How to Choose a Snowboard
The number of snowboards available these days can seem overwhelming if you’re not quite sure what you want. To select a deck that properly fits your riding style and personal preferences, it helps to learn a bit about different types of boards and how their shapes and construction affect the way they ride.
The first thing to consider is the kind of riding you’ll be doing most often. Snowboards usually fit into one of a few categories that give you a general idea of the board’s intended use; just remember that the lines between these categories are blurry at best. With an experienced rider strapped to it, any quality snowboard can handle nearly any situation—but when your setup matches your riding style and terrain of choice, that’s when the epic days happen.
All mountain boards are the best bet for riders who want one board to shred everything the resort has to offer. These versatile decks can handle a huge variety of terrain—they offer enough stability and control to charge hard, but enough playfulness and float to spin off jumps or slash deep stashes.
Freestyle boards are the most fun for riders who are focused on building a big bag of tricks both in and out of the park. They’re lightweight, poppy, and designed to be easy to throw around and allow you to land tricks in either direction.
A situational board for all but the biggest snow snobs, powder boards deliver maximum float on those days when staying on top of the fresh stuff is the biggest priority. These boards will often have elongated noses or tapered shapes (or both) to increase surface area and prevent your legs from getting thrashed by noon.
Flex, Feel, and Shape
A snowboard’s flex pattern significantly affects the way it rides. Stiff boards react quickly and offer a powerful feel that pops hard off jumps and maintains control at speed. They’re also less forgiving and more likely to catch an edge due to off-balance turns or sketchy landings. Softer boards are easier to press, butter, and manhandle, and are also less likely to punish you for making a mistake whether you’re trying new tricks in the park or still perfecting your carving skills on the groomers. The catch is that they’re somewhat less stable and more prone to vibration and chatter at high speeds.
Nearly all manufacturers list flex or feel ratings to give you an idea of where each board belongs on the soft-to-stiff spectrum. Many snowboards sit somewhere in the middle in order to achieve a happy medium of ride characteristics.
Somewhat tied to flex is the board’s shape. Since most snowboarders have a preferred stance, many all-mountain boards have set-back insert patterns and a directional flex that’s stiffer in the tail to provide more deep-snow float and energy coming out of carves. Some are tapered from nose to tail to further accentuate this feel. Freestyle boards tend to be symmetrical (“twin tip” or just “twin”) with centered stances to provide a consistent feel while you’re riding in either direction. Boards that have a totally symmetrical shape and flex pattern are “true twins,” while those with symmetrical shapes and directional flex patterns are “directional twins” (often found on freestyle boards with all-mountain tendencies, or vice versa).
A big part of any snowboard’s identity comes from its profile. Not too many years ago, all boards were made with traditional camber, but there’s been a semi-recent influx of new ways to configure a board’s natural bend. Though every manufacturer’s board profiles ride a little differently, they all fit into four basic categories:
- Camber boards offer the most pop, control, and stability of any profile, but are less forgiving and harder to keep on top of the powder.
- Rocker boards partially lift their edges out of the snow to reduce hangups and increase powder flotation, at the expense of control and liveliness. Many companies employ grip-enhancing edge technologies to offset the “slippery” feel of rocker boards.
- Hybrid boards use both rocker and camber in different areas to combine some of the benefits of each. Depending on how much of each is used and where, these boards can ride closer to one end or the other of the rocker/camber spectrum.
- Flat boards are somewhere between hybrid and traditional camber designs in terms of balancing control, pop, and forgiveness. Usually more stable and lively than rocker or hybrid boards, but also a bit more likely to snag an edge.
Construction and Tech
Here’s where you’ll find the main differences between budget-friendly and high-dollar boards. Different manufacturers and boards utilize different materials and technologies to reduce weight, damp vibrations, and maximize pop, durability, and control. As a general rule, higher-end boards tend to have faster bases, lighter, stronger cores, and fancy laminate additives like carbon or basalt fibers that make the board feel more lively and responsive.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that expensive boards are the only ones worth riding. A well-designed board’s construction, shape, flex, and profile all work in harmony to deliver a ride that fits a particular type of rider within a certain price range.
Length and Width
Snowboard sizing is based off the rider’s weight, and nearly all snowboard manufacturers list recommended weight ranges for each size of every board. These are not ironclad rules—a freestyle rider will likely prefer the maneuverability of a shorter board, while powder hounds or all-mountain rippers may appreciate the increased stability of a bigger board underfoot.
Equally (or more) important is width—a board that’s too narrow can send you skidding out of control as your boots drag in the snow. “Normal”-width boards fit up to a men’s size 10.5 (US) or so—if you wear an 11 or bigger, a wide board is the way to go. On the flip side, women- and youth-specific snowboards are narrower to accommodate smaller boot sizes without being hard to turn.
By now you should be able to narrow down your selection to a handful of boards that will match how and where you ride.
Hey, what’s up? This is Alex with Backcountry.com. We’re here at Brighton, Utah. Today, I’m going to walk you through the basics of how to choose a snowboard. We’ve broken snowboards down into three basic groups. There’s a wide variety of shapes and styles within each group, but today, I’m going to walk you through the basics of freestyle, all mountain, and powder boards.
Riders looking for a versatile board that’s going to be able to do a little bit of everything are going to want an all mountain board such as this Burton Custom. The key word when it comes to all mountain boards is versatility. Whether it’s charging groomers, cruising through the park, or riding powder when there’s fresh snow, one of the main features you’re going to look for in an all mountain board is a slightly directional or direction plane shape. This is going to give you a slightly longer nose and it’s going to handle better at high speeds and give you a nice stable ride. You’ll still be able to play around in the park and take off and land split.
Most all mountain boards have a flex that’s somewhere in the medium soft to medium stiff range. This is going to give you a responsive ride with great edge hold that will allow you to charge down steep, but it’s still going to be playful enough to have fun in the park. Whether it’s icy slopes out the East or powder fields out West, all mountain boards are going to allow you to have fun anywhere in any type of condition.
The next category of snowboards are freestyle boards such as this Arbor Draft. Freestyle boards are for the person who spends the majority of their time in the park and looks at the rest of the mountain like it’s a park. Riding switch is hard enough, that’s why most freestyle boards have a twin shape with a centered stance which makes riding switch easier and more comfortable. They also have a wide range of flex patterns. Look for a softer board if you’re going to be doing a lot of jibbing and rails. Go for a stiffer, poppier board if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the pipe or going off big jumps.
Similar to how freestyle boards are made for a certain type of riding, powder boards are specifically designed for soft conditions [inaudible 00:01:57]. There are a wide variety of shapes within powder boards, but generally you’re going to be looking for a directional shape with a longer, wider nose, a setback stance, and a tapered tail. This is going to give you effortless float in powder as well as a surfy, playful feel.
Most powder boards have a medium to medium stiff flex that’s going to be soft enough to plane easily on top of fresh snow, but still be stiff enough to maintain control and stability at high speeds. You’ll notice that powder boards tend to come in longer lengths. This is because the longer length creates better float in powder. When choosing a powder board, make sure you choose something that’s a little longer than what you would ride in a freestyle or an all mountain board.
That covers the three main types of boards. Remember that these are just general categories. If you have any further questions or need help finding the perfect board for you call up or chat with one of our Gearheads at Backcountry.com.