Snowboards Buying Guide – Complete Guide To Select The Ideal One

Gareth Simpson

by Gareth Simpson

July 25, 2019

How to pick a Snowboard

One of the most pleasing and the most complicated quests you will ever have to do in your lifetime is choosing a new snowboard. Perhaps this sounds like cliché but it is the truth. These days snowboards come in all possible sizes, shapes, made from different materials, paired with different features and dozen other pieces of the puzzle, a puzzle you will need to complete.

You can find a snowboard that looks nice and ‘’suitable’’ and go for it. That unit will look nice among other pieces of the aforementioned puzzle and it will definitely look great while carrying it. The problem begins when you step on it for the first time. Soon you will realize that it is too complicated to use, some features aren’t as you hoped and the overall performance is below a threshold you have.

All of this happens just because you chose to ignore this guide and to go for the first model that is visually pleasing. There is the entire science behind this very guide and all of it will be described in plain words and with all the details you will ever need to know. The goal is to help you find the best snowboard according to your specific needs, not the best snowboard in general!

Don’t think that this is just an ordinary introduction. I personally purchased 5 snowboards and I wasn’t able to use a single one of them. They were unstable, too heavy or something else. Then I took my time and did proper research. The 6th snowboard I purchased was like a dream, perfect in any way. Now I will share the same knowledge with all of you.

Factors To Consider

Size

Size is the first and the most important factor you will have to consider. Each snowboard is based according to your height, weight and your riding style. If you meet all three sub-factors precisely as needed, you will get a snowboard that is extremely easy to use, provide speed and maneuverability you are looking for and it will match your riding specifics.

Yes, it is possible to pick a snowboard depending on your personal preference. However, the margin of choice should be considered as well. A snowboard must match your body type before anything else so you will see that sometimes the best choice is actually the same as the wise choice (using the compatibility chart).

Length

Let’s start with a length. Some of you know that a few decades ago you would go to a local store and find a snowboard that when placed in an upright position reaches your chin. This would be the best board for you and the one you will bring back home. These days similar rules apply but there are some differences. At this point, we will mention again that your height and weight will determine the most suitable snowboard.

If you like freestyle riding, you should go for a shorter board. It will help you with jumps and maneuvers. If you like freeriding always pick a longer board. It is more appealing to use in this case scenario and it will help you reach higher speeds.

Size

Here we have a simple chart that should definitely be used as the complete part of the guide when it comes to the size only. Find your height and weight and you will get the length of the snowboard that matches you the most. If you are looking for slightly longer or shorter board go one level up but not more.

Height Weight Board Length
4’10” 110 – 120 128 – 136
5′ 115-130 133 – 141
5’2″ 125-135 139 – 147
5’4″ 135-145 144 -152
5’6″ 140-155 149 -157
5’8″ 150-165 154 -162
5’10” 160-175 159 -167
6′ 170-185 160+
6’2″ 180-195 160+
6’4″ 190-205 160+

 

Width

Width should be carefully chosen also. As you would expect there is the guidance you can get here. Basically, you will need to choose a board which allows you boots to go slightly over the board when on the snow but only up to 0.5 of an inch. Anything more means that the boots will hit the snow while snowboarding which is a common, beginner’s mistake and something you will want to avoid. Honestly, it is better to choose wider board than narrower simply due to the issue we have mentioned. The same rule applies to the men’s and women’s snowboards.

Ability Level

Ability level stands for your level of expertise. If you have years of experience you will likely be an intermediate or advanced snowboarder. If you are looking or your first board you are likely a beginner. The key here is to access your skill level properly (try and be realistic) and to choose a board that matches that level.

Snowboards are made differently according to the ability levels of the users. Professional models are more advanced, lighter, longer and easier to use for jumps and stunts, but also more complicated to control. On the other end of the scale, we have beginner’s boards. They are shorter, wider and they are easy to control while on the snow. Below are three main skill levels and each one requires its own type of snowboard.

Beginner

All of you who are still learning how to link the turns while snowboarding are beginners.  The best snowboard for you is a short, soft model that meets your height and weight preferences. So, why this is the case?

