It’s important to choose the right snowboard for your style, ability and your physical characteristics.
But there’s one more thing that you should take into consideration. And that’s the snow conditions that you ride in.
This post will discuss choosing the right snowboard based on different types of snow.
How Much Should I Base my Snowboard Choice on Conditions?
In my opinion choosing for your physical characteristics, style and ability level are still more important but there are some situations where conditions play an important role in that choice too.
Choosing for your conditions is more or less important depending on the snow conditions you ride in.
And you should definitely still choose for your style and ability – and the right board for your weight and height, when also choosing for snow conditions.
Some mountains will have a real mixture of different snow conditions depending on the season and the time of year and if you are only going to have one snowboard, then conditions don’t play as big a part because you might get a bit of everything. But you’ll still want a board that can handle a bit of everything that the mountain throws at you.
But if your most frequented mountain is known for certain conditions at one end of the scale – like being icy, or having lots of powder, or being like concrete – then your snowboard choice should reflect this to get the best of your season.
Time of Year You Ride
The other thing to think about here is the time of year you ride.
Again if you ride fall, winter and spring then you’ll want a board that can ride all seasons.
But if you only ride in the spring for example, then getting something that’s good in slush might be worth considering.
When you have more than one board – it’s often the case that each board is more suited for different conditions and terrain – and a lot of the time that’s the whole reason for going with multiple boards (as well as for wanting to ride different styles depending on the board).
The Different Types of Snow
O.K. let’s look at some different types of snow and see what specs you may want to have if you ride those snow conditions regularly.
The dreaded ice!
Not my favorite snow type (and not many would say it is) but if you get it a lot on your local mountain, you’ll want a snowboard that can perform well in icy snow.
Often people use the term “ice” but you’ll never actually ride on ice (thankfully!) but “ice” refers to snow that has melted and then frozen to form a layer of icy snow on top.
This ice is slippery, hard and unforgiving when you land on it.
Best Board Specs for “Ice”
If you’re riding icy snow a lot, you’ll likely want :
- A board with some kind of edge tech
- A board with at least some camber in the profile
- Adopting a wider stance
- Make sure you keep your edges sharp
If you find yourself in icy snow conditions regularly this is when you definitely want good gripping edge-hold.
Try to look for a snowboard that has magne-traction or some variation – traction bumps, mid-bite – there are various marketing terms for them nowadays. These “bumps” essentially give you extra contact points in key places along the sidecut of the snowboard – giving you more grip in hard conditions and icy snow.
Other things such as flex and camber profile can also affect edge-hold. A continuous rocker, for example, profile probably isn’t going to be the most effective on ice.
Going with a wider stance can give you more control in icy conditions.
But don’t fret if you have a board without edge-tech or without a good camber profile for ice. Just make sure your board has sharp edges. If you’ve been having trouble in icy snow go and get your edges sharpened and see if that helps.
Detuned edges will perform poorly in ice.
Check out the video below that’s all about an experiment that the house.com has done with different boards riding on ice.
Though, since this test was done on ice and not “icy snow” you can only draw so much from it. After all, we seldom actually ever ride on ice.
Also check out the link below to see the article all about the testing they did called “Ice Breakers”
Now, the opposite of icy snow is powder.
In contrast to “ice” most riders love powder.
But you still want to have the right board specs to ride powder. Even powder can be hard work without the right board or if you aren’t experienced at riding in powder.
You can easily sink your nose into powder and wipe out – and if it’s deep, it can be really exhausting to pull yourself out of. But if you can float over top of it, it can be one of the best snow types (and one of the best experiences in general) your likely to encounter.
Best Board Specs for Powder
There are a number of different things that can make riding powder more or less enjoyable. The following board specs will help to keep that nose above deep snow and keep you from having to dig your board out and re-strap in in the most difficult place you can do it – in soft fluffy pow!
- Setback stance
- Tapered shape (wider nose than tail)
- Directional shape (longer nose than tail and/or directional camber profile)
- Good amount of surface area (either by going for a longer length or a wider width)
- Rocker in the profile somewhere
You definitely want to have a board with a setback stance if you are going to ride in powder a lot.
Yes you can still ride powder with a centered stance but it takes more conscious effort to keep the nose out of the snow than with a setback stance.
Ideally a wider and longer nose and a shorter and narrower tail – this helps the tail to sink and the nose to float. A directional camber profile (e.g. camber to the tail through to the front insert and then rocker towards the nose) can also promote nose float and tail sink.
Some rocker somewhere in your camber profile also helps. Preferably some of this rocker would be towards the nose of the snowboard too, but even if it’s between the bindings it will still help with float.
Surface area helps you to float too – so whether you choose to go a little longer or go for a wider/shorter board will depend on where you want to ride and your personal preferences. Short/wides can be great for riding powder in the trees – whereas longer freeride boards are better for deep, wide open powder – and better on steeper terrain and when you’re really bombing it – big mountain kind of stuff.
Cascade concrete is named after the cascade ranges in the North Western United States and Southern BC, Canada.
It’s named “concrete” because the snow conditions in the cascades is often heavy, wet, sticky snow. So think of “unset concrete” not hardened concrete!
If you sometimes ride in these conditions often you’ll know what I mean. I’m guessing this can be found in other places in the world too, but this is where I am, and it can be pretty prominent here.
Best Board Specs for Cascade Concrete
There are a couple of things that can help riding in concrete-like conditions.
- Sintered Base
- Keep it waxed
- Setback stance
- On the stiffer side
Firstly, because these conditions are slow it’s good to have a board with a fast base. So going with a sintered base is your best bet. Or something equivalent that is fast.
And for this same reason it’s a great idea to keep your base well waxed.
The other thing is to try to get a board with a bit of a setback stance. Of course whether you go with a setback stance (and how much of a setback stance) or centered stance will also depend on your style.
If you are riding the park a lot or like to ride freestyle on the rest of the mountain then a centered stance is better. But if you are venturing through some heavy sticky powder it might just be a little harder work to keep the nose up out of it. A bit of setback usually aids in riding faster, and you need to keep your speed up when it’s really sticky.
A slightly stiffer board can also help you keep speed up better. How stiff you go will of course depend on your style, ability level and personal preferences though.
GROOMED – SOFT PACKED
The groomed soft packed conditions – groomed trails with some nice fresh snow on top, are pretty much suitable for most boards.
Some boards with super edge-hold might get grabby (in this and in powder) but in general you don’t really have to worry about specs when it comes to conditions, if you mostly have groomed soft pack.
Your board choice should then come down completely to style, ability & physical specs.
GROOMED – HARD PACKED
Groomed hard packed conditions are faster than soft packed conditions and require more edge-hold.
Like icy conditions it’s nice to have sharp edges in hard packed and some edge-tech can be good too (but not as necessary as in icy conditions).
And like icy conditions certain flex (don’t want anything too soft) and camber profiles (some camber in there is good) will be better suited as well.
But you’ll still want to be more focused on style and ability, if these are the conditions you encounter the most.
Thanks for reading
I hope this post has helped you to decide on a board based on the most common snow conditions you encounter.
Of course a lot of mountains will give you a combination of conditions depending on the weather, time of year and where you go on the mountain. Then it’s a case of finding a board that can ride all of those conditions, or having multiple boards in your quiver.
What do you usually ride in? Anything that I’ve missed here? Just leave a comment in the comments section below.