There are many key specs you should look out for when choosing the best freeride snowboard for your particular needs.
This post will go over the specs of the freeride snowboard, why they are designed the way they are and the different variances so you can get an idea of what specs are right for you and whether a freeride board is right for you.
Just to be clear on my definition of what a freeride snowboard is (some people consider freeride and all-mountain boards to be the same but they are definitely completely different beasts!) check out my 6 styles of snowboarding post.
Freeride snowboards are invariably on the stiffer side. This is partially personal preference but most freeride boards tend to either have a stiff or medium-stiff flex. Some come in a more medium flex but they are the minority.
You’re unlikely to see any medium-soft or soft freeride boards!
This stiffer flex helps with better edge-hold and stability at high speeds.
The 26 freeride boards that I look at had the following flex ratings:
|Stiff (9 or 10 out of 10)||19%|
|Medium-Stiff (7 or 8 out of 10)||54%|
|Medium (5 or 6 out of 10)||27%|
|Medium-soft (3 or 4 out of 10)||0%|
|Soft (1 or 2 out of 10)||0%|
Another option worth checking out if you aren’t sure about whether you want a freeride or all-mountain board is an aggressive all mountain board – these are usually quite stiff too but have some qualities of all-mountain boards.
Check out this post on all mountain boards if you think an aggressive all-mountain board could be more your style.
Freeride boards usually have a tapered directional shape – and sometimes a directional shape – but always some version of directional.
This is because freeriding requires optimal performance in one direction down the mountain and there is no need to be riding switch – at least not for any prolonged length of time.
Of those 26 boards:
Freeride boads usually have a setback of 20mm or greater.
Again, there is no need for a centred stance because there is very little switch involved.
But, more importantly, that setback stance makes it easier to keep the nose above deep snow.
If you were centred on the board you would have to work extra hard on leaning back and keeping that nose up – this is not only exhausting but it also takes your focus away from riding and finding the best lines and avoiding those obstacles!
|Between 5mm and 10mm||0%|
|Between 10mm and 15mm||8%|
|Between 15mm and 20mm||31%|
|Greater than 20mm||62%|
There are various camber profiles for freeride boards but some are definitely better than others – this is again partly personal preference but there are certainly some profiles that are better for freeriding in my opinion.
The most popular, and best in my mind, camber profiles for freeride boards are the hybrid camber and hybrid rocker shapes.
The camber sections of these shapes helps with edge-hold (hugely important for freeriding) and the rocker sections help with float in powder – also really important.
Check out the link below to see a more in depth analysis on the camber profiles of a selection of different style of snowboards (including freeride boards).
Freeriding is a hard charging agreesssive style of riding so it needs a hard charging aggressive style of base.
Freeride boards predominantly come with sintered bases. Sintered bases are faster and glide better than extruded bases (if you maintain them properly).
So if you get stuck in any flat sections in the backcountry or slight uphills you will glide for longer meaning you can get through some sections without taking your board off that might otherwise not have been able to with an extruded base.
They are also just faster – so better for freeriding!
When choosing a freeride board you should choose a board that’s longer than the average board.
This extra length will help with speed and stability.
Check out the link below to learn how to work out your “standard length” (this is mostly based on your weight) add an extra 2-3 centimetres to that standard length to get your freeride length.
Freeride snowboards tend to be slightly narrower than the average snowboard.
This allows it to be more responsive and faster from edge to edge – important when you are trying to negotiate trees or narrow chutes.
But you still need to make sure that the board isn’t too narrow for your boot size – if your boots overhang too much you might get boot drag on hard carves. Check out this post for how to choose the right width.
It’s a really good idea to match your freeride board with low profile (reduced footprint) boots. This will allow you to ride a narrower board with less chance of boot drag.
Over To You…
That’s all from me – now over to you. I hope this has helped you to decide whether a freeride board is right for you and the key specs to look out for when choosing a freeride snowboard.
Check out the links below to see what I consider are currently the best 5 freeride snowboards on the market.
If you have any questions or believe that I’ve left anything important out please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.
By Ripley119 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Nate, thanks again for your input, extremely helpful.
I’m sure the upgrading decision for intermediates depends hugely on each riders natural ability, board sports background and a variety of other factors. I reckon I’ll try some more advanced boards on our next trip before purchasing. The Neversummer 25 sounds like a good option though and perhaps it’s discounted by next year:)
Thanks again Nate, great job.
