A Guide to the Different Kinds of Snowboards

If you've ever wondered about all of the different kinds of snowboards - and how to pick the right one for you - start here.

Photo by Cristina Munteanu
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With all of the different types of snowboards out there, it can feel pretty overwhelming when shopping for a new one. It might be hard to know what kind of board you need, or even what the different types are good for. So here are some basics to know before starting your journey towards buying a brand new board.

All Mountain Boards

All mountain snowboards are made to be quiver killers, so if you’re someone that is new to the sport or doesn’t ride enough to justify owning more than one board, all mountain boards are a perfect place to start. All mountain boards can do anything, but will really shine while riding the groomers or off-piste packed powder conditions. Oftentimes they will have a directional shape, meaning there is a defined nose and tail, and will have a medium to stiffer level of flex. These kinds of boards can have a multitude of profiles, but are most often made with rocker-dominant or rocker/camber hybrid profiles. These qualities allow for control at high speeds but with a playful nature.

Beginner boards are always going to be all mountain boards because someone new to the sport is going to be working on perfecting the basics and the forgiving nature found in a rocker dominant, directional all mountain board is what they’d want. However that’s not to say that all mountain boards are only for newcomers. There are plenty of all mountain decks that will be the ideal board for an established rider that wants one board to do it all. They can hold their own in the park, in the woods, or in powder. All mountain boards are the best option for the majority of riders out there.

Park/Freestyle Boards

A snowboarder executes a trick on a red half wall with mountains in the background
Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan

There’s nothing like that sound of board connecting with metal while connecting with a rail, or that shot of adrenaline one feels shortly after. Using the correct board for that sort of endeavor will lead to less embarrassing falls and more cheers from everyone watching. So if you frequent the terrain park, a freestyle board will be right for you.

Most freestyle boards will have an increased flex level compared to the average board. This makes ollies bigger and tail/nose presses easier to initiate. Think of the board like a coiled spring or diving board: with more flex, less pressure is needed from the rider to get a bigger pop. Park boards are also usually twin tip with the binding inserts centered, meaning both the nose and tail are exactly the same dimensions and the rider is placed directly in the middle. This keeps the rider’s weight equally distributed across the board and helps with landing switch after a spin.

Freestyle boards can have a variety of different profiles. Everything from just camber to rocker camber hybrids, or even totally flat profiles are found in freestyle boards. They will all suit the needs of a park rat, it’s really just up to their particular preference. If you’re taking park laps more often than not, a freestyle, or park, board will help you stay locked on the rails and stomping spins like the pros.

Powder/Freeride Boards

Always desired, but seldom available, a true powder day is the epitome of what winter can be. That being said, powder riding is an art in and of itself that requires the proper equipment. A powder-specific board will have the capabilities for optimal flotation in that super deep snow while also being nimble enough for the tightest of tree runs thanks to their particular dimensions.

Whenever you’re in the lift line and spot a board with a wild looking tail and a wide nose, you can bet that is a powder board. They don’t all have the crazy swallow cut tail, some will just have a more narrow tail compared to the nose, but these attributes all serve the same purpose. A wider nose than tail allows the rider to float on top of the fresh snow without them needing to put their weight on their back leg as much. This is crucial because constantly squatting on that back leg gets incredibly exhausting. Powder snowboards usually have a rocker profile, or a flat to rocker in the nose profile. This is also to help the rider keep the nose of the board from dipping under. The bindings inserts are also set farther back than usual so the weight distribution on the board helps keep that nose up.

Increased stiffness is another factor found in powder boards; it influences board control, allowing for nimble turning at high speeds. On a normal day, the typical snowboard is manipulating packed snow - or even ice on less desirable occasions - so more flex translates to increased playfulness with those firmer conditions. But this is drastically different on a powder day, and a powder board reflects that with its stiff flex. You could say that boarding in deep powder is akin to surfing, while a typical groomer day is more similar to skateboarding. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to use an all mountain or park snowboard board on a powder day. You’ll still be able to get down the mountain, but to truly experience multiple feet of fresh snow you’re going to want to use a powder board.

Split Boards

These unique creations are relatively new to the snowboarding scene, but have established themselves as a necessary tool for someone who spends a lot of time earning their turns in the backcountry. Split boards are designed to split apart down the middle and transform into a pair of cross-country skis for traversing untouched mountains far from the resort lift lines. The rider must also have a special pair of split board bindings, because they need to be able to adjust to the skiing position as well as a pair of skins to slip over the planks so they can grip the snow while moving uphill.

It goes without saying that these boards are designed for the deep stuff and have the dimensions of a powder board - big noses with narrow tails, as well as a stiffer flex - just with that added split feature to remove the exhausting boot-packing experience that boarders dread. If you only snowboard at resorts, a split board would probably be overkill, but if you’re a backcountry aficionado you should definitely let one of these help get you where you’re going.

A snowboarder in an orange jacket makes their way down a steep slope with rocks and mountains in the background
Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan

So, as you can see, there are plenty of different types of snowboards out there. And the right board for you will depend on your skill level, the different conditions you want to tackle, and how much time you plan to spend hanging out in the terrain park or in the backcountry. It can seem a little overwhelming, but when you take a second to think about what you want to get out of your next trip up the mountain and consider the different features of each type of board, it becomes a little easier to decide which board is perfect for you.

Still a little stuck? Chat with any of our Curated experts to get some more help!

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Written By
I've been an avid rider for around 12 years. I grew up on the east coast, mostly riding in Vermont, but I now reside in Oregon. I have plenty of experience riding in all types of conditions from ice to deep powder and everything in between. I would say that I'm a bit of a jack of all trades when it...

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