What Size Snowboard is Right for You?
Choosing the correct board size can be a complex dynamic that involves a number of important factors. Snowboard expert Bobby Chadderton is here to help.
The creativity possible through snowboarding knows no limits. Snowboarding has continuously evolved from its rule-breaking, counter-culture roots of the 70s. While the culture is still grounded by the same expressive and free-thinking ideals, snowboards themselves are built with new technology and concepts that continuously expand the creative possibilities of the sport.
Choosing the correct board size can be a complex dynamic that involves a number of important factors, complimented by a touch of personal preference. Our goal as Experts here at Curated is to provide you with the advice and guidance necessary for you to begin carving your own path through the mountains. So let’s break down all of the factors and tech to determine what snowboard size is best for you!
If you’ve ever rented a board or snagged a hand-me-down from your older brother, you’ve probably fallen victim to the quick “make sure it’s near your chin” method of sizing. If this is the case, the snowboard size you’re currently used to may not be the one that’s gonna give you confidence and longevity as you progress. This method of sizing neglects the most important aspect of choosing a board: your weight. Fortunately, we’ve abandoned that way of thinking for a much more personal fit!
Your snowboard won’t know your favorite movie or remember your aunt’s birthday, much like it won’t know how tall you are. But, it will know exactly how much you weigh. The flex scale that determines how soft or rigid your board is? Completely dependent on weight! Refer to this chart for a general basis on a range of snowboards that will suit you. This is not comprehensive but it’s a good place to start!
Pro Tip: Read through each manufacturer’s recommendations for the proper length to weight ratio! Each snowboard brand and model will have a set of personalized guidelines to follow. This ratio is further dependent on a few technicalities like flex, waist width, and side cut, but don’t worry about that for now! Just keep in mind that someone who is 6” tall may be best fit on the same snowboard as someone who’s 5” tall depending on their weight!
Dialing in the right width for your snowboard is just as important as length, and it all begins with your boots. Remember growing up and being excited about your feet growing just for the sake of saying you had big feet? If you were one of those people (like myself) who never acquired that set of land-flippers, no worries! Small-foot-club, you’ll have an easier time choosing a snowboard!
Let me first say that if you haven’t been fitted for boots, get fitted, for free, by one of our experts from the comfort of your own home! Our experts find themselves downsizing by a half to a full shoe size for snowboard boots. The bigger your boots, the wider your board needs to be. A wider board means additional weight and headaches that could be avoided by getting the right size boot!
If you’ve done your own research into boards, you’ve probably noticed that some boards are described with a “W” after the length (Ex. 157W). This “W” indicates that the particular snowboard model is a wider version of the original with an increased waist width. These wide boards are built with more surface area to accommodate bigger feet. They also cater well to heavier riders.
Choosing a wider waist will prevent a lot of falling and frustration from the heel and toe drag that occurs when your boots are too large for your snowboard. As a general guideline, you want to avoid a wide snowboard if you wear a size 10.5 boot or below. Too much boot overhang will cause toe and heel drag but too little will make your board difficult to lift up edge to edge.
If you’re one of those with a size 11 boot or bigger, give your snowboard a hug and show that waist some lovin’! Not only should you make sure that you’re buying a wide waisted version of the board you’re diggin’, but you should pay close attention to the width as it’s indicated in centimeters/millimeters.
As a general consensus among the big-footed experts here, you should stick to a waist width above 258mm/25.8cm if you’re rockin’ size 11 or 11.5 boots. For a size 12 and up, you’ll probably feel most comfortable on a waist width minimum of 260-265mm/26.0-26.5cm.
You can further alleviate the chances of your heel and toes holding you back by angling your stance outwards slightly and choosing a binding that has a slight rise in the footbed at your toes. This technology will point your toes towards the sky so you can get low enough to drag those knuckles proudly!
Snowboard Sizing by Height
With weight and boot size being the most important factors, don’t get too hung up on worrying about your height when deciding on a snowboard size. If your body weight is high or low for your height, you’ll want to size up or down 1-3cm accordingly.
For a quick reference, you can use a simple formula for an estimated height to board length ratio. Given that I’m 5’7” (170cm) tall and my snowboard range could be 150-156cm for my body weight, my snowboard is 88-93% of my height. I’d recommend using 90% as a baseline measure. Feel free to break out your calculator: (your height in inches) x (2.54) x (0.90) = (estimated board length in cm).
Now that we’ve established a range of snowboard sizes that fit the picture for your weight, boot size, and height, let's get personal! To understand the connection between your skill level and board size in simple terms, consider a shorter board versus a longer board. For example: I’m 5’7” 170” with a size 9 foot and could ride anything from a 150-156cm board.
