With so many choices on the market purchasing a snowboard can make your head spin. In this guide we attempt break down all the ins, outs and what-have-you’s of snowboard technology and help narrow down which board is right for you.
The better you understand yourself as a rider and what you’d like to do on the mountain, the more equipped you’ll be in choosing the correct snowboard.
How often do you plan to ride?
How athletic are you?
Do you skateboard or wakeboard?
Do you tend to pick up athletic activities quickly?
What is your height, weight and boot size?
Where will I do most of my riding, out west, mid-west, or the east coast? Where on the hill will I spend my time, groomers, park/pipe, backcountry?
When choosing the correct snowboard size both height and weight play a role, however weight plays a bigger role. Basically it comes down to being able to properly flex the board. Some places still use the method of having your board come up between your chin and eyes, but this is outdated. Riders who are tall and light can get a longer board as their height will help control the board. Conversely, a shorter/heavier rider can get a way with using a shorter board.
Most snowboard companies will classify the boards in their lineup in three different ways: All-mountain, Freeride, Freestyle.
All-mountain boards are designed for shredding all types of terrain, from corduroy groomers to untouched pow in the backcountry to the park and pipe. Because this type of board is so versatile its the choice for most riders out there. All-mountain boards can be found in all price points.
Freeride boards are designed for riders who like to spend most of their day in the backcountry. These boards will generally be longer in the riders ideal board size range, stiffer for more stability and are directional, made to ride in one direction.
Opposite of freeride boards, freestyle or park boards will be ridden at the shorter end of the riders ideal board size range. This makes the boards lighter and more maneuverable. They will generally offer a true twin design which allows the rider to go switch (non-dominate foot forward) more easily than a directional board.
Powder boards are designed specifically for riding powder. Many will have wider noses to help the board float as well as set back stances.
Splitboards are geared towards backcountry riders who like to earn their turns. These boards come apart in the middle and allow the user to access much more terrain.
True twin shapes will have the exact same tail and tip measurements. The inserts will also be placed directly in the center of the board. This allows riders to ride regular and switch with ease. Most freestyle boards will have a true twin design.
Directional boards will be engineered to be ridden one way. The insert pattern maybe set back from the center of the board. The tip and tail will also have different flex patterns.
Directional Twins will have the same or very similar tip/tail dimensions, but either the inserts will be set back from the center of the board. Or the tip/tail will have different flex patterns.
Snowboards flex one of two different ways. Longitudinal flex refers to how easy a snowboard bends if you tried to touch the tip to the tail. Torsional flex refers to how easy the board will flex side to side.
Boards that are easier to flex will be easy to turn and more forgiving. Beginning riders will want to look for a more flexible board to start with. A board that is stiffer will hold an edge better and be more stable at higher speeds. There is no industry standard for measuring board flex. If you see a rating it will be a comparison of boards within the brands line up.
Snowboards are made with multiple layers pressed together. Along with what type of materials are used, the method in which they are pressed will define how each board will perform. Most companies use wood cores. Wood is durable, abundant and has a high strength to weight ratio. To the wood cores companies will add other materials such carbon, Kevlar and certain metals to get more performance out the board. Around the core will be a fiberglass wrap. This helps the board stay torsionally rigid when the board is on edge. A board with biaxial glass will be less rigid which lends itself nicely to beginner/entry level and freestyle boards. Triaxial and quadaxial boards will have more layers of glass making them more rigid. A board that is more torsionally rigid will be more stable at higher speeds and quicker edge to edge.
There are two main construction techniques that manufacturers use to make snowboards, Sandwich and Cap. Cap construction has the top sheet wrap around the snowboard and come right up to the edges. Many price point boards will use this construction method.
Sandwich construction as the name implies will be the multiple layers pressed and held together by a sidewall.
There are two widely used techniques to create snowboard bases, extruded and sintered. Extruded bases will be easier to care for as they don’t absorb wax very well so routine maintenance isn’t a must. Sintered bases will be more durable, will yield a faster sliding surface and be lighter than an extruded base. They will need to be waxed to keep them performing at the highest level.
Snowboard companies use different methods for attaching bindings to boards. Most boards on the market will either come with a 2x4 or 4x4 insert pattern, a 2x4 will just offer more stance options. Burton snowboards will either come with a 3x3 or channel mounting system. IMPORTANT: Check your bindings to ensure the proper mounting disc is included for the brand/type of board you’re purchasing.
When purchasing snowboards manufacturers will provide some individual board specifications. Typically these include: waist width, tip/tail width, sidecut and effective edge. Not all companies provide every spec.
Waist width will refer to the width of the board at it’s narrowest point. This maybe the most important spec as this plays a key role in choosing a snowboard. A rider using a board that is too narrow for them will get heel/toe drag. This happens when either your toes or heels dig into the snow when carving, not good. Below is a chart to help you see how wide, at a minimum, your board will need to be to avoid drag.
Tip/Tail width, you guessed it, is the measurement for the tip/tail at it’s widest point.
Effective edge will be the length of the edge between the two contact points. This will be the section of the board that will touch the snow. A longer effective edge will have more of the board in contact with the snow making it more stable. A short eff edge will make the board easier to turn and quicker edge-to-edge.
The sidecut measurement refers to the size of the arc cut into a snowboard. A larger number means a more shallow arc. These types of boards will be more stable and easier to handle at speed. A smaller number means shorter arc. These boards will be more maneuverable and quicker edge-to-edge.
Over the past few years reverse camber or rockered boards have exploded onto the market. Each company seems to have a different, and better, take on very similar concepts. Below are the four main camber profiles used by snowboard manufactures. Beginner or novice riders will benefit from a board with reverse camber as the tip/tail won’t be preloaded into the snow which will make turn initiation easier. However, since reverse camber is a new technology boards offer it will tend to be more expensive.
These types boards are ones you’ve seen and ridden for the past 30+ years snowboarding has been around. They work great on groomed runs and will track straight and provide plenty of power through a turn.
Boards with this type of reverse camber will have tips/tails that release easily from the snow, but when ridden will still provide stability and power through the turn. These types of boards will provide superior floatation in powder vs cambered boards.
These types boards will have the loosest feeling ride. They’ll provide the best flotation in powder and release from the snow extremely well making them ideal for jibbing.
Boards with zero or flat camber pull from both the camber and reverse camber bag of tricks. They offer decent floatation in the pow but can handle higher speeds with more stability.