There are some big differences between a freeride and a freestyle snowboard. In fact they are practically at the opposite ends of the spectrum (if we don’t want to include the less common street/jib boards and powder boards).
All the differences between the two are created for a reason – to make the board more suitable for the style of riding it is designed for.
Below I will outline the differences and why the specs are created the way they are.
Also check out my post on the different styles of snowboarding to get my definitions of freeride and freestyle (and other styles).
If you are unsure of any of the terms in this post, check out my snowboard terms definitions page.
Freeride boards are usually really stiff – i.e. don’t flex very much. On a scale of 1-10 this is usually around 7-10 out of 10 on the stiffness scale (with 10 being the stiffest and 1 the softest).
The reason for this stiffness is for a couple of reasons.
- A stiffer board has better edge-hold – something that is needed for freeriders who are charging hard down the mountain carving, attacking steeps, and potentially running into some hard or icy terrain.
- A stiffer board is more responsive/quicker from edge to edge – this is extremely important for a freerider when negotiating trees and narrow chutes and other terrain that demands sharp precise movements
- A stiffer board is more stable at high speeds – enough said!
Freestyle boards on the other hand tend to be of a softer flex – typically between 1 and 4 out of 10 on the scale.
Really soft flexing boards (1-2/10) are less common and are more in the realm of street/jib boards but even a lot of those have a medium-soft flex (3-4/10). Sometimes freestyle boards can have a more medium flex too (5-6/10) – particularly for those riders that enjoy the pipe and more extreme jumps.
The reasons most freestyle boards have a softer flex is that softer flexing boards:
- Are easier to manoeuvre and throw around for tricks and spins
- Are easier to manual, butter and press and easier/better feel on jibs
- Offer forgiveness on landings
Freeride boards typically have a tapered directional shape and sometimes a directional shape.
The reason for this is that these shapes are designed to be optimized for one direction of riding. These shapes are difficult for riding switch – but that’s not something that the freerider is typically interested in.
For example, the tail of a tapered directional board is usually stiffer, narrower and shorter than the nose. There are many other ways that these boards are made directional like sidecut, flex patterns, setback (see below) in order to favor one-directional riding in varied terrain.
At the opposite end of the spectrum freetstyle boards are practically always true twin or close to true twin (see link above for more on snowboard shapes).
True twin shapes are exactly the same at both ends of the board – so if you were to cut the board in half you would have two identical pieces of snowboard – identical shape, flex pattern etc.
The reason that freestyle boards are nearly always true twin (or asymmetrical twin which is pretty close to true twin) is because it makes riding or landing switch more natural.
Freestylers tend to spend a lot of time either riding or landing in their switch position. If you were to make the board directional at all you would make it more difficult to do that.
Freeride boards are usually set up for a setback stance of at least 20mm and usually more.
This extra set back allows for better float in deep snow. Sure you can try to lean back and put all the weight on your back foot and lift the nose up but this will become very tiring very quickly and will take away some of your focus.
A setback stance makes it easier to keep your nose above the snow so you can focus on carving the best lines – not on keeping your board from nose planting into deep pow!
Freestyle boards don’t require a setback – and too much of a setback would make riding switch more awkward.
So pretty much every freestyle board you find will have a centred stance to keep the board symmetrical. I haven’t seen a freestyle board with a setback stance and if there was one I imagine it would be very subtle.
There are two main snowboard bases sintered and extruded.
You will almost always find a sintered base on a freeride board.
Sintered bases are faster – they glide better over the snow. So if you run into any flat patches or short uphill areas of the mountain the sintered base (provided you maintain it properly) will do a better job at keeping you moving than an extruded base.
And it’s just faster – something any freeride junkie can appreciate.
Whilst some freestyle boards do have sintered bases they are pretty unnecessary for most types of freestyle riding so most come with extruded bases.
Sintered bases are more expensive and require more maintenance than extruded bases so it doesn’t make sense to put them on a freestyle board if it’s not necessary.
In fact in some cases freestyle riders would prefer a slower base so that they don’t pick up too much speed approaching a rail/box for example.
The exception might be for those into the pipe where a sintered base could help you to drive up the pipe walls – or if you are into super extreme jumps where you want to keep as much pace as you can going over the jumps.
Freeride boards are typically longer than your average board. Remember of course that the length of your board is mostly down to your weight but once you find your “standard length”, as described in the link below, you’ll want to add a couple of extra centimeters onto that length.
The reason freeriders are best to go with a slightly longer board is that the extra length helps with stability and speed.
Freestyle snowboards are typically shorter in length. Take that same “standard length” as mentioned above and this time take off a few centimeters to get a your freestyle snowboard length.
The reason a shorter board is more suitable for the freestyle rider is that it is easier to control, to spin, to flex and to hit jibs with.
Though very subtle, typically freestyle boards are slightly wider than your average snowboard and freeride boards are slightly narrower.
The reason freeride boards are slightly narrower is that it gives increased response (so try to match your freeride board with some low profile boots to minimize the chance of too much overhang).
This isn’t always the case though as some riders do like a wider base for stability in more extreme conditions.
The reason that freestyle boards are usually slightly wider is simply to add a bit more stability on landings and for hitting jibs.
Thanks for reading and I hope this post has helped you determine the major differences between freeride and freestyle snowboards. Of course there are many varieties of all-mountain boards that fit somewhere in between these boards on the spectrum.
If you are looking into getting a freeride or freestyle board check out what I think are the top 10 of each at the links below.
- The Top 10 Men’s Freestyle Snowboards
- The Top 5 Men’s Freeride Snowboards
- The Top 5 Women’s Freestyle Snowboards
- The Top 5 Women’s Freeride Snowboards