Below I will list the top 7 specifications for selecting the best snowboard for a beginner and the reasons why.
Having the right snowboard for your ability level, especially as a beginner will have a significant impact on the speed of your progression.
The Top 7 Things to Look Out For In a Beginner Board
The following 7 things should be all you are concerned about as a beginner to aid your progression. Other factors at this stage are unimportant.
Note that there are many boards that are good for beginners that may also be good as all mountain boards and freestyle boards for more experienced riders. That does not make them any less relevant as beginner boards if they have the following factors.
At the end of the post I have provided links to my top 5 men’s and women’s beginner boards to make your research easier. Check out the “My Top Recommendations” section below.
Thing #1: Camber Profile
The illustration above is an (very rough and exaggerated!) image of what a Hybrid Camber profile would look like, looking side on to the snowboard
For me the Camber Profile (in addition to Thing #2 – Flex) is the most important factor for beginners.
This is because the camber profile affects two very important things for beginners, which are:
- A feeling of stability underfoot; and
- Ease of turn initiation
When you are starting out you want to feel as stable as possible to aid balance. You also want the most difficult thing for beginners (linking turns) to be made easier by the specs of the board.
The best camber profiles for both stability and turn initiation, in my opinion, are Flat to Rocker and Hybrid Camber. For more information on Camber Profiles click here
A Hybrid Camber Profile has camber underfoot which will feel very stable and a Flat to Rocker profile has a flat section underfoot which will also feel very stable.
So why are completely flat profiles or traditional camber profiles not an option? Simple, turning ability.
As a beginner you want turning to be as easy as possible to build confidence. If you are forever catching an edge your confidence will take a long time to build up and your progression will be slow.
A traditional camber profile has camber not only underfoot but also towards the tip and tail. This camber towards the tip and tail will make it easier to catch an edge – not good for a beginner. Similarly, a completely flat board will have flat towards tip and tail – also great for catching an edge!
The Hybrid Camber profile has rocker sections towards the tip and tail to go with the Camber underfoot. This allows for a more catch-free ride. The Flat to Rocker profile, as the name suggests also has rocker towards the tip and tail.
Which Camber Profiles to Avoid
In my opinion, in addition to the Traditional Camber and Continuous Flat profiles the Continuous Rocker profile is also not the best for beginners, even though traditionally this was recommended for beginners – but that was before hybrid cambers emerged.
The Continuous Rocker has been often recommended to beginners (but I think that was maybe before the hybrid profiles really took hold). This profile has rocker underfoot which will feel “loose” – not ideal for beginners – and there are no camber or flat sections to add stability. It will be catch free for sure but will likely feel too loose to be good for beginners.
The Hybrid Rocker profile is hit and miss for beginners. Because it has camber sections it has some decent stability – but it does have rocker beneath the feet which can sometimes, depending on the length and the degree of rocker, give a looser feel – but nowhere near as loose as a continuous rocker profile.
Some Hybrid Rocker Profiles will and some won’t have rocker again out towards the tips to assist with a more catch-free ride. The rocker between the feet can help with this though – so I’d say that the Hybrid Rocker in general is the 3rd best camber profile for beginners.
Thing #2: Flex
Equally as important as the Camber Profile is the flex of the board. This is a bit easier to understand.
The best flex for a beginner is medium-to-soft (3 or 4 out of 10).
The reason for this is that a flex that is on the softer side is easier to manoeuvre and manipulate. If the board is stiff it will be tough to move around and you are going to have a hard time controlling it – it will take you for a ride instead of you riding it!
Stiff flex may give you more stability at high speeds on steep slopes – but these are not things that you will be involved in early on.
A stiffer snowboard is also physically more difficult to turn. This means it takes a lot more energy and will wear your muscles out quicker. But more importantly for beginners, if you have to put in a lot of effort to turn the board it will be much more difficult to turn with good technique. You are likely to use your back leg as a rudder and to twist your upper body to help initiate the turn – 2 things that are not good habits to get into and will lead to poor technique.
I recommend a medium-soft flex as opposed to soft flex (1 or 2 out of 10) because if the flex is too soft then it will compromise too much on edge-hold.
It also gives the best option in terms of the right balance between being easy to manoeuvre and allowing you to grow into the board a wee bit as you tackle steeper slopes and ride at greater speeds.
If a board has a flex rating out of 10 (as a lot of them do) I would go for something around 3 or 4 for the beginner.
Thing #3: Stance and Shape
The best stance for a beginner is a centered stance. This is because a centered stance is easier to get your balance on because you are centered on the board. So look for a snowboard that has a centered stance.
The best shape for a beginner snowboard is a true twin shape. A true twin shape is perfectly symmetrical – like having a centered stance this makes it easier to find and keep your balance.
Thing #4: Base of the Snowboard
There are broadly two types of bases for snowboards – extruded and sintered bases. Both have their pluses and minuses.
When it comes to a beginner board an extruded bases is preferred. This is for a few reasons.
- An extruded base is slower – a fast accelerating base is not the best idea for a beginner!
