the woods 100 meters from the road… Certainly not ideal testing grounds. I intend to add a few 3d printed upgrades and test in my back yard with 20 pounds of crushed ice…

  1. I gues it only works on hard snow, the soft snow will just get scooped away.

    Maybe that something like a spindle in the middle of the board which can be lowered is a better alternative.

    Same thoughts here

  2. Sorry to be a downer, but there is zero chance that this will work. I went winter mountain biking last month. It was really easy to spin out a 3″ wide tire with roughly a foot long contact area in almost any type of snowpack. That setup has maybe 5x the contact surface area of this proposed snowboard solution. All that this machine is going to do is spin the wheels and dig holes in the snow.

    1. There are old snowmobiles that used tires rather than skis for direction, and I assume in part, propulsion.

      I don’t think this will work either but for a different reason. Snow, and water, is nasty. Especially when you consider the kind of abuse a snow board can take. One wrong biff and your nice cute propulsion system is going to a yard sale.

    2. Did your bike tire have 5/8 deep teeth? Im not even claiming this system will work on snow. But I dont think you can compare this to a bike tire. I made a mould in silicone so I can cast as many paddles as I need to. I plan to keep adding them until I can get traction. I may have to make the teeth deeper. In any case I appreciate all of the comments. It provides valuable insights and new perspectives.

        1. Expounding on the idea, you could have dual screw drives, one on each side of the board, that are spring-loaded in the UP position. Have a pull cord near one of your boots that you pull on to drag the drive screws down to the snow. Add throttle control to the pull cord and you can just reach down, pull it up, run the throttle to zip off, release once on a downslope.

          Now you’re making me want a snowboard again, but I /just/ bought a motorcycle! My girlfriend would kill me!

    1. You could put one of those hand-warmer packs on it, for a way of keeping them warm without using more electricity than you’d gain. Then just insulate it well.

      Altho it’s not impossible thermodynamically to heat a battery using it’s own power, to increase it’s power capacity, that is, to get out more of the power that you put in (but not more than). In practice I dunno how well it’d work, sounds like something that’d need a graph and a few tests.

    1. If not regenerative braking, might want to at least develop some kind of slip-clutch: If you start moving under the power of gravity, the poor gears/motor/wheels could snap from the strain!

  3. If it used 4 larger wheels (something that looks like whats on the Mars Rover) on 4 corners of the board, Like a Offroad Longboard but with the trucks on top and able flip the tires down when you need them, picture a servo arm attached to the end of the truck Spindle. allowing the tires to rotate down to contact snow.

    Not sure it’s worth the added weight.

    I came up with that in 30 seconds.

  4. Even folded against his leg, it’s going to get in the way when he carves hard or hits something steep.

    What he needs is some sort of quadcopter, large enough to give him a tow…

    1. If you held a personal jet engine like a football, perhaps with a strap for your shoulder, you could ignite it for the flat sections and thereby be relieved of your drudgery.

    2. This was a major concern for me. I had originally designed it to be attached behind the rear binding but the frame I laser cut was too large. However I did strap in and test leaning in all different manner and tried to visualize going down a very steep double diamond slope. with just the two paddles I do not see it getting in the way at all while retracted. However I won’t know for sure until next snow season.

      1. What about getting up from your front? I usually have my toes and knees on the snow, and may be partially sunken in. Getting up from your back probably wouldn’t have this issue, but it isn’t always an option.

  5. I hate work-bashing comments,i don’t post them,i don’t want them,i will only state my idea.

    The Hinge i’m afraid isn’t going to help as for this to work as expected it needs an advanced style suspension able to lean the wheels for as much as the snowboard can lean while at the same time FORCES the wheels down at a pressure at least half the weight of the Snowboarder so to get proper traction on the snow.

    The best to get traction and to avoid complex suspensions is to add some sort of Lightweight Snowmobile Tracks in the middle of the Snowboard and an Actuator Operated Flap for closing the hole and reducing the Drag bellow the Snowboard.

    1. @isn c: I think you would be surprised at the torque on this motor. I also have some options to increase it. I do a fair amount of mechanical engineering, and this motor came off one of my heavier duty robots. I also have a twin to this motor. If the motor stalls, I intend to use two and use a torque combiner. However I am pretty sure this motor has the power to do it. I think its more about getting the right gear ratio. I am currently drawing up a gear box which slows it down and increases the torque greatly.

      That motor had ~5000 RPM… Now reduce that to 150 rpm (a 3300% increase in torque). I can also use an 18v battery instead of 12V and get a substantial increase in torque.

      @tehDorf: Thank you for the encouraging words. This is the first iteration, and I intend iterate until this works flawlessly. This is not my first mechanical engineering/robotics project of considerable complexity. I also work at Google solving complex problems everyday for a living.

