Snowboard Buying Guide
So you’re looking for the skinny on what makes a snowboard the right snowboard for you. No worries — you’ll get all the info you need here to make a solid choice that will put the best board on your feet this season. We’ll also help you choose all the right accessories, including your snowboard bindings. There’s lots of good information here, so be sure to read through it all before you begin buying.
So first, the basics. We’ll split this up into a few simple categories. If you’re a beginner but also pressed for time, you can jump to the Quick Beginner’s Guide.
Kinds of Snowboards
There are 4 main snowboard styles: Freeride, All-Mountain, Freestyle, and Racing/Carving. The way you ride determines the kind of board you buy.
Freeride Snowboard - These tend to be good in multiple places, like groomed runs, a little powder, or even floating through the trees. They are directional (the nose and tail are not the same size or stiffness) which helps with speed and stability. A freeride board can move fast because it is stiffer and larger than a freestyle board (which is made for doing tricks). Freeride boards are good for riders who know they want to go fast.
All-Mountain Snowboard - Meant to give you the most options, these boards come in many lengths, are less directional than a Freeride board, and are designed to let your ride wherever your heart desires. Like the name implies, these boards are great for riders who love all kinds of conditions on all kinds of mountains, and want the best of all worlds.
Racing/carving Snowboard - A racing/carving board tends to be rigid, long, and asymmetrical for a simple reason: they’re built for speed and for turning at high speeds. These boards tend to be the most rigid to provide stability when the rider reaches very high speeds, and usually require stiff boots to protect the ankles and to help in turning.
Freestyle Snowboard - These boards are for those riders who’d rather be on the half-pipe than the side of the mountain. They’re lightweight, are centered (the nose and tail are the same so that you can ride in any direction), and flexible. Freestyle boards tend to be less fast downhill and less stable at high speeds — something to consider.
All About Snowboard Flex
Flex is very important in a board. Generally, Freestyle boards have the most flex, then Freeride and All-Mountain boards, then Racing/Carving boards.
Beginning riders want a board with a decent amount of flex, because a softer board takes less muscle to control and is far easier to command — which means you’ll spend less time on your rump and more time on the runs. As riders get more experienced, they tend to get boards with less flex.
Tall/heavy riders often do better with a stiffer board because the added weight of your body will put more strain on the board. So if you’re taller or heavier than the average person, consider a stiffer board.
Regardless of what kind of rider you are, the more flex the easier it is to maneuver but the less stability there is at high speeds. As you gain more experience, you’ll need less flexibility (which lets you cut and turn faster and more precisely).
The width of a board is directly related to control — boards ridden in powder need to be wide enough to provide float, but not so wide that you can’t turn when you hit a groomed run. Too wide means a board can be too hard to turn; too narrow a board may turn too quickly (which means you do a lot of face-plants). Your board needs to be wide enough for your feet. So it’s pretty easy — if your feet are average length, you can stick to the average width board. But if your feet are on the small size (less than 8 for men or 5 for women) or large size (over US size 11), be sure you get a board that’s the correct width.
Snowboard Width Guide
Most men ride boards in the 24-25cm range. Riders with larger feet (US size 11+) may have problems with narrower boards, and their feet may hang over — not good. Big feet mean you should get a wider board.
Women tend to ride boards in the 22-24cm range. If your feet are smaller than US size 7, you should make sure the board isn’t too wide. Feet larger than US women’s size 11 might need 25cm or so.
The length ensures that your board is short enough to keep you moving fast, but long enough to give you control. The longer the board, the more stable it is at high speed, but also the tougher it is to control. Another factor riders consider when selecting length is the type of riding it will be used for — Freestyle boards are shorter than All-Mountain boards.
Snowboard Length Guide
Most adults ride within the 140-165cm range. (For people roughly 5’3" to 6’ tall). Very tall or very short people should look for extra short or extra long boards to make sure they have the right length.
An easy and fast guide is your board when standing should come to somewhere between your chin and your nose.
Sidecut refers to the hourglass shape of the board. The more of an hourglass shape the board has, the deeper the sidecut. All-mountain and freeride boards tend to have more modest sidecuts, which provides stability.
The sidecut determines how easy your board is to turn, and beginner boards should have fairly deep sidecuts.
Snowboard Core (What the board is made of)
Most boards have wood cores, which are durable and lightweight. Wood cores absorb vibrations well and give the board a snappy feel.
Cores may also blend wood with something like carbon fiber so it will last longer — these are called "blended". Blended cores tend to have better energy transfer (what you want to do happens more easily), and tend to absorb vibration better than all-wood varieties.