Snowboard Buying Guide

If you're planning to go shopping for a new snowboard or replacement, you need to be smart and properly informed. Not every board on the market will work for you. You need a snowboard that matches your ability and size for an easy and enjoyable ride. But when we talk of men's snowboards, we don’t just mean appearance but the quality, stiffness and model type! Women's snowboards are another option with sizes and shapes made specifically for women. Of course, all boards can be used by either men or women, as long as the size is right for you. With numerous brands on the market, you need to be highly informed while shopping or otherwise you will not buy exactly what you were looking for.

The terrain or where you want to use the board is also an essential factor to consider. For instance, you may go for an all-mountain snowboard as they can perform on almost any terrain. But for proper snowboarding, there are numerous essential factors that you need to consider. Among them is the ease of use, your safety and durability. The quality of the board and value for money are also key factors to consider while shopping. For these reasons, you should mostly emphasise three aspects; how you snowboard, your ability, and your size (height and weight). If you're planning to buy a new snowboard or replacement, have a read through our essential tips on how to get the best snowboard for you. In this guide, we're providing you with factors to consider before settling on a certain snowboard. This is our absolute guide to buying a snowboard!

How to Choose a Snowboard

1.    Length

The length of the snowboard is a crucial factor to consider while shopping. One of the worst mistakes that you do is buying a board that is too small for you as this will make the cruising extremely difficult.  For small snowboard in regards to your size, it will be very difficult to create the necessary stability for enjoyable and safe riding. On the other hand, larger boards might be a little bit stable compared to a small one but will still give you trouble riding. That’s why you need to get the right length for you to enjoy not only the sport but also your safety. But getting the right length has always been a challenge especially for the beginners.

Back in the day, snowboarders used to measure the right length by standing next to the board. If the top of the board hit the chin, that was the right length for you. While this method could also be viable today, other factors such as weight must be considered while determining the appropriate length of the board. Note that the weight will be spread on the board hence you need one that can accommodate your weight comfortably. The heavier you are, the longer the board should be. If you are of average weight, then you should consider a longer snowboard for proper stability.

What Snowboard Size Should I Get?

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Another factor to consider while choosing the right length is the type of riding you plan to do. If you are planning for powder, freeriding or all-mountain riding, then you should consider a slightly longer board since they offer more stability and speed. If it’s all about freestyle, then smaller boards would be the perfect choice since they are easier to spin and also to manoeuvre in the congested place like the terrain parks or half-pipe. For the beginners, shorter boards in your size would be a perfect choice. With these considerations, you can rest assured that you'll be getting the right snowboard length for a safe and fun ride.

2.    Ability Level


Your ability level is another factor that you must consider while choosing the right board. Ability level is basically the measure of your skill in this sport. As you gain the experience in this sport, your ability level keeps on rising depending on what you can do safely. As you hone your skills up to the ladder, a lot of things will be changing along the way with the type of board leading the list. In each level, there is a specific type of board that will address your needs. This is definitely a factor that'll determine the type of board that you should buy. Boards are categorised according to the ability levels which includes beginners, intermediate, and advanced. It will be difficult for the beginner to try using the boards designed for the advanced riders.

The main difference for each level includes the length, the material that the board is made from, intended use, construction, flexibility amongst other factors. The design is also different when it comes to levels and their choice of boards. For instance, advanced snowboarders are a little bit shorter while starters are recommended to use the longer. The reasoning behind this is that pros can manage to gain maximum stability even in a small area as compared to the starters. That’s why it’s important to have your ability level right to help you shop for a perfect board.

Don’t make a mistake or get tempted to buy what doesn’t work because it’s cheap or it looks great. Go for what works for your ability levels. Having the right snowboard comes with numerous benefits such as safe, extended life span and an enjoyable ride. It will be unpleasant if you are in elite/advanced level only to find that you bought a board meant for beginners- you will find it hard to spin or even make a manoeuvre in the most open space. That’s why a snowboarder's ability is a crucial factor to be considered.

3.    Width


The width is the measure of the narrowest point of the snowboard. Choosing the correct snowboard width has always been a challenge to many especially the starters. But how do you choose the right width? There are several tricks that have been used over the time to help the riders get the right waist width for their snowboards. The first and most accurate way is by measuring the board against your snowboard boots. The first school of thought and the most popular is having boots’ toe, and heels remain hanging over the edges of the board but just slightly. The reason behind this is to avoid hitting the snow whenever the board is on edge.

