There are a wide number of snowboards available for riders, but how do you pick which one is right for you? The easy answer is “go to a local snow-focused shop and ask that question.” Short of that, here are some thoughts that can help you figure out the board that is right for you.
If there was ever a time when you could say “a snowboard is a snowboard is a snowboard,” that time has passed. Choosing the right board requires taking into consideration the type of snow you ride in, how you like to ride, how good of a rider you are, and how big or small you are.
Building a snowboard involves addressing tradeoffs such as stability versus maneuverability. So boards will vary according to factors that can be mixed and matched in many ways, producing a large number of possible snowboards:
- Longitudinal flex (how easily it bends between tip and tail)
- Torsional flex (how easily it can be twisted from edge to edge)
- Depth and location of the sidecut (how much of an hourglass shape does it have)
- Whether the profile of the board has something like a slight arch in the middle (cambered board) or whether it looks more like a banana (rocker)
Are you a a novice, intermediate, or expert?
If you’re just starting out with snowboarding, your challenge is to learn how to turn the board one way, and then another, and then another again. It’s easier to turn a shorter board than a long one. The same is true for a board with more flex than a stiffer board.
If you’ve advanced to the intermediate stage, you may be wanting to build up confidence riding faster. A longer, stiffer board will help you keep your ride under control.
If you’re an expert rider, you could pick anything you want.
How big or small is your body?
If you have large feet, you may need to buy a “wide” model board to avoid the phenomenon known as “boot drag” or “booting out.” That happens when your boot make contact with the snow.
If you’re on the shorter (and lightweight) side, you may not have enough weight to cause the board to bend properly (to make a turn), so you may want a shorter board. If you’re heavier, a smaller board may be too “loosey-goosey” for you, so you may want a longer or stiffer board.
What kind of snow do you ride in?
Do you ride most often on hardpacked, groomed slopes? In fluffy power? If you’re riding in a lot of powder, consider a longer, wider board.
Some boards are better at gripping into hard snow or ice than others. If you’re planning on spending most of your time on hard snow, a cambered board. Rocker boards are great for powder.
Do you want to spend a lot of time in the terrain park?
If you plan on hitting up a lot of features in the park, you probably want a shorter, more flexible board that you can more easily bend on the features.
Do you plan on doing a lot of switch riding?
If you plan to do a lot of spins, ride switch /fakie / backwards, consider a twin-tip (or symmetrical) board. These boards make it easier for you to go “forward” or “backward.” If you don’t plan on doing these, an asymmetrical board is geared toward you having the same lead foot. (That is, you are always riding goofy or regular, never switching them up throughout your run.) An asymmetrical board lets you go faster.
What’s your taste in graphics?
Snowboards usually have artwork of some sort, especially on the part that you can see if you’re standing on the board. (It’s called the topsheet.)
Should you consider a woman’s board?
Some companies sell women-specific boards. Though some companies try to cheat by “pinking up” a board and then relabel it as one for women, a true woman’s board will have a narrower waist and may have a softer flex.
Choose for yourself
It used to be that riders would follow a rule of thumb that when you stand the board on the ground, it should reach to somewhere between your chin and your nose. A much better approach is to consider the factors mentioned above.
If you’re renting a board at the hill, you may not have much choice, though the rental technician might offer you two or three options.
Once you get ready to buy, you can go to a retail shop with experienced sales associates. Tell then what you like, and they will set you up with a board.
If you’d like to do some looking online, several companies have “board finder” tools. While their recommendations will be limited to their own products, these tools can give you a good idea of what you’re looking for. You can start with Burton and Ride, though remember there are many companies that could provide an appropriate board for you.