- An extruded base is easier to maintain – you don’t need to wax extruded bases very often if at all
- An extruded base costs less to manufacture – this lowers the overall cost of the board
Thing #5: Manufacturer’s Label
Typically manufacturers will give an indication of what the particular board is made for. This, in my opinion, isn’t as big a consideration as Camber Profile and Flex but certainly what the manufacturers think there board would be good for shouldn’t be ignored.
For this one simply try to find out (on reviews or on the manufacturers website) what the board is considered to be.
Boards will usually have a range of ability levels on them. Usually it will be one of the following:
- Beginner – Intermediate
- Beginner – Advanced
- Beginner – Expert
- Intermediate to Advanced
- Intermediate to Expert; or
- Advanced to Expert
This brings me to my next point…..
Thing #6: Avoid the Temptation to get a Board to “Grow Into”
Whilst it might be tempting to get a board that you can “grow into” like an “intermediate to expert” or to discard all boards except ones that go up to advanced or expert, this is not the wisest move.
If the board is above your ability level you will stunt your progression. It is far better to later sell your beginner board and buy a more advanced board once you progress than trying to learn on a board that is not suited to beginners.
I would go with a beginner to intermediate, beginner to advanced or beginner to expert. i.e. as long as it at least has beginner in it (and has the Camber Profile and Flex Rating as mentioned above). I haven’t included the “beginner” here because you may want your first board to at least progress you to an intermediate level.
But trust me, you will be in the beginner and intermediate phases (which cover a wider range of things that you might think – check out this post on ability levels) for at least a few seasons, especially if you only spend a few days a year on the mountain.
For this reason you won’t need to upgrade too soon. So if you are tempted to get a more advanced board because you don’t want to have to buy a new one too soon, don’t worry about it because a beginner to intermediate board will serve you well for a long time and will lead to much faster progression.
If you pick up snowboarding really quickly, or do a large number of days in your first season, and need to upgrade sooner, that is not a problem either. The newer the board is when you sell it, the more you will get for it – so either way you will get your money’s worth……..which leads me to the 5th thing.
Thing #7: A Reasonable Price
As a beginner you may not be entirely certain how long your snowboarding “career” will last and you may not want to spend a fortune on a board if you don’t think it will get that much use.
Fortunately beginner boards are generally on the cheaper side. Probably mostly because the manufacturers know that beginners are less willing to invest larger sums of money.
From my experience you should be able to pick up a good quality board in the $300 to $400 (USD) price range brand new (and often a bit less than $300) – or cheaper second hand of course (keeping in mind that older board’s will have a lower resale value).
To Sum Up
Remember these 7 things and you can’t go wrong with picking a snowboard that will be great for a beginner and assist in speedy progression. At a quick glance check out the table below.
|Thing #1: Camber Profile||Hybrid Camber or Flat to Rocker|
|Thing #2: Flex||Soft or Medium-Soft (preferably medium soft). 3 or 4 out of 10 if the manufacturer has an out of 10 rating.|
|Thing #3: Stance & Shape||Centered Stance and true twin shape|
|Thing #4: Base||Extruded Base|
|Thing #5: Manufacturer's or Reviewer's Label||Any of Beginner, Beginner-to-Intermediate, Beginner-to-Advanced or Beginner-to-Expert|
|Thing #6: Avoid a “grow into” Board||It will slow your progression if your board is above your ability level.|
|Thing #7: Price||This depends on your own income and willingness to spend on a snowboard but thankfully beginner boards do tend to be cheaper than more advanced boards. You should be able to get something for around $300-$400 new.|
Recent First Hand Experience
As an illustration of using a specific beginner board with these 5 things, I recently hired a board for my girlfriend for our visit to Whistler last weekend. Instead of just going with the standard hire board I found a shop that hired specific boards and I specifically chose a board (the Rossignol Myth in this case) that had all the characteristics that are pointed out above.
The Rossi Myth has;
- a Hybrid Camber profile;
- medium-soft flex (3 out of 10);
- is considered stable with an easy turn initiation;
- has a centered stance;
- has a true twin shape;
- has an extruded base;
- is labelled a beginner-to-advanced board;
- it only costs around $299 (USD)
I have been trying to convince my girlfriend that buying a board is much better than hiring for many reasons (see my post on why you should buy rather than hire) and think I finally got through to her after last weekend!
She not only really enjoyed riding the board, she said she felt far more confident turning, riding steeper slopes and riding at higher speeds. This was great not only for her but for me also – not having to wait nearly as long for her to catch up was much better for my patience :-).
I was pleasantly surprised with how much quicker and more confident she was coming down the slopes.
My Top Recommendations
If you want all the research done for you or somewhere to start then check out my top picks for beginner snowboards for both men and women at the links below.
Any Comments or Questions
Anything you think I’ve left out that is important for a beginner snowboard please let me know in the comments below.
Similarly if you have any further questions please leave it in the comments.
Thanks for reading and I hope this has helped in your beginner snowboard selection decision.