      Another note: I am not pushing an adult on concrete. I think many of the naysayers over estimate the amount of friction a snowboard has with packed snow. I would estimate it takes about 10-15 pounds of force to move an adult

    2. The motor should be fine,notice it is geared and the paddle wheels have small diameter. Don’t expect it to move you like a rocket,he only wants it to roll him when stuck on flat surface.

  6. Sorry to bash but can you guys at least limit posts to things that test out ok? This thing is as much a joke as when you posted that project that was like 15% complete.
    It’s a waste of the guy’s time, it won’t even work on carpet. And now it’s wasted all of your reader’s time.

    1. -1 for being a jerk about it. It is a creative idea and could inspire someone, don’t be upset because it isn’t necessarily fully functional, when things are in that state it inspires others to improve on the concept.

      1. I suppose you’re right. I’m mostly annoyed at the pure quantity of these postings lately, the last two months have been a bad signal to noise ratio. Too many things that are half-baked or just plain not done enough to see results.

  7. I like the idea, it’s great to see someone put that much work into a prototype. I think there are some obvious issues with this version, but I hope that he keeps working on it and doesn’t get discouraged. This is a very interesting problem because it seems like there are so many ways to approach this that could work, though finding a practical solution may be difficult.

    What about having two sets of wheels/augers/tracks, one for each side of the board, that fold out from the center-line of the board to the edge? Like, but with tank-tracks instead. Also, they don’t have to stick out as far, just enough to clear the side of the board.

    1. What about a great big fan, like those airboat things they use in Florida?

      I think it’s called Parascending, a flying, wing-shaped parachute on your back, together with a great big fan and something like a motorbike engine. You might need more power than a drill, but on the upside you’d be able to ski uphill. Obviously you forget the parachute. Unless you don’t, and then I’ve just invented aerial skiing, which is the most fun thing I can think of.

      Failing that I like the idea of the Archimedean Screw people suggested. Lots of contact area between the drive and the show. Higher torque and lower speed. Maybe one on each side, with sticks that go up to your arms, so you can push them into the snow as much as is necessary.

      1. I have done a good deal of prop driven projects. I even have a huge selection of motors, props, and motor drivers at my disposal. One thing to keep in mind, is that if you can get traction, it is far more efficient to go with a wheel type system. A 6hp motor can can get a scooter can achieve 50mph. A 6 hp motor can spin a 16-18″ prop with low pitch (8 pitch) and will generate ~ 20-40 pounds of thrust (im estimating because I am too lazy to do the math but it is ballpark). 20-40 pounds of thrust will not move a scooter at 50 mph.

  8. I like the idea and love the wheels, but i also have doubts about the grip on snow. I think those might have a change of working on some though compact snow. (stupid English language that has too few words to describe snow without making it sound silly!)

    What about using some kind of a swing arm in the front of the snowboard where you could add bigger wheels with more “teeth” length or maybe even wheels with chains. This way it would act more as a puller rather than a pusher. This would help the wheels gain better grip from the snow as it would try to burrow down more than those and it wouldn’t affect leaning at all.

    And my opinion is to keep it simple, no silly servos or stuff like that.

    1. @Harold: Thanks for the encouragement!
      Things I know that do work: the hinge, the motors torque, and the overall stability of the prototype.
      Things I am not 100% will work: the current gears (I do not think they are strong enough to handle the torque. notice the zip ties holding them together), and the paddles ability to grip the snow. The paddles on this are actually only half as wide as I had originally planned. but I have room for wider paddles and the molds to cast more. I also have a 3d printer and can print out some deeper teeth, wider paddles.

      My current plan as i have stated before is to print out a very strong gear box which reduces the speed (its still too fast), and increases the torque, and will not allow gear slippage. And to print out some wider, more aggressively toothed paddles.

      I appreciate everyone’s comments. I am quite confident that by next snow season this will work. I love working on tough challenges and building crazy things.

  9. Computer engineer at google does not mechanical engineer make.

    I would never post something that I would consider to be pre-alpha on the internet and I consider this pre-alpha.

    Problems in the design I see:
    Lack of traction (google extreme offroad from russia, fordson snow machine, powered snowboard)
    brittle plastic in cold weather
    snap the whole thing off when you fall
    bend a shaft when you fall
    twist a shaft
    twist a wheel on shaft
    springy shaft torquewise, also look up stiction
    non-waterproof connections/motor
    and more that I will think of immediately after posting this.

    OP take some mechanical engineering courses to better understand the physics at play here.

