Should You Ride a Shorter or Longer Snowboard?

Snowboard Expert Tyese Messerman details all the key factors and considerations to think about when choosing which size snowboard to go with!

A man jumps off a jump at a ski resort on a snowboard.

Photo by Felipe Giacometti

Choosing the right snowboard size can make or break your experience on the mountain, and a perfectly chosen board will give you the confidence to progress. The question of what size board to get plagues many first-time buyers. “What size is right for me?” “How much shorter should the board be than me?” “Is a shorter snowboard easier to ride?” “Does the length really matter that much?”

It does matter, but it’s not as hard as you think to make the right choice! This article will look at a few factors to consider when deciding what size snowboard to purchase. The top four things to look at when deciding whether to go shorter, longer, or right in the middle for your snowboard length are:

  1. Your size.
  2. Your ability level.
  3. Your riding style.
  4. The type of board you are buying.

Your Size

Your height and weight will be the first things to look at to get the best ballpark size range. Many size charts and snowboard sizing calculators will give you a standard size based on these two things, assuming you are an intermediate, all-mountain rider.

Your weight is important when deciding whether to go longer or shorter for your snowboard length. If you are a heavier rider and lean towards the heavier end for your weight, consider going a little longer, and if you are on the lighter side, go a bit shorter. Why? Snowboards are designed with an ideal flex, and the rider’s weight will greatly determine if this flex works like it’s supposed to.

Snowboard companies will always provide a weight range in lbs or kg for any given board. If you are too heavy for a board, it will flex more than it should, and if you are too light for a board, you won’t be able to put enough pressure onto it to flex it properly.

Using a size chart and/or sizing calculator while looking at your height and weight will give you a range of sizes you could potentially ride.

A diagram showing how to calculate a snowboard length.

Your Ability Level

After getting a ballpark length based on your height and weight, evaluate your skills. Are you brand new to the sport? Have you ridden just a handful of times? Or are you in your second or third year and progressing fast? Are you a highly advanced rider?

If you’re a beginner, it is generally suggested to go a little shorter than a more advanced rider would ride. Why? Simply put, longer boards are a bit harder to control. If you are a beginner, you could go up to 5cm shorter than your ballpark figure, as long as you still fit into that weight category. This will make the board easier to control as you learn to make turns.

If you are an intermediate or advanced rider, you will most likely want to choose your length based on your riding style and specific board choice.

Your Riding Style

For intermediate and advanced riders, the terrain that interests you and your riding style will play a big role in how long or short you want your board. Do you ride mostly in the park? If you are focused on spins, butters, jibs, rails, and boxes, then a board on the shorter side will be easier to maneuver and throw around. Consider riding anywhere from your estimated length based on the size chart to 5cm smaller. If you are an all-mountain freestyle rider, consider going right around that estimated size from the size chart. This will provide a little more length for speed without being too long to inhibit spins and jumps off natural features.

Are you riding steep terrain at high speeds? A slightly longer board, up to 5cm above your estimated size, will be more stable going fast and help you make those big arcing carves like the pros. If you love going fast but also do a lot of days riding groomers with the family, consider going closer to your estimated size from the size chart. It will still give you stability at speed but won’t be too long when you are cruising at slower speeds with the kiddos.

Type of Board

A snowboarder turns down a mountain.

Photo by Jay @splitdecisionsco

As snowboard manufacturers continue to add new technology, the types of boards on the market are endless. Let’s take a look at a few types of boards and whether you would want them shorter or longer.

Freestyle

A freestyle board is designed for just that: freestyle riding and doing tricks! Generally, you take these boards into the park at least 50% of your time on the mountain, focusing on jumps, jibs, butters, rails, boxes, and riding switch. These boards often have a softer flex and can be ridden a little shorter for full maneuverability and playfulness. Make sure to consider the weight limit for each freestyle board you look at. Due to their softer flex, ensure you don’t go too short and fall out of the weight category for the board you’re looking for!

All-Mountain

All-mountain boards are aimed to conquer the whole resort and offer great versatility. These boards provide good stability at speed but are still playful enough to hit some kickers. They are often a medium flexing board. All-mountain snowboards can be either true twin, directional twin, or directional. If you focus more on speed, consider going with a directional board, and if you lean towards a freestyle vibe, consider a twin.

All-mountain boards are generally designed to be ridden right around the length your size chart indicates best for you. Again, go a little longer if your focus is speed and a little shorter if you are a playful rider. Flex ratings vary greatly in the all-mountain category, so if you prefer a soft flex, you may want to go a little longer than if you choose a stiff flex.

Freeride

Freeride boards are for adventurous riders who spend more of their time off-piste than on. These boards are designed for higher speeds, bigger drops, and deeper snow. Generally speaking, they have a stiffer flex than an all-mountain board, and great edge hold to provide the best stability possible for higher speeds. In addition, they often have a longer effective edge than a freestyle board for more turning stability, and they come in many different camber profiles.

Freeride boards are almost always directional and often ridden a little longer than your average all-mountain board. That being said, it is still important to consider the terrain you hit the most as a freerider. For example, if big open bowls are your thing, a longer board will provide more float and stability. On the other hand, if trees and tighter turns are more up your alley, you still may want to stick to your recommended length and not go much longer, so you have more freedom to make tight turns.

Volume-Shifted

Volume-shifted boards are the exception in the freeride world! These boards will always be ridden shorter than your average size, often 3-5cm shorter, to compensate for their wider width. These boards shift their volume, creating a shorter, fatter board to slay the mountain. It makes a great option for those with a larger boot size to prevent heel drag due to the wider waist width. They are generally fantastic in uneven terrain, choppy snow, and powder because they are wider than normal and plow through anything thrown at them. Another benefit to a volume-shifted board is it can often be more playful while still charging hard due to its shorter length.

Powder

Powder boards are almost always directional and provide a set-back option for optimal float. They will come in various flex patterns and are often a rocker profile or hybrid profile instead of a camber board for the best flotation in the pow. You would generally want to ride a powder board at your recommended length or a little longer to provide as much float as possible out of the powder. Please note that each board has its own recommendations due to the many different styles and designs of powder boards.

In Conclusion

Two snowboarders on a snowy mountain.

Photo by Tyese Messerman

The old-school way of putting on your boots and measuring the snowboard from your toe to your chin is a little old-fashioned. The first step in determining the snowboard length to buy is to check out a snowboard sizing chart with your weight and height in mind. Once you have a ballpark figure, analyze your riding style and the type of terrain you’ll be riding the most. After deciding what type of board and which brand and model you want, determine that particular board's flex, shape, and design to get the best fit for you.

Keep in mind that if you are a freestyle junkie, you can always ride a slightly shorter board, and if you have a need for speed, you can go a little longer. Remember, too, that a longer board will give you wider stance options, so if you're all leg, go longer! Overall, choosing the length of your board is really based on personal preference and what you want to get out of each snowboard. Click here to chat with a Snowboard Expert who will help you find the perfect board for your style and ability and then go have fun! For more help on sizing, check out “What Size Snowboard Is Right For You?

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Written By
From Whistler, BC to Rainier Basecamp, and from Niseko, Japan to Mt. Bachelor, Oregon, I simply can't get enough of the snow and the mountains! Growing up on the East Coast I learned to ski at age 5 and started snowboarding around age 12, and roamed the hills from Quebec, Vermont, NY, PA, WV and eve...

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