Whether you are a total beginner or have been ripping up the slopes since you were in nappies, knowing how to choose a snowboard that is right for you can make or break your riding experience.
Understanding which type of board to choose will largely come down to having an idea of what you want to do on the mountain and which aspect of riding you enjoy the most. For the seasoned shredder this is easy and something which evolves naturally for most. But we all have to start sliding the slopes on something right? So doing your homework before you buy will help you on your way to stepping into Bode Merrill’s heat molded boots before you know it!
Learn the lingo
If you’re relatively new to the snowboarding world then buying from a shop is worthwhile, so you can reap the benefits of asking questions of someone who knows what they’re talking about. However this experience can vary vastly so it’s a good idea to scrub up on your vocab before you’re bombarded by the fresh-faced enthusiasm of the sales folk spouting techy terms for things you don’t even know exist.
These few key words might help…
Regular: The name given to your stance if you ride with your left foot forwards.
Goofy:The name given to your stance if you ride with your right foot forwards.
Switch: Leading with your opposite foot compared to your natural riding stance.
Carving: Turning from edge to edge without skidding on the snow.
Directional: Boards that are designed to be ridden in one direction. Their tails
are shaped differently to the tips and the bindings are often set slightly closer to the tail. They can still be ridden in switch but won’t perform as well.
True twin: Boards that perform equally well when ridden in both your regular
stance or in switch. They are symmetrical in shape and bindings are set centrally on the board.
Directional Twin: A combination of twin and directional. The tail is usually shorter than the nose with the bindings set slightly further back than a true twin board. This provides good versatility for freestyle riding and flotation on powder days.
Types of snowboards
The next thing that will help you figure out how to choose a snowboard, is getting to grips with what types of boards are out there and what might be right for you.
Freestyle boards are designed for play! They are short, wide and light which makes them easy to manoeuvre and a breeze to turn. Those who spend more time in the air than on the snow will benefit from the multi-directional playfulness of this type of snowboard, enabling the mastery of jumps and the conquering of the terrain park with ease and style… hopefully anyway!
The defining features of freestyle boards make them the obvious choice for park monkeys and tricksters but their responsive nature also lends itself nicely to learners. A good option for those who might take a little longer to feel at home negotiating gravity and snow with a board strapped to their feet.
short and wide
soft and maneuverable
easy to turn and responsive
variety on and around the piste
off piste and powder riding
All mountain/freeride snowboards
Freeride boards are your one-stop shop for snowboard satisfaction. Being longer and stiffer than freestyle boards may make them slightly less manoeuvrable than their poppy, perky counterpart, but their all mountain versatility outweighs the specialist qualities sought by the freestylers.
As the learning curve in snowboarding is as rewarding as your time spent on the snow, this is a great board to take you all the way from the bunny runs to the backcountry without having to break the bank on upgrades and replacements.
longer than freestyle boards
stable and stiffer than freestyle boards
directional or twin tip
good to start out on whilst you figure out what sort of riding you like
a bit of everything
carving on piste
riding in the park – not as manoeuvrable and easy to turn as a freestyle board
Camber vs rocker
If you’ve not been put off by all the technical jargon over which board does what, then well done! Understanding how to choose a snowboard that suits you reallyis as important as we’re making it out to be. So hang on in there – one more thing to consider before you head out on a spending frenzy is the profile of a snowboard. This is known as rocker and there are few types to learn about before you decide which one is for you:
Experienced riders that love to push the speed limits and charge hard on the mountain often favour a cambered board. The shape provides flex and bend which in turn means that more of the effective edge is in contact with the snow. This enables the rider to power in and out of carved turns with speed and confidence, which makes for a lively, stable and responsive ride. Pipe riders tend to choose this shape, as well as those who are partial to hitting the odd booter or two.
A more forgiving shape than a cambered board and well suited to the novice rider. Rocker boards don’t provide as much stability or hold an edge as well as other shapes, so if speed is your thing then this may not be for you. However, it’s manoeuvrability makes it playful and poppy and is an excellent option for rail riding jibbers and powder hounds alike.
Flat boards lack the pop and spring that camber and rocker boards offer, but because one whole edge is always in contact with the snow, it means that it is harder to catch an edge – which, let’s face it, everyone can do without!
With weight spread evenly across the board, they float well in powder and provide fast turns on groomed runs.
If you really have no idea what will suit you best, then a camber/rocker combo might be a good option. They tend to offer less flexibility than a rocker board, but also less solidity than cambered boards. This makes it a good all-rounder, performing well in most types of snow and mountain terrain. There are a vast array of combination boards out there to suit different riding styles, with manufacturers getting more and more creative with board shape technology. It is worth checking out companies like Lib-tech and Gnu to see what they have going on.
Once you’ve mastered the basics and have found your place on the mountain, there are a couple more board options to add into the mix. Many go shorter for tricks and park action, others feel the need for speed, and the more adventurous amongst us prefer the excitement and serenity of backcountry riding.
Backcountry touring hits the spot for those who truly want to get out into the winter wilds, and the splitboard enables boarders to join their skier buddies in enjoying the endless fresh lines that the wider mountains offer. With the addition of skins, which create traction and stop you from sliding backwards, the board splits in half to create two skis – enabling the rider to climb uphill through untracked snow. Once at the summit, the board clips back together and performs in the same way that a freeride board would in miles of perfectly untouched powder… something like heaven!
Extensive knowledge and avalanche safety gear are essential to skiing or boarding anywhere out of the resort boundaries, so make sure you know your stuff before exploring this side of snowboarding.
directional or twin tip
use with skins and a split kit
ascents and epic deep powder descents
- experienced riders with backcountry knowledge
riding on piste
Carving boards are built for getting from the top of the piste to the bottom in as little time as possible. Long, narrow and stiff, the boards are very stable at speed, allowing for swift edge turns and superior edge holding power on hard packed snow. Advanced riders will choose alpine boards for racing, but they also perform very nicely on deep powder days.
shaped like a wide ski
going downhill really fast!