To the snowboarding novice, all boards may seem to be alike. The reality is that there are dozens of different subtle features you should be looking for and that there are many kinds of snowboards to choose from.
First, Know Yourself
Before you start looking at the features of the board itself, you need to look in the mirror first. A board that fits you is your main priority, and size does matter. The usual gauge to find a snowboard that is the right length for you is to stand it up and it should come just a bit higher than shoulder height. As you get more experienced in your riding, you can adjust this to suit your style but it’s a handy place to start.
The next part about you is your experience level. A beginner shouldn’t be looking at the same kinds of boards as an experienced pro. Most boards are going to be labeled for experience levels, so be honest with yourself and stick to your comfort zone. Once you’ve gotten some experience under your belt, then you can move up to more advanced boards and start looking at some of the other design options to suit your riding.
And speaking of your riding, that’s the next aspect of knowing your personal situation before buying a snowboard. Are you going to just cruise down a mountain slope, or are you planning on doing intense tricks (freestyle)? You’ll want the right board for your style so keep reading to find out more about your board options.
Then Know Your Board
Once you’re starting to tailor your board to fit your needs beyond the novice level, there are lots of things to consider.
Let’s start with the shape. Subtle differences in the shape of your board can make a lot of difference in how it rides and what you’ll be able to do with it. A board that is symmetrical, as in having the same shape at either end, is known as a twin board and is the best choice for freestyle because it allows you the flexibility of switching directions easily. On the other hand, a board with a wider nose will give more stability when going for downhill speed. A slightly longer board will help with speed too.
There is another aspect of shape to consider, and that’s the sidecut. The scooped out portion on either side can be deeper or shallow, depending on the board. Small but deep cuts give you a tighter turn radius for more quick maneuverability. A longer, shallow cut gives you more surface area for covering soft powder better.
We already talked about length, but what about width? The width of a snowboard is fairly standard, and is a reflection of your boot size. A regular width board is fine for anyone with a boot size up to 10. Bigger than that, and your heels or toes are going to overhand the board and interfere with your ride. So move up to either a mid-wide (up to boot 11 1/2) or a wide (size 12 or larger). Still not wide enough? They do make extra-wide boards, you just have to look a little harder.
How stiff the board is is known as its flex, and it is ranked from 0 to 10 with 10 being completely hard and inflexible. Doing tricks and handling curves in the back-country will require a softer flex, say around a 5 or lower. But again, for speed and stability on a straight-away, a stiffer board is a better choice.
And that’s not all. You can also make choices about the surface of the base. This is where all the contact with the snow takes place, so the right surface is crucial. Cheaper boards have an extruded base which is generally fine for most use. It’s easier to fix when it gets damaged, making it preferred for trick riding since you are more likely to scuff it up on rails or trees, or whatever. The alternative is a sintered base, which is smoother and will require more wax to get optimum performance. These bases aren’t as easily damaged, though they cost more to fix when it does happen. You’ll get more speed, which is what many freeride snowboarders are after.
This guide to snowboards should help you navigate the world of boards to make a decision about what board is right for you. A better board means a better experience out on the snow.