First of all, you need a softer board due to the fact it is easier to control and you will link those turns much better. Stiffer models are more complicated to control and they require far more stamina and effort. You will need a shorter board simply because your maneuverability will be better. You basically have more freedom and are able to enjoy more while investing less effort.

There is no need to add that choosing a board that is completely opposite than we have listed will have a negative effect. You will have a hard time controlling it and you will need more time to reach the intermediate level.

Intermediate

Choosing a snowboard for intermediate skill level is the most rewarding and the most complicated. Here you already have basic skills and you know how to control a board. But, you are still developing your skills and you are still planning on choosing the right direction. The most suitable board will still fall into the size chart we mentioned at the beginning. However, you can start adding the style you want to pursue.

For those of you who like snowboarding literally anywhere, all-mountain model is the best bet. These boards are versatile, useful and they can be used anywhere, obviously. Those of you who like snowboarding at the parks and performing stunts, freestyle boards are much better choice. Users who like snowboarding on the back side of a mountain should go for a Freeride model. Those boards will hold you nicely on the snow even when it is deep.

Intermediate users are those who have been using snowboards for quite some time and who already know how to link turns but they are still learning so their experience isn’t great.

Advanced

Some of you will skip this part. After all, you are a professional now so you already know all you need in order to choose the best board for your applications. This is a mistake. You still can use some level of help in making the right choice and you will need to invest just a couple of minutes into reading this section.

Professionals already know all about the length, size, width and main characteristics of the snowboards. Here you will have to invest attention into the sidecuts, the carbon or Kevlar bars and the shape of the board. These are advanced factors that most beginners don’t need nor will they apply them to their quest. You need to use them simply due to the fact you will be able to get better performance and more control. You will be able to perform more complicated stunts and achieve new limits.

We encourage you to always check the precise specifications of each board you are considering. By doing this you will get the advantage over other snowboarders and you will become even better.

Snowboard Width & Boot Chart

All of us will need to consult the chart mentioned below at some point. Of course there are a few additions we can add. The most important thing to remember is that outer sole of a boot may be different according to the manufacturer. Some brands will be longer while others will be shorter. Ideally, you will have to measure the outer sole of the boot and then consult the chart below. In addition, the low profile boots are available as well. They have decreased soles which allows you to get a narrower board which can be more appealing for more demanding users. The last fact here is the ramp angle. If it is higher, your boot will be placed higher on a board which also allows you to get a narrower board.

Ideally, you would get the model that meets your requirements specifically as mentioned in the chart. The most common mistake some users make is getting a board which is narrow for their boots. They will go beyond the board and they will make contact with the snow, causing various issues and problems.

Boot size men 5-7.5 7-9.5 8.5-10.5 9.5-11.5 10.5+
Boot size women 6.0 or under 6.5-8.5 8-10.5 10+
Waist width of board 225-235mm 236-245 mm 246-250 mm 251-254 mm 255-259 mm 260+
Overall snowboard width Narrow boards for women Regular width Wide or mid-wide

 

Riding Style

While presenting the best board guide formula we must take a closer look at the riding style. This factor is determined by the terrain where you will use the board. It is so important factor here that we can see all brands making boards specifically for one terrain. They vary in all kinds of elements starting with the length and shape and they are made to be perfect on the terrain you are going to use them. This also refers to the fact that using a snowboard on another type of terrain isn’t really helpful and you will probably encounter a lot of issues.

There are several types in this case scenario and now we will present you each one. At the same time, we can see that beginners should purchase a board that primarily matches their riding style. It is a safe buy and you are likely to get a board that works like a charm on the terrain you are going to use it all the time.

All-Mountain

Those of you who always want to check what a mountain has to offer use all-mountain riding style. It is precisely as the name suggests. A board of this kind will be able to meet all your desires and to be used on backside of a mountain, on powder and anywhere else. You can use it literally anywhere and you will always get the best performance possible. This type is so popular that we can add that many manufacturers make dozens of boards for this specific riding style.

The boards will vary in size and shape and they come in all possible combinations. It is important to remember that this riding style is the most beneficial for beginners. Usually, they love to check all the sections of the mountain or to try another riding style. As you may know already, they are still looking to find the most suitable riding style for their needs, so they will experiment. Beginners need a suitable board which is only a member of the all-mountain type.