You can also improve the board's stability by extending the toes and heels over the edges of the board. This way, you will manage to apply leverage on the board and also modulate pressure with your ankles for a perfect ride. But be careful with extending the boots too far over the edges of the board in the name of finding more stability. If that’s, you will be putting yourself at risk since they are likely to hit the snow as you make turns and this will definitely cause a fatal fall especially if you were riding at a high speed.

The second school of thought believes that having your boots overhang is not the best idea. They believe that the best width is when the rider feet are roughly exactly the width of the board at the insert. This simply means that if you are bare feet, your heel should be right on the heel edge and similar goes to the toes. It’s also important to note that snowboard boots sizes vary by the manufacturer or even the models from the same manufacturer’s line. It’s therefore important to be very selective while replacing your boots since bringing in a new brand might fail to work for your waist width.

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4.    Riding Style and the Choice of Terrain

Riding style and the choice of terrain are two other factors that you must consider seriously before making a purchase. While it’s possible to ride any board on any terrain, it works best if you ride the right board that’s designed for that terrain. There are numerous types of terrains that you can choose from, and each has a specific type of a board designed to do better in those conditions. That’s why it’s important to make the right decision based on the riding style and the choice of the terrain. Below is a breakdown of the key categories of the boards and where they are best applied.

  • All-Mountain

This is one of the most versatile snowboards on the market. One thing that makes the all-mountain snowboard super effective is the fact that it can be used in all snow conditions and terrains.  They are the favourite of most of the snowboarders from the beginners to the advanced. If you are getting started and you don’t know what to buy, this is a great choice. With an all-mountain board, you only need one piece for all your snowboarding activities. This is the perfect board that will give value for your money.

  • Powder


Powder snowboards are only designed to be used in the powder terrains. The boards are mostly associated with freeride snowboards, and they are distinguished by their wider nose and a tapered narrower tail. The board also comes with snowboard binding inserts to help the rider float the tip of the board through the deep stuff. This is what makes the board perfect for the powder riding more than any other board. These boards also feature a generous rocker for absolute stability while riding. So, if you are planning to be riding in powder, this is the perfect board that you should go for.

  • Freestyle

These boards are also referred to as the park snowboards, and they tend to be a bit shorter compared most of the available boards. They do very well in terrain parks, wall rides, rails, jibs, trash cans, tree trunks and more. In fact, they are among the most versatile snowboards that you can find on the market after all-mountain. The boards are designed with true twin shape feature and they are mostly used for Terrain Park. So if you are planning to do more riding in the terrain park, this is the board that you should go for.

  • Freeride

Freeride snowboards are made from materials that can withstand tough terrains. These boards mostly loved by riders who spend most of their time off groomed runs since it can withstand the toughest conditions. These boards are typically made of a stiffer flex and are ridden in longer sizes compared to freestyle snowboards. These boards mostly feature a directional shape that allows for movement in one direction only. If you are sure that you will be doing most of the riding off groomed runs or tough terrains, this is the perfect board that for you. Freeride Snowboard is designed to be a durable material, and thus it will serve for an extended period time.

  • Splitboards

These snowboards are specifically built for the backcountry rider. Split-boards are designed to break into two separate halves for touring and uphill travel. But you need to have special bindings to use these boards. They are designed that once you have reached the top, you can easily reconnect the two halves and ride normally.

But it’s always crucial to be very careful while using any of these boards for your absolute comfort while riding. Knowledge of the terrain and snow conditions is crucial for your safety. See our post on your backcountry necessities so you'll always be prepared.

5.    Shape

This is another important factor to consider while shopping for snowboards. The board's shape will determine a lot how you ride, do antics and generally how you enjoy the sport. Some can be ridden in one direction while other can work on both. You have a broad choice to choose from but here are the main shapes that you can find in the market:

  • Directional Shape

These are the kinds of snowboards that are designed to be ridden predominantly in one direction. This shape is common in all-mountain and freeride snowboards. These boards are designed with stiffer tails while the nose is made of softer material to help in maintaining stability while carving at high speed. With these boards, you will find that the binding inserts are set back closer to the tail up to an inch for better riding.

  • True Twin Shape


True shape or what is referred to as true twin is completely symmetrical with both the tail and tip being identical in measurements and flex pattern. The binding for these boards in usually in the centre and the shape is popular with freestyle snowboards. The fact that the board has the ability to ride in either direction makes it the ideal choice for terrain parks.

