Buying your first snowboard? Not sure how to find the right board for you? We make choosing your first snowboard easy with this beginners guide…
So you’ve decided to take up snowboarding. You’ve picked the resort, you’ve booked your flights, now all you need is the right gear. It’s not until you’re faced with a smorgasbord of selections and options, sizes, and shapes that you realise a lot more goes into the production and design of a snowboard than just carving a board out of wood. Selecting a snowboard for the first time can be a daunting task for the uninitiated. Luckily we’ve done most of the groundwork for you…
Start off with some jargon so that you don’t seem like a complete newb when discussing the snowboard that is right for you.
The problem with describing the specs and manufacturing of snowboards is that the subject can become a little technical and dry if you are not familiar with the terms. We will start off with some jargon so that you don’t seem like a complete noob when discussing the snowboard that is right for you.
The part of the board that has the most contact with the snow. The base can be made with two different types of polyethylene.
- Extruded: The cheaper option, easier to repair, recommended for beginners.
- Sintered: Requires wax to allow for a faster ride, more expensive and will need more maintenance.
- Sintered Hybrid: These boards incorporate graphite to allow for smoother glide and higher speeds.
The spine of the board, usually pieces of laminated timber which separate the base and the top-sheet.
This is how the board bends. A boards camber profile can be seen while it is laid on its base and its curve is displayed. A boards camber profile is important as it affects the type of boarding you want to enjoy.
- Regular, traditional or positive camber: The tried and tested conventional style, the board curves up in the middle and the tips touch the ground. These boards offer good pop and responsiveness, favoured by intermediate to expert riders.
- Rocker or reverse camber: The exact opposite to the positive camber style, with the tails turned up and the centre grounded, this board provides a tighter turning arc, making it good for powder and rail slides.
- Hybrid Camber: The hybrid camber features rocker between the feet and camber under the feet. The benefit of this profile is versatility. It provides a surfy loose feel due to the rocker between the feet with more float in powder. While camber under the feet gives more edge hold, more stability and pop, but not as much as a full cambered board. In general this profile feels more like a rocker than camber. The second style of hybrid camber features camber between the feet and rocker at the nose and tail of the board. This is more of a high performance profile providing stability, edge hold, and pop from the camber. The rocker makes it easier to press, and provides additional float in powder. This profile will generally feel more like a traditional camber although it will be slightly “washy” at the nose and tail.
- Neutral or zero camber: As you might have guessed, a flat design which offers good stability and speed, better suited for casual riding or for getting big airs off jumps.
- Other Cambers: Snowboard Co’s are constantly coming up with new weird and wonderful camber profiles for all types of imaginable riding styles and conditions. Powder Rockers, ‘S’ Rockers, 3 zone, Dimond, 3D….and the list goes on.
The strip of metal that runs along the length of both sides of the board. This is the part that cuts into the snow allowing the rider to carve. The radius of the edge directly affects the boards’ ability to cut into ice, therefore having a direct correlation to the boards’ responsiveness.
This is the boards elasticity, learner boards tend to have a softer flex to allow for better handling, while more advanced boards are stiffer, which allows for greater speed but with a wider turning circle.
The shape of a snowboard determines its speed, handling and performance. When talking about snowboard shapes there are two factors to take into account, the length and the sidecut. Snowboards tend to be around 120cm to 165cm in length (though this number can be larger or smaller with some custom boards) Beginners should favour a shorter board as it allows for more control, while advance snowboarders tend to opt for more length which increases speed and has more stability in deeper snow. The sidecut is the amount of curve the board has along its side when looking at it from the top down. This inverse cut affects the boards’ ability to turn. If the curve’s radius is large and deep then the board will turn wide and smooth, if the radius is small and shallow then the turns are sharper and tighter.
As a general rule snowboards come in three types of shapes:
- Directional Snowboards: These boards are wider at the nose than they are at the tail. The conventional type of snowboard, these are ubiquitous on the mountain and are probably the most versatile.
- True Twin Snowboards: A symmetrical board where the nose and the tail are the same width and the bindings are located in the dead centre of the board. The boards tend to be softer with maximum flex, allowing for better handling in the park and on rails and boxes.
- Directional Twin: As with the true twin style, the nose and tail have a similar width but the board is generally slimmer and the flex is more rigid. The board is good for park riding but can easily traverse other areas of the mountain as well.
Now that you know what you’re looking for in a board, it would be helpful to know why you need it. As with different kinds of snowboards come different styles of snowboarding. This is not to say that you can’t take your board wherever you want, it’s just that like with all things, some tools are better suited to some jobs. What kind of things do you want to accomplish with your new rig? Want to hang with the park rats? Destroy some fresh powder?!? Or just simply want to be the fastest down the mountain? There is a board suited for everything.
- All-mountain: For those looking for a complete snowboarding experience or those who don’t want to pigeonhole themselves into a certain group, an all mountain board is the way to go. Either directional or directional twin styles are good for those who don’t plan and let the chips fall where they may. You could start at the top of the mountain in the morning, be back country riding by noon and then finish out the day in the park. This board is a jack of all, but master of none.
- Freestyle: Happy to kick around, shoot the shit, maybe a day of jibbing around the streets or just hang out and lap the park with your mates? A short, flexible, twin tip board is the right choice for those inclined to freestyle. Great for tricks and casual riding, these boards lose out when it comes to speed and stability.
- Freeride: If snowboarding for you is about the beauty of the mountains, getting away from the crowds, slashing through the trees and searching for hidden powder stashes, then a freeride or powder board is what you need. Freeriding is Backcountry boarding, off-piste and in powder. It’s looking for untracked lines and features in natural terrain. A freeride board usually has a directional shape and flex pattern with a nose that is softer than the tail. This helps with turn initiation and with handling cruddy and choppy snow conditions. Some more advanced freeriders might choose a snowboard shaped with a pointed upturned nose and a swallow tail end for a surf style feel in powder. Overall a freeride board is generally stiffer tip to tail and edge to edge for a more precise and stable ride.
- Alpine: Still “big” in Europe but losing traction in the rest of the snowboarding galaxy is Alpine boarding. Alpine snowboards are basically race boards built for speed. They’re mostly longer and stiffer designed for downhill riding, slalom and carving. Almost always directional and only wide enough to fit your two feet facing forward, they use a ski like plate binding. Plate bindings are a metal base that attaches to the board with a bail and clasp type binding to secure a rigid stiff boot. The boots are usually hard plastic moulded boots, much like a ski boot. The hard shell snowboarding boot offers a much stiffer flex and allows for quicker edge to edge control and more commanding edge pressuring by the rider. Alpine snowboarding is a very specific discipline and Alpine boards will not fare well in the park or in powder.
- Splitboard: A little bit of a curveball here but it has to be mentioned. A splitboard is like a transformer. It’s basically two skis that snap together to form a snowboard. This board is ideal for climbing through backcountry and getting to places where the regular snowboards can’t reach. Separate the board to navigate the difficult or flat terrain, and then when you find your line, simply snap them back together and… off you go.
So there you have it, an abridged introduction to the types and styles of boards, and hopefully, some jargon which you can use around others to make you feel not so green. The many variations of snowboards mean more options for the avid snowboarder, and a little knowledge of the sport you love can never be a bad thing. Hopefully, this guide has helped you in deciding which board is right for you and your next purchase. Go forth and and shred!!!
For more great snowboard stuff check out our Top 10 Snowboards Under $400