So you’ve narrowed down your list of snowboard choices, and all you need now is the secret formula for choosing the right size board, right?
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all formula. We can start with some sweeping generalizations: shorter snowboards will in general be more manageable and easier to maneuver, so they’re great for beginners, lighter folks, or more freestyle-oriented riders. Longer snowboard will be faster and more stable, making them good for great for heavier, more advanced, or aggressive freeriders. But let’s break it down a little more.
The old rule of thumb was that you just more or less picked a board that hit between your chin and your nose. But choosing your snowboard length involves a mix of subjective and objective factors, including your height AND weight, the type of riding you’ll be doing, and personal preference. Let’s get the easy part out of the way first—weight. Our snowboard sizing chart will give you a general idea of where to START looking when it comes to board sizes, especially if you’re not too familiar with the metric system.
Why does weight matter? And what about height? Weight is more important than height because of weight distribution and surface area. That is, it doesn’t matter so much if two people who weigh the same are six inches apart in height, because both of them will distribute an equal amount of weight throughout the base of the board, which in turn will affect speed, stability, and float in powder. That being said, height should also be considered, because a taller person will need a wider stance in order to have the same relative stance as a shorter person, and stance widths on boards tend to get narrower as board lengths decrease.
The next factor to consider is the type of riding you’ll be doing. If you’re shopping for your first snowboard, you’ll probably want to size down a few centimeters from the recommended board length indicated on the sizing chart. A shorter board is easier for novice riders to control and maneuver.
If you’ve been riding for a little while, but still haven’t quite figured out the board length you like, the next thing to consider is the conditions you’ll be riding in and the type of riding you’ll be doing. If you’re going to mostly be riding small mountains on the East Coast or in the Midwest, or you’re going to be spending most of your time lapping the terrain park, then you might want to downsize a few centimeters from what our chart recommends for “freestyle.” Riding a shorter board increases maneuverability, reduces swing weight at the tip and tail so you can spin more quickly and smoothly, and limits your chances of clipping your nose when you’re ollieing onto rails.
On the other hand, if you’re going to be riding big mountains out West and will be spending most of your time charging down steeps and slashing powder, then you will want to stick with a board length that’s closer to what our chart recommends for “freeride.” A longer board will provide better drive and power at high speeds, create superior float in deep snow, and improve stability on rough terrain.
Riders who like to do a little bit of everything, from cruising the park and ripping down groomers to seeking powder stashes in the trees, will want to go with a board in the size range our chart suggests for “freestyle.” This will give you a board that’s long enough to stay on top of fresh snow and stable enough to handle high speeds, yet still small enough to use in the park without feeling bulky or unwieldy.
Of course, length isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to choosing the right snowboard size. You may have noticed some boards labeled as “wide.” This means the board has a wider waist to accommodate riders with larger boot sizes. Different companies have different standards when it comes to defining a board as “wide,” but in general riders with boots above a size 10 (10.5+) will want to look for “wide” snowboards. Why is this important? Because if your toe or heel hangs too far over the edge of the board, then your boot will touch the snow when you’re carving, causing you to lose your edge hold and wash out. A little overhang is fine, so don’t panic if your boot is a little longer than your board is wide, but this is definitely something to keep in mind if you have a larger boot.
Another place where the old rules might not apply will be the new wave of surf-inspired directional boards. Many of these feature wide, shovel-like noses and more width underfoot, which means that you can size down smaller because you’re not relying on length to provide the surface area needed to keep you on top of deep snow on powder day. The shorter length also makes them highly maneuverable in the trees, as an added bonus. Just run a check of the waist widths on these stubby boards, and you’ll see that they’re comparable to ‘regular’ boards ten centimeters or more longer. Then you’ll know you’re good to size down … and enjoy.
Hopefully this will help you on your quest to find the perfect snowboard for you. Here are a couple final things to keep in mind. A single centimeter is not very long, so don’t worry too much if you’re looking for a 155cm board, but the board you want only comes in a 156cm. Remember, that’s only an extra half a centimeter added to the tip and tail respectively. Another thing to remember is that it’s all about what you like. If what’s recommended for you feels too squirrely or makes it seem like you’re trying to drive a boat, then don’t be afraid to try something else. The great thing about snowboarding is having the freedom to do what you want, and picking your snowboard size is no exception. If your mountain offers demos, try out a few different sizes in the same board so you can really feel the difference size makes. Keep an open mind, and above all else, have fun!