The 150cm snowboard will be much more maneuverable, playful, and fun at slower speeds. Less volume and density underfoot naturally allows you to move more fluidly. The emphasis with shorter boards is control. Oppositely, the 156cm board will be more difficult to maneuver at slower speeds but will offer greater stability and confidence with high speeds, take-offs, and landings. The emphasis with longer boards is stability. With these polarities in mind, I personally find myself most comfortable on a 154cm snowboard.
If you’re a beginner, have a more playful and laid-back riding style, or prefer jibbing rails and spinning quickly, you’ll progress and learn quicker by choosing a shorter board. If you’re an experienced shredder hitting mach-1 speeds and sending the biggest jump lines at your mountain, you’ll want a longer board. The additional length will offer more stability and confidence through aggressive, high speed maneuvers. If you’re like me and enjoy a good balance of both control and speed, you’ll benefit from a board in the middle of your personal range.
Board Categories and Styles
Much like your riding ability, the type of terrain that you most enjoy riding plays an important role in determining your snowboard shape and size. Various terrain types can be somewhat categorized into a number of different riding styles that you might’ve heard of. All Mountain/Freeride, Freestyle, Powder/Backcountry, and Volume Shifted. Each category represents a style of riding that you might fit in to. If you’re genre-less and refuse to be defined by a category, don’t worry! There are plenty of boards within these categories that are adaptable to all conditions.
- All Mountain / Freeride: All Mountain boards cater to bunny-slope-beginners, confident intermediate riders, and the hard-charging experts. They allow for the most versatility as a one-trick-pony for everything from relaxing on groomers and poppin’ side hits to dropping cliffs and clippin’ through trees. Directional boards are a defining example of this category. They typically feature a setback stance and with a longer nose for some help in powder and anything off-piste. Follow traditional sizing guidelines for these boards!
- Freestyle / Terrain Park: The choice for freestyle riders who enjoy boxes, rails, jumps, and making the whole mountain their terrain park with tricks and creativity. These boards are defined by a true twin shape, meaning the nose and tail are completely even. Combined with a centered stance, Freestyle boards give you the freedom to ride switch fluidly. If your park preference is jibbin’ rails and boxes, consider sizing down slightly for control and quick spins. If you’re a pipe ripper and big-air addict, stick with a more traditional length for stability on landings.
- Powder: Deep snow dreamers, you’ve found your calling! Once you’ve gotten the hang of snowboarding and ride comfortably on an All Mountain or Freestyle board, consider diving into the world of powder boards! These boards have taken the industry by storm (pun-intended) in the past decade to become the perfect sidekick for untracked runs and floating through the deepest conditions. Powder boards don’t excel with the majority of resort riding when the snow isn’t deep and steep so you’ll want to keep one of these bad boys as a secondary option to your daily driver.
- Volume Shifted: The term “volume shift” means that the overall length of the board is decreased while the overall width is increased. A wider snowboard will always make it a better floater in the deep snow and a great pick for a rider with big feet. Volume shifted boards and powder boards are often synonymous but are not exclusive to each other. The Ride Warpig is a great example of a volume shifted all-mountain board, while the Jones Mind Expander is an example of a volume shifted powder board. If you’re interested in learning more about volume shifted boards, shoot one of our experts a message!
Snowboard Flex and Camber Profiles
Just behind length, the flex rating of your snowboard is the second most determining factor of how your board rides. All brands have a way of presenting their flex ratings. For the majority, it’s indicated simply by a 1 to 10 scale with 1 being an extremely soft and forgiving snowboard and 10 being the stiffest and most aggressive board possible.
If you’re unsure of where to begin, it’s best to start at the lower end of the scale. For your first snowboard, stick with the soft to medium flex range, typically represented by 2-5 on the flex scale. For intermediate to advanced riders, a stiffer flex will provide you with precision, control, and response at high speeds. The amount of flex in your board is determined by a combination of factors, most notably the board materials and camber profile. Understanding various “camber profiles” can be complicated, let’s break it down!
Traditional Camber: The centerpoint of a camber snowboard is elevated slightly in the air for increased pressure at the four corners of your nose and tail. This results in negative tension as your weight pushes the board downward for increased edge hold, pop, and responsiveness as the shape rebounds to its natural curve. These boards are preferred by intermediate-advanced level riders as they can be catchy if you’re not comfortable on your edges
Rocker aka Reverse Camber: The centerpoint is flat while the nose and tail have an upwards curvature. Rockers offer catch-free, forgiving edge control, easy presses, improved powder float, and are well suited for beginners and terrain park riders who are focused primarily on jibbing.
Flat / Zero Camber: As you can imagine, these boards feature a flat base. Flat profiles provide more effective edge contact when compared to rocker snowboards for more precise turn initiation and edge hold.
Hybrid Rocker: These boards are various combinations of camber, rocker, and flat profiles. They offer balance between the precise control of camber with the forgiving float of rocker and flat profiles.
Now that you know all the basics of choosing a snowboard, feel free to reach out to any Curated expert to take the next step and find that board that’s right for you!