Freestyle

Now we move in the realm of users who want to use their board in a park, for performing various stunts or on the snow covered streets. The boards of this kind are definitely one of a kind units. They are shorter and softer in terms of flex. The shorter design allows you to move easily and perform more rigorous stunts. It is a bit more complicated to control but you get more freedom while snowboarding.

The second main difference compared to average boards is the flex level. Softer flexibility can help you in compensating the first move after a stunt and can help you gain more movement. The shape is usually true twin and due to a reason, you will see later on.

Freeride

Freeride snowboarders will use their boards on the snow only. They are fanatics who need the ultimate equipment to get the best possible results. If you are one of them you already know all of this. Keep in mind that the Freeride riding style is the foundation for this activity and we can consider it as one of the most important types.

The boards that are the best choice here are usually longer than average. They are stiffer as well and they have directional twin shape. All of this is mandatory in order to gain the performance and to impress all the people around you. Longer boards allow you to stay on the deep snow while higher stiff rating allows you to gain speed.

Powder

Powder riding style has been one of the most desirable riding styles in recent years. Here you will need to understand that the suitable boards are almost completely different than all others from the list. They have a wider front end and narrower rear end. The bindings are located far back on the board which allows you to lift the front end of the board and to gain more control.

Powder boards are a bit difficult to find and they are not very useful on the snow. However, you can try them out and see is this style the most suitable for you and your requirements.

Splitboards

Splitboards are precisely as the name suggests. They can be split to allow you to move on the snow and reach the desired point, then you can attach them and have your fun all the way down. We must add that boards of this kind are considered as extreme and the entire riding style shares the same faith. The boards are advanced models that are made from the strongest materials and come with superb strength.

Shape

Shape of the board makes that specific unit suitable for a specific riding style, it comes with unique advantages and benefits. If you think that this affects style only you are wrong. The snowboards are designed and made in this way to help users get the best results while snowboarding on their favorite terrain and their main style. There are 4 main types and each one is completely different than the other.

Directional Shape

At first sight, these boards may look identical on both sides. However, this isn’t the case. The tail is narrower and the flex level is different as well. Almost always, the tail is stiffer than the front section allowing you to get better control over your stunts and to use the board for more demanding purposes. Freeride users will love this type and it is simply the most common choice. It is important to add that some all-mountain boards share the same design and the same features. In addition, the bindings are located far back on the board allowing you to lift the front section. These boards are made to be used in one direction only.

True Twin Shape

This type may remind you of the previous style. However, here we can see that both sections, the nose, and the tail are identical and they are symmetrical. The stiffness and the width are identical as well which allows you to use the board for freestyle riding. They are the common and popular outcome for most users and they have been considered as the main type for millions of people all over the globe.

Directional Twin Shape

A board of this type doesn’t look the same as a directional model. The main difference is in the size and shape of the board. First of all, we can see that the nose is longer and they are stiff. This is the most common type of board for all-mountain riding style. The goal is obvious. A longer nose will allow you to use the board better on powder while stiffness helps you control it at high speeds. You can easily switch within seconds and you can enjoy using your new board literally anywhere.

Asymmetrical Shape

Asymmetrical boards are designed for users who always want more. It is known that the human body isn’t symmetrical so why and how a board is? In general, the board of this kind will look similar to any other, but if you take a closer look you will see some differences. The main one is the different length on the sides. The toe side is always longer than the heel size. This is done to compensate with the different weight and balance of the human body. A board will be easier to control and can be controlled for more demanding applications.  Professionals are the ones who love and get these boards.

Rocker Type

How your board will look when you place it on even surface? You can see that the middle section is up in the air or it is completely flat or something else. There are three main types and each one comes with its own set of pros and cons. Now we will have to discuss all the main types and help you understand why each one is the best for you.

Camber

Camber type is the most common and the oldest of them all. Here we have a board that when placed on the smooth terrain will make contact with the front and the rear sections only. The middle part is high in the air. When a rider stands on it, the board will become flat making 100% surface contact. In return, you get the ultimate control and the ability to reach the highest speeds possible. These boards are useful for all riding styles and they can be found in all kinds of shapes and with different features.

