That shiny new snowboard setup is just a pile of parts until you dial in its stance width, setback, and binding angles to match your physiology and riding style. Finding your ideal stance will pay dividends by keeping you comfortable and in-control every time you strap in.
Stance width is largely a matter of personal preference. Having your bindings set closer together makes it easier to initiate and hold turns and gives you a tighter center of mass for faster spins, while a wider stance helps you stay low for better balance and improves your ability to muscle out off-balance landings. You’ll likely have to try a few configurations to find what’s most comfortable, but a good place to start is with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. (If you’re adjusting your stance width at home, make sure you’re wearing your snowboard boots when choosing what feels good.)
Most all-mountain and freeride boards use set-back stances to improve stability and deep-snow float, while freestyle boards are more (or completely) symmetrical from tip to tail to allow comfortable takeoffs and landings while riding in either direction. Somewhere on your snowboard’s topsheet, you’ll find a reference stance and its location relative to the center of the board’s sidecut. Markings around certain inserts will indicate where to mount your bindings to achieve the listed stance. The industry-standard 2×4 mounting pattern alters your stance by 2cm (just over half an inch) each time you slide your bindings over to the adjacent set of inserts. For example, if your board’s reference stance is 22 inches, moving each binding outward to the next grouping of four inserts will give you a stance just over 23 inches while maintaining the same setback. Keeping your setback similar to reference helps your board ride as the manufacturer intended.
Just like stance width, binding angles are largely up to the individual user. Freeriders on directional boards may prefer a positive stance (like +21, +6) with both bindings facing forward for maximum turning power, while freestyle riders often angle both feet outward in a symmetrical duck-footed stance (such as +15, -15) for a balanced feel while riding in both directions. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, however—freestyle legend Terje Haakonsen prefers a forward-facing stance, and once won a halfpipe contest riding switch the entire time. While most instructors and rental shops default to a neutral stance for beginners (such as +15, 0), many all-mountain riders find the most comfortable stance to be a moderately positive front-foot angle, and a slightly negative back-foot angle (something like +15, -6), as this can help minimize strain on the back knee. The important thing is to find angles that feel natural and allow you to easily maintain control while riding.
Perfecting your stance will be a bit of an ongoing process as you try new things and determine what suits you best. It’ll be worth your time to pick up a pocket tool for quick on-hill adjustments without having to borrow a screwdriver from the resort repair shop. Finally, when you’re making adjustments, keep in mind that small changes go a long way—an experienced rider who’s accustomed to a certain stance will immediately notice a difference of a half-inch or a few degrees.