Men's vs Women's Snowboards: What's the Difference?

Published on 01/03/2024 · 8 min readNavigate the slopes with knowledge! Discover the key differences between men's and women's snowboards in design, size, and performance.
Miguel Machado, Snowboarding Expert
By Snowboarding Expert Miguel Machado

Photo by Anatoliy Gleb

TL;DR: Can a man ride a woman's snowboard or vice versa? It depends. In this buyer’s guide, we take a look at how various design factors and gender conceptions play a role in what you ride and if the future of snowboarding is unisex.

As someone who’s been sliding sideways on snow for over a decade, I understand just how daunting investing in new snowboard gear can be. From powder boards to splits, soft or medium flex, freeride or freestyle, there are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to picking the right board. And on top of all that, gender can also impact your decision.

But are men’s and women’s boards really that different? And if so, how do they differ? This buyer’s guide will dive deep into the different factors that go into designing men’s, women’s, and unisex boards, how they ride differently, and what that means for you.

After all, the wrong board can really hurt your enjoyment. And as someone whose personal mission it is to share this wonderful sport with as many people as he can, it’s important to me that newcomers to the sport have the best experience they can.

What Is a Snowboard?

What’s a snowboard? I mean, besides being the dopest way to slide down the mountain, a snowboard is a combination of fiberglass and metal, wrapped around a wooden core that is meant to glide over snow. Today’s boards come in a variety of shapes and profiles, each catered to a different style of riding, such as:

  • All-mountain
  • Freestyle/park
  • Freeride
  • Powder

Along with the above categories, snowboards are most commonly divided by gender, with women’s and men’s boards having slightly different characteristics. This article will help guide you through the buying process by highlighting those differences and what you should consider when buying a woman’s, man’s, or unisex board.

What to Consider When Buying a Men’s vs. Women’s Snowboard

There are three main aspects that you should consider when buying a new men’s or women’s snowboard:

Length

  • Women’s snowboards tend to be shorter
    • On average, women are considered to be shorter than men. However, board length directly correlates with a person's center of gravity, so shorter and taller riders should select a board that compliments their height rather than just their respective gender.

Width

  • Women’s snowboards have narrower sidecuts and a thinner waist width
    • This is to accommodate smaller feet while maintaining effective energy transfer from edge to edge. However, riders with smaller feet can benefit from these features regardless of gender.

Flex

  • Women’s snowboards tend to be softer/more flexible
    • Women tend to be lighter than men with less muscle mass and bone density. However, heavier riders may prefer the stiffer profile of men’s snowboard while lighter riders might benefit from the softer flex of women’s snowboards.

Oftentimes we tend to think of gender differences as absolutes similar to the picture. However, there can be areas that overlap. Photo by Dainis Graveris

Oftentimes we tend to think of gender differences as absolutes similar to the picture. However, there can be areas that overlap. Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

What Is Board Length?

Photo by Max Kukurudziak

As you might imagine, board length is the overall length of a snowboard from nose to tail. Measured in centimeters, length loosely corresponds with rider height and weight, with longer boards tending to be better for bigger riders. For this reason, gendered snowboards often come in shorter lengths for women and longer lengths for men.

However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, as there is no shortage of tall queens and short kings out there. Furthermore, there are plenty of other factors that impact what length is right for you, such as riding style and rider skill.

For example, if you ride freestyle a lot and are hitting rails or jibbing off features, shorter boards lend themselves better to being quickly brought around and swung through the air to perform the kind of quick spins freestyle is known for. A shorter board is also less likely to get snagged on a rail on the approach.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, freeriding boards generally come in longer lengths in both men’s and women’s. The longer length helps the board float in powder, especially if it's a traditional camber board and not a rocker or hybrid profile.

Traditionally, there’s usually a difference of about 6-10cms between women’s and men’s boards. So a women’s freeride-centric board like the Story Board has a max length of 152cm, whereas the Skeleton Key maxes out at 162cm.

What Is Board Width?

Photo by Rocksweeper

After board length, width is another area where men's and women’s boards differ and also has a big impact on how a board rides. The faster you can transfer your energy from the center of the board to its edge, the faster you can initiate a turn.