You’re very welcome Donnie. Definitely a good idea to try some boards for yourself, if you have the opportunity. Then you’ll know for sure if you’re up for them. Fingers crossed for a discount on the Twenty Five!
Cool reviews and tons of info, great stuff. I posted another query, but can’t find it, so repeating my questions.
I’m an ex competitive surfer who discovered and got totally hooked on snowboarding in 2007. So with my surfing background I enjoy “surfing” the mountain, i.e. big carves on piste and sticking to powder as much as possible. Still learning to carve on the rails on piste, but in powder it comes quite naturally. I’m 46, 85kg, 6′.
Did my first few trips on a Salomon Prospect, then got a Rome Crail (158). Got K2 cinch and Flow (I think Flight) bindings. Still have the gear, but as I’m progressing, I think it’s time to get an intermediate/advanced board purely for carving/powder, speed etc. No parks, jumps, switch, etc. I’ve looked at all your free ride and all mountain board reviews, but can’t find “that board”.
Also, there’s this dude who does YouTube tutorials who reckons super wide boards are best for carving ( to avoid toe and heel drag). He totally rips, but something tells me a wide board on piste will be more difficult for an intermediate rider. Or not?
Thanks for your message.
I don’t personally like boards that are too wide. You definitely minimize any danger of toe and heel drag the wider you go – and if you’re getting really low on your carves then that’s definitely a good thing. It does, for me, make a board feel slow edge-to-edge and a bit lethargic on piste – definitely not too much of an issue in powder – having that extra surface area helps too. And there are quite a few short/wide powder board options out there too, which are basically extra wide but quite short – so you get that surface area from the width rather than the length. Fun boards in powder – i haven’t ridden a lot of them but what i have ridden are fun. Not un-rideable on the groomers but definitely more fun in powder.
I think a freeride board would suit you well. Or you could go for a surfy powder board – won’t be as good on piste as a freeride board but you can still ride them on piste when you want to – these don’t have to be short/wide – those are just one option. There are regular length powder boards you can get too.
I’m not an expert on powder boards – I kind of narrow my demoing between freestyle and freeride and everything in between but don’t really deal in powder boards – or jib/street boards at the other end.
But some that you could look into:
Burton Gate Keeper
Burton Skeleton Key
Rome Powder Division
There are a lot of others but these should be good (I haven’t ridden them but based on what others say) at carving on the piste too.
Let me know if you’d like some short/wide options, if that’s of interest to you, and I can write a bit of a list.
Some other freeride options you could look at – Capita Black Snowboard of Death, K2 Joy Driver, Ride Timeless.
Hope this gives you some more options to consider.
Thanks Nate. Read all the board reviews and they’re all great boards, so I doubt there’ll be much difference for a rider of my ability. However won’t an intermediate rider be overwhelmed by boards like these?
Looks like the Yes Optimistic is a good option, also Neversummer 25. Probably can’t go wrong with any of these boards.
I’m curious, if you know the Rome Crail, how does it compare to these boards? I know it’s a beginner/ intermediate board, but is there a world of difference between it and the boards you mentioned here. Just trying to put it into perspective whether someone of my level is ready to upgrade ( my heart says yes, head says yesnomaybe).
Thanks for your message. Freeride boards are usually for advanced level riders and up. Some are suitable for intermediate level riders but most are a bit too much board for most intermediate riders. I would say that the Never Summer 25 is one of the better options for an intermediate rider looking to get on a freeride board. Maybe not so much the YES Optimistic 2017 model – the 2016 model was a softer more all-mountain type board – but it’s now stiffer and more freeride. The 2016 model would be a good introduction for freeriding for intermediate riders but the 2017 model would be more difficult.
In general, I think that all-mountain boards are the way to go for intermediate riders looking to get into freeriding. Just a bit more forgiving but still are pretty good in powder and with carving.
I’m not that familiar with the Rome Crail (haven’t ridden it) but based on the specs and what I can see it sounds like it’s an all-mountain board. I think this would be fine for an intermediate rider and would likely (without knowing that much about it of course) be an appropriate board for an intermediate rider looking to get into freeriding.
Hope this helps