Choosing the right snowboard for you can make a big difference to your riding.
There are a wide range of snowboards out there with a large variety of feel and flex and a big differences in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
Getting the right board for your own specs, style, preferences, ability level and the conditions you usually ride in, can sometimes be the difference between really enjoying your riding and having it feel like hard work.
This post is intended to highlight the importance of choosing the right snowboard, rather than how to choose it, but there are links you can follow that will give you the details of how to choose the the right snowboard.
Different Things to Take into Account
So the main factors that I like to take into account when recommending a snowboard or when buying one for myself are:
- Style (how you like to ride, where you like to ride)
- Ability Level
I’ll break each of these down a little further.
Finding the right board for your specs, basically comes down to finding the right board for your weight, height and boot size.
But also, you can take into account how strong/athletic you are.
For example, in general a stiffer board is going to be more difficult to control and to turn on. But if you’re quite strong/athletic, then it won’t be as difficult for you as for someone who isn’t as strong – even given the same height, weight and boot size.
The main thing that specs determine is the size of your board.
Length mostly comes down to weight. And generally speaking the lighter you are the shorter the board and the heavier you are the longer the board.
There are other factors to consider (e.g. your style and the type of snowboard also help to determine the best length for you) but weight is the major factor.
But height comes into it too, IMO. It used to be that height was the only determining factor but that’s now outdated. Now, some people disregard height altogether.
However, I still like to take it into account. This is because typically taller people prefer a wider stance on their snowboard and shorter people a narrower stance. If you are very tall and very light (or visa versa) and only take weight into account, then you might end up on a board that doesn’t accommodate your stance width.
The other important and often ignored factor is the width of the snowboard.
If the width is too wide for your boots, it can make turning the board more difficult and if the board is too narrow for your boots, you risk getting boot drag.
In some cases the width and length won’t match up for your specs. In some cases, adjusting your length (i.e. going shorter if the board is going to be too wide – which compensates for the wider board) may be necessary.
Things like low profile boots can also help if you have boots that are borderline too wide for a board that you want.
Note: Some boards are made to be wider and shorter, and there are quite a few of these short/wides out there nowadays.
What you like to do when you get on a snowboard makes a big difference when choosing the right snowboard.
If all you ever do is like to bomb the mountain at speed and carve, and you end up with a soft board with lots of rocker in the profile, you’re just not going to have as good a time as you would on a more appropriate board for your style.
Everyone has their own style but it’s helpful to create some categories that define a range of styles that you might belong in. Then you can choose a category of board that is going to be more suitable. You might fit neatly into any of those categories, but it’s helpful to identify to a category as close as possible.
The broad snowboard categories that I go by fit under:
- Aggressive All-Mountain-Freestyle
- Aggressive All-Mountain
I could also add 2 more categories to that:
But these are 2 categories that I don’t cover on this website. But there are boards that would fit better in these categories.
For more details on generally what category you might fit under, check out the following:
Style can also influence size.
For example, something longer is better for riding powder and more stable at speed. Something shorter is typically more maneuverable at slower speeds, better in trees and better for freestyle things like butters, spins and jibs.
Wider boards also have more float in powder (more surface area) – which is where short/wide boards are great for trees on powder days – they’re shorter for more maneuverability but also wider so they don’t sacrifice powder float.
Your ability level also influences the type of board that you are going to get and also influences the size of that board.
There are certain specs for a board that are better suited for beginners.
For example flex, camber profile, side-cut, and effective edge/contact length come into play to make a board either more or less suitable for a beginner. And some of these things are also applicable to intermediate riders too.
A shorter board is also easier to learn on. So taking off some length from what would be your advanced level size, is a good idea.
I like to look at it from a couple of analogies.
- If you want to improve your tennis playing, then you want to play against someone who is just at or just a bit above your level. If you are an average tennis player and play against Roger Federer, you’re technique will suffer as you’ll just be doing what you can to survive. And your confidence will take a beating. It’s the same with a snowboard. If you buy the Roger Federer of snowboards, it’s just going to take your for a ride, rather than you riding it. Your technique will suffer, and your confidence will disappear.
- If you want to learn to drive a car and you’re thrown into a tank with a rocket engine strapped to the back, it’s not going to be easy! And again, it forces you into learning a crude technique just to survive. On a snowboard if you don’t have sufficient control over it, you can’t ride with good technique and you’ll develop a crude technique that’s just designed to survive the hill, not a technique that’s smooth and will ultimately lead to better riding in the future and a good foundation to build upon.
Finally, the conditions you typically ride in help to influence the type of board that is best suited to you.
For example, if you see a lot of hard/icy days, then getting a board that has good edge-hold in hard/icy conditions is a must.
If you see a lot of powder, then you’ll want something with decent float, assuming that you like to leave the groomers and explore that powder.
Of course, in a lot of cases it can be good to have 2 or more boards for different situations. For example you might have a board for days riding the park. Or you might have a different board for when its puking.
But if you only want one board, and you have an eclectic style there are boards you can get to do a bit of everything. They won’t be as good for certain things as more specialized boards, but typically are good across the board (all-mountain and all-mountain-freestyle boards are the most versatile).
There are several factors that determine what the right snowboard for an individual is. And that snowboard is likely to be different for you compared to others, depending on all the factors above.
Sometimes a friend might recommend a certain snowboard but just because it’s right for them, doesn’t necessarily make it right for you. The same can go for boots and bindings too.
I test a lot of gear each year and get a first hand look at just what a big difference different gear can make. If you’ve only ever rented, or if you’ve only ever ridden one board, then you may not be as aware of the differences.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you need a change. You may well have the gear that is just right for you already, either by design or by luck. But if it’s your first time buying gear or you feel like you could be getting more out of your gear, then I encourage you to do your research – because getting the right gear for you, can make a big difference.
If you’re not sure where to start check out some of the links that I referenced above to start getting an idea of the right size and style snowboard for you.