Snowboard Buyers Guide



Looking at a few different factors can help you in choosing the right snowboard. After you've determined your ability level, preferred riding style, and desired board features, finding your next ride will be easy as pie.

First you'll want to gauge your riding ability. Honesty's the best policy - the right board will help you progress.


Ability Level


Beginner - first-timer or rider with a few days on-snow, still working on basics like skating, stopping,  "falling leaf", etc.

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Intermediate - comfortable with the fundamentals & stays in control. You've pretty much mastered toe & heel side turns, stopping, and getting on/off lifts and are learning some basic tricks

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Advanced - confident on all aspects of the hill: skilled & experimenting with backcountry riding, jumps, and tricks

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Next you'll want to think about the riding conditions you're used to & how you like to ride. There are several general categories that each board falls into depending on their features & characteristics. Shape, stiffness, and profile are all designed by manufacturers to perform best in certain circumstances.


Types of Snowboards


Freestyle - a responsive, forgiving board, usually in a twin shape with moderate flex good for a variety of conditions, making it a good choice for beginners.

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Freeride - longer & stiffer in flex than a freestyle board and directional in shape. Better for deeper, softer snow in backcountry terrain or creating speed & stability in the pipe

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All-Mountain - versatile board with a balanced flex pattern that rides well in a variety of resort conditions. Also a good choice for beginners.

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Park & Jib - shorter, twin shaped boards with more flex for hitting rails

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Powder - directional boards with wider, upturned noses better float to stay on top of deep powder, good for backcountry riding

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Snowboard Construction & Features:


Read up on a board's specs to see if it's features match your ability, height & weight, riding conditions, and style.


Size


length of the board in centimeters, nose to tail.
Board size depends on style of riding, ability, weight and personal preference, not just the rider's height.
  • Park/pipe riders usually prefer shorter boards for more control/maneuverability.
  • A short board will stand between your collarbone & chin.
  • For intermediate to advanced all-mountain riders, a board that hits anywhere from your chin to eyebrows will offer versatility in varying riding styles & terrain.
  • Long boards that reach the rider's forehead or even a few inches taller perform best in heavy powder, high-speed and/or backcountry riding.


Rider Weight - shorter, lighter athletes will find more control & more responsive turning in a shorter, more flexible board. If you're an average weight for your height, look for a board that hits anywhere from your chin to your nose. Heavier riders will find that longer, stiffer snowboards provide better stability & control.



Waist Width


measurement in centimeters across the thinnest part of the board.

Narrow boards will be faster, quicker to initiate turns, and require less effort to control, whereas Wide boards have more stability & perform better in deeper snow. It's also important to factor in your foot size; bindings should span edge-to-edge, for even weight distribution & turning. It's ok for boots to extend a teeny bit beyond the waist width, but shouldn't be hanging over enough to cause toe/heel drag. (Riders with a men's boot size 10 & up should shop for a wide snowboard.)


Shape


the nose & tail measurements of a board are designed to perform better in certain riding conditions.

A board will fall under 1 of 4 basic categories; how subtle or defined the shape is will vary by specific model.
Directional - boards with a clear front & back, meant to be ridden always pointing in the same direction. Best for backcountry/high-speed riding, and usually have softer flex in the nose and stiffer flex in the tail.

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True Twin - a symmetrical board shaped with identical nose & tail measurements & flex patterns. Give the ability to ride "switch" (opposite your normal stance), making them a good choice for park/freestyle riders.

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Directional Twin - a versatile hybrid of the two shapes, common in all-mountain and free ride boards. You'll notice slight measurement variation with softer nose flex & a stiffer tail.

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Profile


describes the shape of the snowboard when viewed from the side.
Camber - traditional snowboard profile. When laying a cambered board on a flat surface, the center will rise with both sides upturned. They're better for faster riding and offer better edge hold, stability & control in hard-packed snow or icy conditions.

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Rocker (reverse camber) - when lying on a flat surface, a reverse camber board will have an overall convex or U-shape. They're known for having a "surf-y" feel: better float in powder & a more forgiving, catch-free ride overall.

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Camber/Flat - a mainly flat profile with minimal elevation in the edges. Good for rails & bombing hills, but edges catch easily when turning.

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Rocker/Camber - combines both rocker & camber profiles for smooth rides with good edge hold. Typically the area between your bindings will have positive camber, with a rocker nose & tail or vice-versa.

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Flex


how soft or stiff a board is will determine how deliberate or forgiving it'll be to ride.

Flexibility is based on a board's core construction & usually measured on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 (1= softest, 5 or 10= stiffest). Boards with a soft flex are easier to maneuver quickly and feel more forgiving overall. In the park, a soft board will be mellow & buttery on boxes/rails, and also give a smooth & catch-free ride (good for beginners). A stiffer board takes a little more intention to maneuver, but will be more stable at high speeds & dropping into big jumps.