The sidecut of the board, or the radius of the arc along the side of the board impacts how quickly the edge can be engaged and how the board turns. A shallower side cut means turns take longer to initiate but they can also be held longer, allowing for a deeper carve. A deeper sidecut is better for quick initiation and short, snappy turns.

This is, of course, relative to the rider’s foot position on the center of the board. Women’s boards tend to be designed for smaller, narrower feet and utilize smaller waist widths to maintain good energy transfer. They also tend to have narrow side cuts, which leads to mellower turn initiation and more stability at high speeds.

However, those with larger feet will find that a wider board will not only suit them better but might be necessary to keep their toes from dragging — assuming, that is, that their snowboard bindings can’t be adjusted to account for this.

What Is Board Flex?

Board flex is maybe the aspect where men’s and women's snowboards differ most. Flex refers to how stiff or how flexible a snowboard is. Factors like weight and muscle mass play a significant role in how easily a rider can flex their board.

A board that’s too soft for a rider will lose stability at higher speeds or on technical terrain. A board that’s too stiff will be harder to turn and control. For this reason, women’s snowboards are often slightly softer than their male counterparts, based on the assumption that women are generally smaller and have less overall muscle mass.

However, riding style also plays a big part in the kind of flex you want. If you’re a bigger person but like mellow rides or doing park laps, you might prefer a softer board that’s easier to butter, whereas a rider who only rides super-technical terrain in the backcountry might prefer a longer, stiffer board.

What Are Unisex Boards?

Photo by gpointstudio

So if those are the main differences between men’s and women’s snowboards, then where do unisex boards enter the picture? Well, the term “unisex” essentially refers to boards that come in a greater range of sizes, widths, and cuts. With more options available to them, riders can pick the board that best suits their individual riding style and physique rather than choosing a board based on gender.

This is a great option for riders who don’t fit squarely into the ideal height or weight recommendations. For example, I’m a 5’9” man who weighs 132 lbs. I’ve ridden everything from 146 to a 158, and, because of my relatively light weight, I’d be right at home on a softer-flexing women’s board.

Also, unisex boards tend to have more neutral graphics, which might not seem like a big deal but certainly is. I’m helping my partner shop for her first board this season, and one of her biggest complaints is that the women’s boards all look too girly or have too much pink. Freedom of expression is an incredibly important part of snowboarding, and nobody wants to invest in a board that doesn’t mesh well with their personal style.

How to Choose the Right Snowboard

Photo by Sergey Ryzhov

So, does gender matter when shopping for a snowboard? Yes, it does. For beginner snowboarders, gendered design can be an easy way to help steer them in the right direction, and it is important to keep in mind certain physiological differences between the sexes when shopping for all your gear.

But in my personal opinion, skill level and personal preference matter more. Just as there are certain physiological differences between men and women, there can also be extreme differences between riders of the same sex. For example, take a look at the following personas:

Breidis

Breidis is a freestyle rider who loves to hit rails and rarely leaves the terrain park. When he does, he’s usually buttering his board on groomers around the resort. At 5’5” and 130 lbs, he’s a smaller rider and looking for a board that won’t overpower him.

Features Breidis Should Look For:

  • A board with a softer flex that makes for easy butters at a lighter weight
  • A shorter snowboard between 146 cm and 154 cm that will be responsive and easier to whip around on tricks

Board Examples:

Ride Twinpig Snowboard · 2024

$370.97$529.95
30% off
  • Free shipping
  • We price match
  • Returnable

Isabela

Isabela is an expert rider who routinely ventures into the side and backcountry to tackle technical terrain. Whether it’s hitting pillow lines or dropping cliffs, she’s an aggressive rider who needs a board that will stand up to whatever she throws at it.

Features Isabela Should Look For:

  • A board with a stiffer flex that is quick to respond to changes in difficult terrain
  • A longer or hybrid profile snowboard that will float well in deep powder without compromising stability at speed.

Board Examples:

Find the Best Board For You

Not sure what persona you fit into? That’s where our Winter Sports Curated Experts come in. They’ll work with you one-on-one to guide you toward the board and gear that’s right for you and get you shredding in style ASAP.

So what are you waiting for? Reach out to a Curated Expert today!

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

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