In the recent years, snowboards featuring asymmetrical sidecut profiles, asymmetrical cores, or both have been growing significantly. The idea behind these designs is the fact that human body is not symmetrical and thus the boards should also remain asymmetrical. The boards are usually designed with shorter heel sides and longer toe sidecut. You will also realise that they have a softer heel-side cores design to make the riding easier and fun.

  • Directional Twin Shape


As the name suggests, these board’s shape is inspired by a combination of directional and twin snowboards. It’s a mix of both shapes and provides a great experience to the rider. These designs are most popular with all-mountain and freestyle terrain boards.

6.    Rocker Type

Up until a few years ago, there was not much difference with snowboards. Most board profiles had pretty much the same features but with the desire to provide the riders with a better riding experience and broader choice of boards are available. Today, riders can choose from either camber, rocker, flat or the available hybrids of these types. Check out our post about snowboard profiles for more in-depth info. These are some of the main types that you can choose from:

  • Camber


This is the oldest type and remains among the most popular, particularly with the high-level park and pipes riders. What distinguishes it from the rest is the arching centre between the bindings. When looked from the side, it has four contact points with the snow near the tail and the tip. When the rider's weight is added to the board, it provides an evenly pressured running surface and the edge. Most of the pressure is on the contact points, and this is what gives the board an excellent grip throughout the turns. Some may call it an old technology, but it’s still very popular with many riders out there. They are designed for charging hard, hitting big booters, or riding pipes.

  • Rocker

A rocker snowboard is also referred to as the reverse-camber due to its designs. As the name suggests, a rocker is a camber turned upside down. When looked from the side, the board curves from the centre towards the nose and tail to form a kind of banana shape. The upturned tip and tail allow the rider to have a more playful ride by providing an extra float to in the powder. Although it's not as fast as the camber, it is highly recommended for powder riding. The board is also popular with jibbers and rail rider since they are more manoeuvrable and don’t catch the edges that easily.

  • Flat

As the name suggests, these boards are completely flat on the snow but are designed with a slight turn up at the tip/nose and tail. With this design, the rider is able to keep the effective edge in the snow all the times. Since the weight is evenly spread along the edge, you will not catch an edge as it is with the conventional camber board. They are very predictable, and they provide a smooth ride but are less lively compared to rocker and camber types.

  • Rocker/Camber/Rocker


This is a hybrid board that is designed to provide the rider with properties of both rocker and camber snowboards. The boards provide the hard-carving edge-hold from camber underfoot and float in the powder from the rocker board. If you look from the side, the board appear wavy. This board is extremely versatile, and it depends on the tricks used to design it. For instance, some of the brands will put the rocker feature in the middle while the camber is beneath the binding to provide the ride with looser turns without sacrificing pop. Others will have the camber in the middle for carving ability with the rocker features extending towards the nose and tail- this design increases float and mellow out of the twitchy contact points. The hybrid provides endless options, but they don’t have the same uncompromised performance as their extreme.

  • Rocker/Flat/Rocker

This is another hybrid profile that will take your riding experience to a higher level. The board is designed to provide slightly more snow edge-hold and pop of a full rocker board. As a hybrid, the board also retains the ease of turning and float making it perfect for powder riding. The curvature of the tip and the tail allows for optimal floatation in backcountry terrain. With the flat profile in the middle, this is one of the boards that provide maximum stability and a great choice for beginners. With its performance ranging between a fully rockered board and a flat board, it’s a great piece to choose from.

When it comes to rocker types, there is a broad choice to select from. The manufacturers have been pushing beyond imaginable levels to get the best hybrids. Other combinations that are making it big in the sport include Rocker/Camber/Rocker/Camber/Rocker Snowboards. These are great and extremely versatile in sporting. You will also come across Rocker/Camber Snowboards amongst other popular hybrids with snowboarders. With such a dynamic market, the types of rockers are constantly changing, and thus you need to keep yourself updated with the newest entry into the market.

7.    Flex


When it comes to flex, it’s all about how stiff or flexible the board is. From the manufacturing, the flex of the board is determined mostly by where and how it will be used for. Most of the manufacturers have their boards rated from 1-10, with 1 being the softest of and 10 being the stiffest. Your choice of flex rating will be determined by what you want to use the board for.  But the flex design is usually distinguished as either longitudinal flex or torsional flex. For the longitudinal flex, the flexibility of the board is lengthways. This is what rates the board. For torsional flex, the flexibility is widthways or from edge to edge- note that it is not considered and there is no rating given out about it. It's also a good idea to get look at your boot and binding ratings. Check out our other guide on how to choose snowboard bindings for more info.