Torsional flex - describes the board's flexibility width-wise, from toe to heel edge. A soft torsional flex means quicker, easier edge-to-edge transfer for sharp turns.

Longitudinal Flex - describes the board's flexibility lengthwise, from nose to tail. Soft flex here will mean easy presses & boardslides with a lowered chance of catching an edge.

A board's flex points consist of the areas where all this bending & pressing takes place. If these flex points are the same in the nose & tail, the board has a balanced flex pattern (good for riding switch/ all-mountain riding). If the flexibility gets stiffer/softer from one end of the board to the other, it has a progressive flex pattern (softness in the nose makes it easy to float through powder & a stiff tail will give added "pop" to your takeoffs).


Sidecut


the curvature of the lengthwise, outer edge of a board that affects turning capability.


Sidecut radius is measured as if this curve were extended to complete a full circle. A deeper curve creates a smaller radius allowing quicker, tighter turns that freestyle riders prefer (aka "aggressive sidecut"). A shallow sidecut will have a larger turning radius making it better for longer, wider turns & maintaining control in high speeds.


Edge


the sharp, metal strips on the outside of the board's base.

Edges are responsible for gripping the snow and cutting through ice during turns. They're tuned just shy of a 90-degree angle and should be kept sharp, even, and rust-free to create friction necessary for carving, icy conditions, or riding pipe. Many park riders de-tune their edges along certain contact points or dull them completely to avoid getting caught up on rails or rutted-out landings (De-tuning can't be reversed or repaired so keep that in mind if you're considering taking a file to your edges).

Effective edge is how much of your board's metal edge will be carving through snow as you turn. Longer effective edges create stable turns, while shorter effective edges give a looser ride for quicker spins



Sidewall


area along the outer edge of your board responsible for absorbing impact & vibrations while you ride.

A durable, forgiving sidewall can keep your ride smooth even when hitting rails and battling inconsistent terrain. They're usually made from ABS plastic, rubber, and can be constructed in 1 of 3 ways;

Sandwich - all of the board's layers (base, core, topsheet) are laid on top of one another. The ABS sidewall is then added along the edge to protect the core

Cap - the board's topsheet and fiberglass layer are sealed at the edge, completely covering the inner core. Makes for snappier, lighter boards

Half-Cap/Hybrid - the fiberglass layer covers the core, but the topsheet is connected to the sidewall.


Core


the materials that make up the interior of your snowboard & influence its overall strength & weight.

Cores are typically made from laminated wood that's covered with fiberglass, carbon fiber, aluminum, or Kevlar.

Beech and poplar are most commonly used. They retain shape well, have a lively feel, and are moderately lightweight.

Bamboo is a newer, more eco-friendly option that packs added strength for aggressive riders.

Cores can also be constructed using composite materials for mixed qualities:



Base


the waxed, bottom surface of your board that glides across the snow.
Snowboard bases are hydrophobic (repel water) and are made from a porous plastic saturated with wax, most commonly referred to as P-Tex. The number rating accompanying it stands for the molecular weight of the P-Tex-the higher the number, the heavier & stronger the base. If you like going fast, it's important to wax & maintain your base to reduce friction. There are 2 types of base construction;

Extruded - a base cut from a larger sheet of P-Tex. Less expensive, durable, and easier to maintain, but are also slower. They're smoother and less porous, allowing for less wax absorption

Sintered - means the P-tex base has been ground down to a powder then molded with heat & pressure to create the base. It will absorb more wax and therefore have a faster ride, but only if maintained. They're typically more expensive and harder to repair if damaged.


Determining your Stance:


Now that you've chosen your trusty stead, it's time to saddle up. The position you mount your bindings in should feel comfortable, maintain balance & control, and reduce foot fatigue.

Stance - your position on the board, including direction, width & angles.

Direction - Most ride with a Regular stance, leading with their left foot forward. If you're more comfortable with your right foot forward, you ride Goofy. If you're right-handed it doesn't necessarily mean you ride Regular, so if you're unsure what direction is most comfortable there's a few things you can try:

Have a "friend" push you from behind & see which foot responds to steady your balance.

Toss something (non-valuable! Ex: same "friend's" canned beverage) on the ground & take a few running steps to kick it.

...the balancing/punting foot is dominant & should be in back.



Stance Width - how far apart you mount your bindings affects your ability to balance. A stance that's shoulder-width apart is a good place to start & can be fine-tuned for your height and/or the type of riding you do. A wide stance feels more stable when jibbing rails or landing jumps, and can also give a better center of gravity for taller riders. A narrow stance gives more control for quicker turns & better edge-hold and feels more comfortable for shorter athletes.

Angles - binding baseplates can be mounted in varying degrees to ride with your feet turned inward/outward as much as you'd like. Adjusting stance angles can also reduce any toe/heel drag. The standard stance is 15 & 0, forward foot pointed 15 degrees outward and back foot straight, but most riders prefer a duck-footed stance with both feet slightly turned outward.


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