    1. 1.) I am not selling this, not mass producing this, and am building this purely for the fun of it.
      2.) I highly doubt you are capable of adequately judging my knowledge of mechanical engineering based on this article alone.
      3.) This is not a prototype designed for long term operation (I would have used stainless steel gears, a larger motor, a shaft that has a thicker diameter that is hardened steel or stainless steel instead of threaded rod, and all of the electronics would be enclosed in a waterproof casing. I also would not have gears exposed where they can injure the rider.). It is designed to get you out of the flat sections (1 minute of operation) and cost me less than $50 out of pocket. Lets see you do better for < $50.
      3.) Clearly you are not familiar with building projects successfully or you would understand that the successful strategy is often: build something that works quickly, build it cheaply, learn from your mistakes, and keep iterating until it works.
      4.) cool your troll horn. If you don't like my design by all means go build your own. This isn't my first time to the dance. Go ahead and keep your comments on it to yourself. All of your criticism is pretty much useless and things I was already aware of.

      However I greatly appreciate the constructive criticism all the other commenters have provided.

      1. Well said. Some silly persons think they can bash someone’s abilities without even know them just judging by an idea or a project.

        I will suck it up if i see Criticism about a Project,but Criticism for the Knowledge of someone? There’s nothing more disgusting that that.

        I’ve counted a lot of times already of me being humiliated publicly and being sent “Back to do my Homework” about something i wanted to make for MY SELF and i knew every pro and con of what i was trying to do and i was just showing it.

        But you know what? I don’t know the level of Knowledge of a Person like those,maybe it would be far superior than mine i don’t know.

        All i know is Whoever does it is not only a closed minded smartash,has not only failed in Projects,but is also a Total Failure in Life.

        Only the fact that someone is commenting about someone’s knowledge is enough to Understand what kind of person that might be.

        At the end,don’t bother about what they say,this should not mess with your fun and your work.

        I’ve started losing my interest on my projects when they were getting bashed but i later understand the pleasure of doing something is all mine,it’s not made to be sold to them and i don’t need anything from them.

        Have fun.

  10. Nice idea, as many have said not sure how well it will work.

    I think the suggestion of the single caterpillar tread in the middle (cut a hole in the board?), would perform best, as even when turning it would remain in contact with the ground. The motor could be disengaged to prevent rolling resistance, or even a battery charging mechanism added so that on the downhill sections it charges back up.

    I dunno, never been skiing in my life :P

  11. Nice first iteration. I wanted something like this for a long time. However, I would have done it differently:

    I’m thinking outrigger boat: have a single, fat wheel on the back of the board, pulled up/folded forwards by a spring. When the board decelerates, you reach down, pull a (stiffish) rope loop or something which a) folds out the wheel into contact position and b) revs up the engine. Clever motor controller figures out the right speed for maximum thrust without slippage, and takes into account how hard you pull to push the wheel into the snow -> simple ergonomic design.

    In your design, the axle would need to be hinged and suspended etc, and the axle is like a foot long, so shaft bending etc would be a concern. So I think a single fat wheel could be made much more compact, could work even when leaning into curves, and could be nicely encapsulated (like these handheld circular saws with their finger-protective sheaths that automatically retract). This could mean you could use a meaner wheel with “shovels” on it like tracked snow mobiles.

    If a wheel is not good enough, get a single tracked thing (triangular) so you get more contact area. I think you could make it very compact this way, like a small backpack or a big lunchbox, and mount it on the back foot boot binding or something.

    This was supposed to be a short suggestion, now I have production-ready blueprints in front of my inner eye.. brb! ;)

        1. I like your take on it. I agree that a wheel that rides off the back could be much wider and still out of the way. Mechanically it could be pretty simple too. Tracks could work for that design as well. I want to see how it works with two wheels on each side (the original design). I may adopt some of your design if I can’t get it to work with the new gear box and double paddles. I greatly appreciate your input.

          1. The more I think about it, the more I like your design wuidsau.
            If you would like, pls contact me mattgardnerhccgmailcom
            I think I will fork development and develop both methods. The reason is I am ~2 hours away from the upgrades I had been planning, and your mocks will take at least 4 hours to draw up and several days in print/manufacturing time. I really like that design though.

    1. Useless you say? Snowboarding itself is not very useful, you shouldn’t do it. In fact, going down a snowy hill at all is useless. Many arduino projects, customized keyboards, hard drive speakers etc. are useless. Most of hackaday is, in a hunter-gatherer-sense, very much useless.

      The point is if you wanna do something for the fun of it without hurting anyone, go for it. And don’t criticize others for pursuing their passion. In this specific instance, not having to interrupt the flow of carving down a hill is cool, if executed correctly. Unstrapping and pushing is simply no fun.

  12. It blows my mimd that someone else already thought of this. What gave me the idea is all these powered longboards and hover board things and wanting to get up hill to do backyard or local hiking trails. I think a bigger battery bigger wheels or gear things that can handle steeper grade and deeper snow. And a detach system similar to the way bindings come off for split boarding. And able to somewhat take it appart to fit it in a back back for the ride down. Its so crazy how much us humans think alike!!!

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