There are main types of rating that any snowboarder should be looking for. The boards come as either softer flex or stiffer flex.

  • Stiffer Flex

These boards are mostly built for freeride or backcountry use. They are great for freeriding in the vast snow areas where there is no limitation to space. One thing that you'll love about the stiffer boards is the high performance when rated in terms of speed. If you are a free rider who loves enjoying backcountry cruise, then need a stiffer flex for an aggressive ride. They are great for both the beginners and pros.

  • Softer Flex

This feature is typical to freestyle and some all-mountain snowboards. One thing that stands out with softer flexing boards is their ease of turning which makes them great for terrain parks. These boards are also great for beginners, riders with lower body weight and park riders. It’s also important to note that soft snowboards tends to be a bit looser at higher speeds but will provide you with a soft battery feel at slower speed. If you are a freestyle rider who spends most of the time playing in the park, then you need a softer flex for an increased manoeuvrability for spins.

8.    Turning Ability

This is an essential feature to consider while shopping for the snowboard. Your ability to turn while riding will determine how much fun you will have riding on the snow. It’s important to note that snowboards will make different sized turns based on a few different design elements. But it’s important to note that by selecting a board that fits your riding ability and terrain, it will come with the perfect turning ability for your level.  Here are the important elements that determine the turning ability of the board:

  • Sidecut Radius


This is the radius that the board would create if the curve of the edges were extended out into a complete circle. The smaller the radius, the smaller the circle and sharper the board will turn and the vice versa for the longer radius. Depending on where you want to use the board, it will determine the sidecut radius to choose. If you'll be spending more time in vast carving slope, large sidecut radius would be the perfect choice. For those who will be interested in tricky tree runs or in the park, small sidecuts would be the perfect selection due to its sharper turns.

  • Waist Radius

This is another crucial factor that you should consider while looking for snowboard. This is the width of the narrowest point of the snowboard. The radius is measured in millimetres. While choosing the board based on this element, choose the narrowest waist widths since they are faster to roll compared to the wider one. You must also ensure your boots’ toes and heel very close to the edge and the waist width is corresponding roughly with the boot.

9.    Construction


The material that the snowboard is made from is an essential factor to consider. It's a factor that will greatly affect the board’s durability and how it rides. Just like any other product on the market, the better the material used, the better the quality of the board. This is where you need to consider how much you are expecting to use the board and what features (material) will pay off. Here are the three main materials that snowboards are made from:

  • Core

For those looking for a snowboard that’s light and strong, core material is the perfect thing that you should be looking for. The material used has a large effect on the stiffness. For this material, wood cores are about 85% of the snowboards and that’s what makes them stiffer. For the variation in terms of the flex, there are different variations in how wood cores are constructed. For higher quality boards, they make use of the several layers of the wood for the strength. This is a great selection for those riding off groomed runs since they can withstand roughest terrains. The wood core can be engineered with the wood grain running in different directions in different areas of the core for improved strength and added edge grip.

  • Fiberglass

Fiberglass is another construction material that you should consider seriously. If you are looking for a snowboard that’s softer and more flexible, then this is the perfect material that you should be looking. Fiberglass is also highly durable and it will give value for the money. There are different qualities of fibreglass and it’s crucial to note that the higher the quality the lighter weight the board will be.

  • Base

With this construction, you can either choose the extruded or the sintered base. For the extruded bases, they are less expensive, low to maintain and relatively easy to repair but they are vulnerable to warping. If you are looking for light, stronger, faster and more durable, sintered base is what you need. Although they are a little bit expensive and require waxing for better performance.

10.    Women’s Snowboards


Gender is another factor that you need to factor in while shopping for the snowboards. For women, they have different bodies and turn mechanics different than men. For women, you have to go for narrower waist widths, softer flexes and thinner profile. Although you can use men’s snowboards, women’s snowboards will give better edge control and manoeuvrability.

11.    Children’s Snowboards

For the kids, you should follow the same rules as those of the adults. Choose the correct length based on the ability, weight and height. Don’t be tempted to buy a board that is oversized for your kid as this would make it harder to manoeuvre.

12.    Durability and Price Range

Although the pricing is an essential factor to consider, you must also note that it goes with the quality. The quality of the board will also determine the durability and value for money. So, work with what you have but choose quality over cost. You can find a good snowboard with any budget, and all you have to do is to talk with the dealer.

Are you ready for your snowboarding holiday? Get all the gear you'll need at Snow Central.

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