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Choosing the Right Snowboard: What To Look For

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Snowboards allow you to express your true snowboarding style. Although graphics are a fun part of choosing our boards, there are definitely more important factors to consider first when picking out a new snowboard are:

  • Ability and riding style
  • Board length, profile, shape and stiffness
  • Construction materials

If you’re asking yourself “What size snowboard should I get?” or “What is the best beginner snowboard?” you’re off to a good start. We’ve put together the following guide on how to choose a snowboard to improve your knowledge and help you pick the right board.

The following sections will help you choose the right board based on your ability level, height and weight, your style of snowboarding and what type of terrain you’ll be riding.

Your Ability Level

When it comes to picking a board for a beginner, you’ll have more confidence and control on your first turns down the mountain if you choose a board with the following:

  • Soft flex for easier turning
  • Twin shape boards can ride both ways
  • Length somewhere around your chin for good mobility
  • Flat or traditional camber for strong stability

The Snowboard Length

The length of a snowboard affects the stability and mobility of your ride. Longer snowboards generally provide more stability and shorter snowboards are generally easier to maneuver around. While a small board might be easier to turn, it will also be slower and harder to control in deeper snow. It’s all about finding the sweet spot. That’s why it’s so important to pick a snowboard suited to your height, weight and boot size. Using a Snowboard Size Chart is a good place to start.

snowboard types

As a rule of thumb, the nose of a snowboard should be about as tall as your chin when held up in front of you with its tail touching the ground. If you’re on the lighter side, you can size down until the nose of your board reaches the middle of your throat, and if you carry a bit of extra weight, you can size up until your board reaches the height of your nose.

Most board manufacturers make wide versions of their boards for folks with Men’s US Size 11+ boots.

Snowboard Styles and Terrains

Snowboards are built with specific types of terrain in mind and work best when used in those environments. The main snowboard styles and their associated types of terrain are:

  • Freestyle snowboarding which is done mainly in terrain parks and involves doing tricks off of jumps, in halfpipes and on rails and other obstacles.
  • All-mountain snowboarding encompasses groomed runs, bumps, trees and powder fields and park.
  • Freeride snowboarding is all about riding powder and technical terrain either in-resort or out-of-bounds.

Snowboard Profiles

The profile of a snowboard determines how it generates and releases energy when it is pushed and twisted as we ride. To see the profile of a snowboard you can either:

  • Lay it flat on a surface and see where it touches (contact points) and where it curves up off the surface
  • Look down the length of the edge to see the curves

The most common profile types and their benefits are explored in more detail below.

Camber (Traditional & Micro Camber)

Traditional and micro camber have been around for years and are the go-to option for maximum energy and edge grip. The contact points are at the very ends of the snowboard just before the nose and tail begin to curve upwards. The rest of the board sits curved like a bow with its highest point between the bindings. This is called positive camber. Micro camber boards have less bow, or camber, than traditional camber snowboards, hence the name “micro.”

Traditional camber boards are often favored by advanced riders both in and out of the park because they store tons of energy which can be released into the air or next turn. Camber boards also create strong edge grip as they bends into the snow, creating unparalleled performance.

Rocker

What are the benefits of rocker? Simply answered: powder, presses and less catching edges. Rocker, aka reverse camber, bends in the opposite direction of positive camber, meaning that the contact point is in the center of the board leaving the nose and tail to bend upwards from that point on. Few boards are fully “rockered” due to limited edge grip, but many opt for a hybrid style, mixing positive and reverse camber at strategic points on the boards.

Freeride boards sometimes use rocker in the nose and positive camber for the remainder of the board to effortlessly float above the powder while producing energy for quick turns with the edge grip. Freestyle boards harness the power of reverse camber in the nose and tail and positive camber between the feet, which allows for less effort entering a nose or tail press and ease in holding long positions.

Many of the best beginner snowboards use a hybrid rocker profile to reduce the likelihood of catching an edge when compared to a traditional camber board. The hybrid profile requires less effort in changing edges as they are generally softer boards.

Flat

Flat profiles, aka zero-camber profiles, are designed to give riders stability and reduce edge catches, all while allowing for solid edge grip. These benefits lend themselves well to intermediate riders who want a step up from the loose feel of reverse camber but want something more forgiving and easier to manage than positive camber. Flat profiles can generate more pop and store more energy than a rockered board but still not as much as traditional camber.

Lock & Load

Lock & Load is a profile that uses a blend of positive camber and zero-camber to mimic the feeling of skateboarding as closely as possible. Riders can harness the energy of the positively cambered zone located between the bindings to create strong turns, massive pop and solid edge hold. The zero-cambered areas are located just past the binding inserts to give a flat stable platform, perfect for balancing long presses.

