How to Choose the Right Snowboard Shape for You
With such a wide array of boards designed for different terrain and various riding styles, what’s right for you? Snowboard expert Bobby Chadderton has some advice.
Maybe this is your first snowboard purchase, and you’re sick of dealing with shaky rental boards. Or maybe you’re a seasoned shredder looking to replace that aging 2x4 that you’ve stood sideways on your whole life (we know you still love that board). Either way, snowboard shopping can be overwhelming with a myriad of shapes and designs. With over a decade on the snow and six years of experience working in the industry, I’m going to help you navigate the vast ocean of snowboard shapes by getting an understanding of what shape is right for you!
To find the best snowboard shape for you, let’s consider where you’ll be riding. There are three general types of snow that lead us to different snowboard shapes: Groomed Trails, Powder, and the Terrain Park. With so many different snowboard shapes, there’s plenty of overlap between categories!
In general, the breakdown of terrain types to board types is something like this:
- Groomed Trails: All Mountain Boards, Directional Boards, Asym Boards
- Powder: Directional Boards, Volume Shifted Boards
- Terrain Park: True-Twin Boards, Asym Boards, All Mountain Boards
All-Mountain / Directional Boards
The most common snow-type is two-dimensional snow, which is what you’ll get while resort riding. Commonly referred to as: Groomed Trails, corduroy, packed-powder, on-piste, or, if you live on the east coast like me, ice.
The rental board that you’re sick of and the old-school plank you grew up on? Both are designed with a focus on two-dimensional snow. If resort style riding on groomed, named, and maintained trails sounds like you, get an all mountain or directional board.
This category allows for the most versatility. If you’re new to snowboarding, ride in a milder climate, or find yourself wanting to hit Mach-1 speeds on groomed trails frequently, an all mountain board is gonna suit your needs best! If you’re interested in learning how to ride switch, be sure to opt for a snowboard with enough tail to point downhill. Check out the K2 Broadcast for an example of an All-Mountain board that goes both ways!
Directional Powder / Volume Shifted Boards
The other type of snow (and the one we all dream of) is three-dimensional snow. 3D snow is often referred to as Powder, chowder, freshies, parmesan - you get the idea. When the snow’s coming down and your buddies are hootin’ and hollerin’ while floating endlessly in a sea of “ma’ nature’s finest precipitation,” you’ll know you’ve found the perfect powder day. Enter the new wave of snowboard shapes designed for float, froth, and pure laid-back fun: Directional Powder and Volume Shifted Boards.
I know, the dream is to smile ear-to-ear with a face full of snow and untouched tracks everyday. But, realistically, powder days are rare and anticipating them depends on where you’re riding. I recommend committing to a board shape that engages 80% of your typical snowboarding day.
Directional Powder boards are often perfect all mountain options for the more experienced rider. With a traditional length, a slight taper, and a bit of tail, you can rest assured that you’re in for a fun day no matter the conditions. Have a look at the Rome Ravine Snowboard for an awesome directional shape that makes a powder/all mountain slayer.
If you’re one of the lucky few who consistently finds themselves waist-deep in powder wishing you brought a snorkel, consider a Volume Shifted board! The concept behind a volume shifted board is to shorten the overall length while increasing the overall width for a sleek, maneuverable, floaty ride in deep snow. These snowboards also make an awesome addition if you’re keen on bringing more than one board to the mountain. They’ll open your riding capabilities to uncharted territories, literally! Check out the Never Summer Instagator Snowboard for an awesome example of a Volume Shift.
True Twin / Freestyle Boards
Park rats - hey! We didn’t forget about you. Freestyle snowboarding pushes the boundaries of the sport and encourages creativity on the slopes. If you, like me, find bliss in risking life and limb to jib and jump, you’ll want a True Twin with an equal nose and tail for switch-riding capabilities on take-offs and landings. A true twin rides as a mirror image regular or switch with a centered stance. good example of a true twin park shredder is the GNU Asym Headspace C3 Snowboard.
