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, freestyle boards or other styles, 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 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, plus Thing #2 - Flex, and Thing #3 - size are the most important factors for beginners.
These things are really important because they affect three very important factors for beginners, which are:
- A feeling of stability underfoot;
- Ease of turn initiation: and
- A board that isn't easy to catch an edge on
When you are starting out you want to feel stable to aid balance. You also want the most difficult thing for beginners (linking turns) to be made easier by the specs of the board - and you don't want the board to be catchy. The camber profile has a profound effect on two of these things - stability and ease of catching an edge (and can also aid in easier turn initiation).
The best camber profiles for both stability and a more catch-free ride, in my opinion, are Flat to Rocker and Hybrid Camber (as long as there isn't too much camber in there). Closely followed by Hybrid Rocker.
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 - and being less catchy.
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.
If there is only a token amount of rocker and lots of camber, it's not going to be ideal for the beginner - not all hybrid cambers are the same, so this should be taken into account. Something that's mostly camber, or has aggressive camber is not going to be great for beginners - in this case it will feel more like traditional camber.
The Flat to Rocker profile, as the name suggests also has rocker towards the tip and tail, like the Hyrbid camber profile.
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 not to the same degree of looseness as a continuous rocker profile. That rocker between the feet does help with easy turn initiations though - it can just make things a bit loose - especially when coming off the lift.
But like Hybrid camber profiles, it also depends on the degree and extent of the camber sections. If there is really prominent camber or the rocker section between the feet is really small, then it can feel closer to traditional camber, and become catchy and too aggressive.
Which Camber Profiles to Avoid
In my opinion, the Traditional Camber and Completely Flat profiles should be completely avoided.
The Continuous Rocker has been often recommended to beginners (but that was before the hybrid profiles really emerged). 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 feels catch-free for sure, and makes turn initiation easy, but will likely feel too loose to be good for beginners, especially when coming off the lifts. This is a better option than traditional camber and flat for beginners though - at least linking turns will be easy.
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 soft or medium-to-soft (1,2,3 or 4 out of 10).
The reason for this is that a flex that is on the softer side is easier to maneuver and manipulate, particularly at slower speeds. If the board is stiff it will be tough to initiate turns on 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 usually recommend a medium-soft flex (3/10 or 4/10) as opposed to soft flex (1 or 2 out of 10), if you ride in hard/icy conditions a lot, because if the flex is too soft then it will compromise too much on edge-hold.
Medium-soft flex also gives a good balance between being easy to maneuver and progress with, and allowing you to grow into the board a wee bit as you tackle steeper slopes and ride at greater speeds. This isn't completely necessary, if you are willing to invest in the fastest progressing board to begin with and are willing to upgrade from that fairly quickly as you progress.
THING #3: SIZE
Getting an unsuitable sized snowboard can greatly affect it's suitability as a beginner board - even if you get the flex and camber profile right - it won't be ideal for learning and progressing on, if it's in the wrong size.
Go too long - and the board becomes harder to control and harder to turn - and this is amplified the longer you go - until you're riding a runaway train!
But go too short and you will be loosing out on stability - the shorter you go, the more the board will feel twitchy and unstable. So getting a good size for your specs is really important.
To find a good length and width for your specs, check out the following:
As a beginner, you should be sizing down a little (3-5cm) from a "standard all-mountain" length. Learn how to find your standard length in the length sizing link above.
THING #4: 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 #5: 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, beginner to intermediate, or beginner to advanced -i.e. as long as it at least has beginner in it (and has the Camber Profile and Flex Rating as mentioned above).
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 good while and will lead to much faster progression. Go for something that's beginner to intermediate or beginner to advanced, if you want something that will stay with you a little longer.
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 #6: 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 - and because it seems to be cheaper to produce softer flexing boards, and boards with extruded bases.
From my experience you should be able to pick up a good quality board in the $300 to $400 (USD) price range brand new. Or cheaper second hand of course (keeping in mind that older board’s will have a lower resale value). Buying past season boards is a great way to get a brand new board for a cheaper price.
THING #7: VERSATILITY
I have only recently included versatility in my beginner ratings. And the reason I have done this is because I was getting a lot of people who wanted a board that would be able to do a bit of everything (but still be good for a beginner) so that they could get a board that could take them in any direction their snowboarding took them - whether that be freestyle, casual, freeriding etc.
So, now my top beginner snowboard picks (see links below) take this into account.
THING #8: STANCE AND SHAPE
In my opinion, camber, flex and size are the most important things. If you go those 3 things right, then you will have a board that is suitable for you, as a beginner. The rest of these things, including stance and shape, aren't must haves.
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. It also makes learning switch easier.
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. This is more so the case if you are looking to start learning tricks, and want to learn how to ride switch from early on.
However, these two things aren't that important. They are the ideal but can be compromised on. Especially if you are looking for a board that you want to keep for years to come. Then something with a directional twin shape and a little bit of a setback stance might be a better bet, to give you more versatility (see #8).
THING #9: BASE TYPE
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
To Sum Up
Remember these 9 things and you can’t go wrong with picking a snowboard that will be great for a beginner and assist in speedy progression.
More specifically remember the first 3 things:
- Camber Profile
And you should have a suitable snowboard to help you learn and progress with confidence.
At a quick glance check out the table below.
THING #1: CAMBER PROFILE
Hybrid Camber, Flat-to-rocker, Hybrid Rocker
THING #2: FLEX
Soft or Medium-Soft
THING #3: SIZE
3-5cm shorter than "Standard Length"
THING #4: Manufacturer's Label
Beginner, Beginner to Intermediate or Beginner to Advanced
THING #5: Avoid a "Grow Into" Board
It will slow your progression and be frustrating with a board above your ability
THING #6: Reasonable Price
This is different for different people, but most beginners don't want to spend too much
THING #7: Versatility
A versatile board can help you progress into any style
THING #8: Shape and Stance
Centered stance and true twin shape, particularly if you want to develop freestyle skills early on
THING #9: Base Type
Extruded base preferably - but not essential
Recent First Hand Experience
As an illustration of using a specific beginner board with these 7 things, I hired a board for my girlfriend for our visit to Whistler a few years back. 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-intermediate 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 I finally got through to her after that weekend! She didn't buy that board, but another with great specs for a beginner/intermediate rider, and loves it.
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.
Or if you're looking to go that little step up, without reaching too far, check out the following:
Any Comments or Questions
If there's 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.