SHOP ALL SNOW

Snowboard Shapes

Snowboards come in all shapes and sizes, each with their unique benefits and design goals. To understand snowboard shapes, it’s important to know about:

  • Sidecut radius, which can be seen when you stand your board up flat against a wall and notice the gap between the waist of the snowboard and the wall. It is called a “radius” because the curve is part of the natural circle your board wants to draw in the snow when put on its edge. A smaller radius with a deeper sidecut will result in a tighter turn, and a larger radius with a shallower sidecut will result in the board being designed to make larger turns.
  • Twin or directional flex relates to whether there is increased stiffness in the tail or not and will have an impact on the performance of your board when riding switch.

Read on to understand the different types of shapes that exist in the wide world of snowboards.

Directional

Directional snowboards are built to work best with their noses pointed downhill. They allow the rider to generate more performance while riding in their natural stance. Most freeride and all-mountain boards are directional and include:

  • Binding inserts set back towards the tail
  • Sidecut centered between the bindings
  • Stiffer tail than nose
  • Slightly longer nose than tail

True Twins

True twins are built for snowboarders who spend just as much time riding switch as they do in their natural stance. They perform exactly the same with either nose or tail going down the slope due to:

  • Binding inserts same distances from ends of the board
  • Sidecut at its deepest in the center of the board
  • Equally stiff nose and tail
  • Same length nose and tail

Directional Twins

For riders who spend most of their time in their natural stance but don’t want to sacrifice performance when riding switch, directional twins are your board of choice. They bring together the best of both worlds by fusing:

  • Directional shape, where boards are still set back and have a slightly longer nose than tail which accommodate riding in powder
  • Twin flex, that makes them able to perform better when riding switch

Asymmetrical

The newest board shape to come to market is the asymmetrical shape. Asymmetrical boards were designed with the goal to make heel side turns feel more like toe side turns and they’ve achieved this in two ways:

  • Asymmetrical sidecut: A tighter turning radius on the heel side edge by building a deeper sidecut than on the toe edge.
  • Asymmetrical core design: A softer core on the heel side which allows the rider to bend the board a little more to achieve a tighter radius turn.

Asymmetrical boards were designed as an answer to the fact that our bodies are not built symmetrically from front to back.

The Snowboard Stiffness

Snowboards range in stiffness from soft to stiff flex and each has its benefits. To check the stiffness of a board you can carefully place the tail of the board on a protected surface near your foot. While holding the nose of the board with one hand, use the other hand to push the center of the topsheet and note the board’s resistance to your push. Try this with a few boards to feel the difference between soft and stiff flex.

To help you read through the specs in snowboard buying guides, know that triaxial fiberglass layering will result in a stiffer board than biaxial layering, and that carbon stringers add to stiffness.

Soft Flex

Soft flex is ideal for beginners and intermediate riders and can also be fun for freestylers who want to manipulate their board with ease. Soft boards bend easily from edge to edge along the centerline which aids in turning, as well as from tip to tail to aid in negotiating different types of terrain. This ease in turning will ultimately save you energy and lead to less edge catches.

Medium Flex

Medium flex strikes the balance between playfulness and performance. Intermediate and advanced riders alike can use medium flex to their advantage all over the mountain. Medium flex allows a rider to create and propel energy through their turns without the brute force required by stiffer boards.

Stiff Flex

Stiff flex is found on higher end boards designed for more advanced riders. They provide greater stability at speeds but require more strength and technique to bend. Once bent, they store loads of energy which can be released into the next turn. Stiff flex boards are ideal for advanced riders that are physically ready and have the technique to handle the unleashing of energy that stiff flex provides.

Snowboard Base Materials

Not all snowboard bases are made the same, which affects their strength and speed. The two main types of snowboard bases are sintered and extruded bases.

Sintered Base

Sintered bases are made by fusing a layer of plastic powder using a hydraulic press.This creates a porous base which holds wax well and results in a faster board. Some bases are combined with carbon additives to increase strength or speed.

Extruded Base

Extruded bases are made by using heat to fuse the plastic powder together into a solid base. This heat fusion results in a very strong base that is less porous, which means they are generally stronger, but not as fast.

Bindings Compatibility

An important thing to consider when picking a snowboard is if your bindings are compatible. There are three main binding mounting systems:

  • Channel
  • 3D systems
  • 4-hole systems

For more information on board and binding compatibility check out our dedicated article on "How To Choose Bindings".

How To Choose a Snowboard for Women

The only differences between men’s and women’s boards are mostly due to size:

  • Smaller sizes to accommodate women's smaller frames.
  • Narrower widths to align with women’s smaller boot sizes.
  • Lighter cores and slightly softer flex as an answer to a different strength to weight ratio.

Profile, shape, flex, materials, riding style and ability are things to consider when choosing your next snowboard. Now you’re ready to choose the snowboard catered to your needs.

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