How to Choose a Snowboard
Snowboarding has rapidly come of age, and today you can see riders of all ages and abilities attacking the slopes or catching air in the terrain park. Using your riding style and skill level to determine what sort of snowboarding equipment you will use will be important when making a purchase decision.
Many pieces of snowboard equipment are optimized for different riding styles. Determining how you will use your board is vital to choosing the proper gear.
The two most common styles of snowboarding are All-Mountain and Park and Pipe/Freestyle.
- Rider can perform anywhere on the mountain
- Most common boarding style
- Great beginner style
Park and Pipe/Freestyle
- Riders excel at rail grinding, jumps and tricks
- Boards are more light and flexible for jumps, tricks and rails
You would know better than anyone else if your experience classifies you as a beginner (Easy Ride), intermediate (Performance) or advanced (High Performance) rider. The degree of proficiency you are capable of is important in determining the style, quality, complexity and cost of the snowboard you select.
Below is some information in helping you decide which skill level category you fall into:
- Little to no experience riding (going to the mountain once or twice)
- Wants to learn or knows very little about the basics
- Discovering riding style (All-Mountain or Freestyle)
- Comfortable riding experience
- Fundamentally sound on a snowboard; can link turns
- Prefers a specific riding style
- Masterful riding skills
- Looking for new technology and taking their skills to another level
- Skilled in jumps, tricks, rails, etc.
Boards are available in different lengths, widths and thicknesses to fit riders of all styles, ages and abilities. Here are some basic definitions to help understanding the different components of a snowboard:
- Run along the sides of the board, enabling a rider to control the board, turn, slow down and stop
- Laminated top layer of the board that holds it together and offers the rider a chance to express his/her style
- Underside surface of the board and component that comes in the most contact with snow
- Able to be waxed and polished for a smoother ride
- Opportunity to showcase a rider's style
- Often varies with vendor branding
- Arranged in different patterns that vary based on the brand and board style
- Can be in arranged in 4x4 or 3D mount patterns
- Binding is mounted to the board with two screws, giving the rider a variety of stance and angle options
- Curve that runs along the edge of the board, cutting in toward the center
- Deeper sidecuts enable faster and easier turns
- Shallower sidecuts offer better float and are well suited for higher speeds
There are two basic shapes for snowboards, and they tailor to the specific types of riding styles—All-Mountain and Park.
- Have a longer nose/tip than tail
- Made for riding in one direction (typically downhill)
- Can be used for riding switch, but normally only for short periods of time
Riding switch: if you normally ride regular (left foot in front), you switch to goofy (right foot in front) or vice-versa.
- Used by All-Mountain riders
- Made for Freestyle/Park and rail specialists
- Can easily switch to any riding direction
- Same size nose/tip and tail
When you rest your snowboard flat on the ground and look at the horizontal plane it forms, you'll notice that the board has a specific shape profile known as camber. This enables only certain areas of the board's surface to come into direct contact with the snow.
Snowboards can come in a few basic cambers, each of which is suited to a different style of riding.
- Completely flat from nose to tail, giving a very balanced feel and stability under foot
- Great option for newer and park riders
- Name is commonly interchanged between Reverse and Rocker
- Flat center and arching nose/tail
- Allows better float on the snow and a more forgiving landing base for jumps and tricks
- Classic snowboard shape with a slight upward curve in the middle of the board
- Enables excellent turning and acts as a pressure-loaded spring for jumps
- Mixed is a possible variation of the three types of camber
- One variety of mixed camber is reverse camber from tip-to-tail, but camber underneath the foot
- Choosing mixed camber offers the forgiving feel of reverse camber, but added pop and control that goes with a camber-style board
Cores and Bases:
Here's a quick look at the different components and methods used for building the two most significant parts of the board - the core and base:
Laminated Full-Wood Core
- Delivers increased board responsiveness and flex, exceptional durability and the advantage of holding its shape longer than any other core material
- Most wood cores are reinforced with fiberglass, which provides lightweight strength
- More porous option that easily accepts and retains wax for optimum riding performance
- Requires the most waxing maintenance but delivers superior performance and durability
- Tends to be found on more expensive models
- Offers a durable, low-maintenance riding surface
- Popular with new and infrequent riders because of price ranges
- Requires less waxing and can be easily repaired if damaged
Use a board that's too large, and you'll have trouble maintaining control. Try one that's too small, and you'll be uncomfortable. Having the right fit will allow for optimum performance.
Snowboard fit must consider two dimensions, length and width.
- Often determined based on height and weight
- Most riders can select the right size board by standing a snowboard on its tail and measuring where its tip reaches
- If the tip falls mid-way between the rider's nose and chin, the fit is generally correct for most riders
Your riding style also factors into determining the best size.
- All-Mountain riders may prefer a longer board that can hold an edge in icy conditions; provides more float on powder and give added stability at high speeds
- Freestyle riders may elect to use shorter boards for better maneuverability and faster turns
Below is a table with average rider size and board lengths.
- Generally determined by the size of your boots
- If you're above a size 10.5 size boot, you may want to consider a wider-sized board.
- Boots should just barely extend over the sides of the board in order to enhance your turning ability
There are two other factors concerning the width of the board that need to be taken into consideration when making a purchase decision.
- Size depends largely on riding style and is based on a circle radius
- Smaller numbers and narrower sidecuts allow for quick and easy turns
- Larger numbers and more shallow sidecuts allow easier maneuvering at high speeds
- Edge section that actually comes into contact with the snow
- Longer effective edges provide a good grip in turns and stability at higher speeds
- Shorter effective edges help a board turn and spin easier
There are two types of snowboard flex, specifically relating to width-flex and length-flex. Board flex will allow for easier turns (soft) or higher speeds (stiff).
- Flexibility of the board between the two edges (width-flex)
- The softer the torsional flex is, the easier time the rider will have making sharp and quick turns
- Flexibility of the board from nose/tip to tail (length-flex)
- Softer longitudinal flex will make for softer landings when doing tricks and is preferred by freestyle riders
- Stiffer flex will make it easier for all-mountain riders to maintain higher speeds
Other Snowboard Structure Details:
Here are some other terms that you may see when choosing a snowboard:
- Thin layers of polymer and rubber that are added to some boards
- Helps absorb shock and eliminate excess vibration at high speeds