Directional Twin Boards
Committing to a snowboard shape is about striking a balance. Nothing is black-and-white and there are plenty of boards out there that blur the line between all mountain, powder-focused, and terrain park riding. For those who are in search of a one trick pony, consider a Directional Twin snowboard. These boards are designed with an intended nose and tail, but typically offer a symmetrical flex profile, equal side cut, and enough tail-length to ride switch when required. A great example is the Jones Mountain Twin Snowboard. The “Directional Twin” category is complex with a lot of variation between manufacturers. Reach out to an expert if you’re interested in one of these boards!
Asymmetrical boards have taken the industry by storm in the past few years. If you’ve seen or ridden one, you might understand why! Considering that humans are not symmetrical from front to back, it only makes sense for your snowboard to match your anatomy.
If you’re an experienced rider, you’ve probably noticed that it’s easier to make a tight toe-side turn than it is a deep heel-side turn. Asym boards are produced with a deeper and shorter sidecut on the heel edge that’s designed to mimic initiating a smooth turn on your toes. Many of these boards also feature a core that’s designed to be more flexible on the heel side portion of the snowboard to level the field even further.
Keep in mind that because of their nature, most asym boards are produced as true twins. An exception to this is the GNU Nuzoid Snowboard, manufactured separately in Regular and Goofy versions. If you’re an intermediate-advanced rider looking to nail those deep Euro-carves and ride away with steeze, consider adding an Asym board to your arsenal!
Other Things to Know
Now that you have a good idea of what shape will suit you best, it’s time to dig a bit deeper! Snowboard flex is one of the most important factors when choosing a board and depends primarily on your personal ability and goals. To determine the flex of a particular snowboard, have a look through the description or ask an expert!
The flex rating will typically be indicated by a 1-10 scale depending on the manufacturer. A board with a flex rating of 1 will be the softest, most pliable board on the market, suited for slow speeds and an easy-going rider. A board with a flex rating of 10 will be extremely stiff and aggressive, suited for high speeds and a heavy-hitter.
Keep in mind that the flex rating is determined by the average weight of any given rider, depending on the length of the board. For more on the specifics of snowboard sizing, check out this article!
If you consider yourself to be a beginner / intermediate rider, you’ll want a softer board with a more forgiving flex for progression and fun.
If you’re a seasoned shredder and consider yourself to be an advanced / expert rider: you’ll want a stiffer, more responsive board that will cater better to aggressive, high speed maneuvers.
Let’s take a look at the most commonly misunderstood portion of snowboard shopping with a quick analogy by pretending that you’re shopping for a new car.Imagine that choosing a “shape” refers to the overall design of the vehicle: sedan, coupe, crossover, SUV, etc.
Choosing a “profile” then refers to the overall suspension of your ride. You’ll certainly notice the difference between a sport-tuned suspension made for high speed racing vs an off-road suspension made for traversing boulders. The profile of your snowboard is simply the connection between your feet and the snow. Changing your snowboard profile will change your contact points to the snow, creating a different feel. Let’s explore!
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 to advanced level riders as they can be catchy if you’re not comfortable on your edges. Traditional camber was the “original” snowboard shape and still remains the most commonly ridden profile by pros. You can expect awesome edge grip and a stable ride from positive camber.
Rocker / 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. The Arbor Poparazzi Snowboard is a great example of a playful beginner-intermediate rocker.
Flat / Zero Camber: As you can imagine, these boards feature a flat base. A flat surface provides more effective edge contact when compared to rocker snowboards for more precise turn initiation and edge hold. This profile is most often found on entry-level beginner snowboards for its simplicity. Check out the Academy Propaganda Snowboard for an award winning zero camber board!
Hybrid Rocker / Camber : These boards feature 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. This profile is found on a wide range of boards, with manufacturers like Never Summer and GNU/Lib Tech using this profile on all of their snowboards!
Now that you know the basics, it's time to get out there and find the right board for you! Need a little help? Reach out to me or any of our Curated snowboard experts to find your perfect match.