Rocker

Rocker boards got the name due to the shape they have. Here only the central part of the board makes contact with the snow and the both, tail and the nose are elevated. This helps you control in tight spaces and help you gain more freedom while snowboarding. It is also easier to use a board of this kind. They are mostly present as freestyle boards.

Flat

Flat models are completely flat, obviously. They are superb when it comes to usages at the park or on the powder and they can help you reach the highest speeds possible. Most of the owners are professionals and we can see that only a handful of beginners chooses this type due to the complexity when navigating.

Flex

Flex refers to the ability of the board to bend when in the use. There are 3 main types. The first type is when a board will flex across the length, the second is when it bends across the width and the third is torsional flex.

Softer Flex

Softer flex models are the most rewarding to use, especially at lower speeds. They are made to be used as Freeride models and they can adapt to any surface and any obstacle. We must add that this type of boards is the most forgiving and the most common among beginners.

Stiffer Flex

Stiffer flex boards are completely opposite. They are made for the ultimate control, they are complicated to use and they should be used on a track only. It is difficult to use a board of this kind on uneven terrain. They also don’t forgive any mistake you can make.

Turning Ability

Sidecut radius, width radius and rocker will define the turn radius of your board. These are different abilities of a board. Now we will have to mention all of them and to assist you even more in making the most suitable outcome.

Sidecut Radius

Sidecut radius is the circle which goes all around the edge of the board. Yes, it is an imaginable circle but you get an idea. Bigger circles mean bigger sidecut radius and vice versa. This defines the room a board will need to make a turn.

Waist Radius

Waist radius is the narrowest part of the board. Narrower models are more appealing for heavy-duty applications and they mean that the toes and the heel are closer to the snow.

Rocker

A rocker can be found in the top or the back or both. It helps you make more professional, faster and more rewarding turns.

Additional Features

There are two features you will need to pay close attention to as soon as possible. They can make your board more effective and help you get better performance on the snow.

Sidecut Radius

Sidecut radius is something we have explained above. You should go for the radius you are most comfortable with. If you are a beginner, a bigger radius can be a better choice. If you are a professional, you will need a smaller radius and you will be able to perform better maneuvers.

Effective Edge

The effective edge is the length of the base of the board that makes contact with the snow. It can vary significantly depending on a model.

Base Materials

All boards can be divided into two main types, according to the manufacturing process. They are explained below.

Extruded

Extruded models are made from plastic balls that are heated and cooled down in order to make a thin layer of material which is then molded into a board. These boards are the most affordable, easy to use and they are easy to maintain.

Sintered

Sintered models are made from larger granules that are molded into blocks and then treated. The biggest advantage is in the fact you can apply more wax per square inch and you can gain higher speed. More expensive models feature this construction.

MOUNTING SYSTEMS

Mounting systems are versatile and they refer to the layout and the type used to connect the bindings to a board. There are 5 main types and each one is completely different than the other.

2 X 4

It is a very common option. The holes are placed in vertical pattern and the space between each one is 2 cm. The main advantage is the ability to adjust the bindings precisely as you like and to make additional adjustments when needed.

4 X 4

It is probably the first option you will find. The holes are spaced horizontally and vertically and the distance is 4 cm between the holes. Many bindings can be used and almost all new units are compatible.

BURTON CHANNEL

Here you won’t see any holes. The design uses a flat line where the bindings are placed. Yes, you will need special hardware and you will need a high-end unit. This system is the most common on the professional boards.

BURTON 3D

The holes are placed in 3D or in a rectangular pattern. They are used for Burton bindings but some other companies make compatible units as well. The advantage is a versatile adjustment and strong connection.

Binding compatibility

Not all bindings are compatible with all the boards. As a matter of fact, you can see that some models can be paired with specific bindings only. We can only add that your board will determine the type of bindings you need. Look at the pattern and choose bindings that match that pattern perfectly.

Conclusion

The guide we presented you here will help you find a snowboard that is just right. You will need around 20 minutes to read the content and 5 minutes to find a board that matches all the factors and criteria you may have. The results will be seen the first time you use it.

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