How to Pick Your Park Snowboard Setup
Learn how to choose a snowboard setup that will be awesome for hitting rails, jumps, and more with Snowboard Expert Adeline Paulson!
If you’ve often found yourself bored with being attached to the ground, or perhaps just riding over snow isn’t enough excitement for you, you’ll probably feel most at home in the park.
Sliding boards on metal, stomping big airs off machine-packed kickers, even throwing in a little boost off a thick tree branch, whatever it may be, the rest of the mountain is just no match for the freestyle terrain, and thus, your all-mountain board might not be either.
When it comes to riding freestyle, the term “park” is seemingly just a broad way to describe all that it truly encompasses. There are many different aspects of the park that are worth understanding in order to determine the set-up that is best for you. For simplicity, the park can be broken down into two main parts: rails and jumps.
For the purpose of this article, “rails” cover all your boxes, corrugated pipes, jibs, etc. along with the classic definition of a rail. “Jumps” include kickers, side hits, and half-pipes. Although all are still considered freestyle riding, the specific features require different techniques that match with different styles of boards best. For those that do not wish to be confined to one type of feature, there are also things to look out for in boards that will help you throw down wherever you want.
The most important aspects to note from this article for the different park riding types, and park riding in general, are the flex and the rocker profile. Varying scales of flex and amount of camber give changing feels to your ride and specialties in specific areas, sometimes weaknesses in others.
Above all, for park riding, you’re going to want a twin-shaped board. This will allow you to ride in both directions without feeling like you’re going the wrong way.
Let’s get into some specifics.
When riding rails and jibs, it is highly important to have a board that gives you increased stability. You’re going to be riding on materials that aren’t typically meant to be ridden on, and won’t have you switching from edge-to-edge, but rather nose-to-tail. The key for those presses and maintaining balance on varying features is the flex of the board. The proper flex will have you able to press and spin your board with minimal weight shifting.
Flex Rating: Soft
Especially for those nose and tail presses, and switching weight quickly, you’re going to want a softer-flexing board. This allows you to lock into positions quickly and without wasting energy. Softer flex also allows the board to have great maneuverability at slower speeds, making it easier again to get into position, spin, and press.
Rocker Profile: Reverse Camber
A reverse camber rocker profile keeps the nose and tail generally lifted, making presses easier. The general “U” shape of a reverse camber board also makes catching edges less likely, a great aspect for riding boxes especially, and also spinning and switching on rails.
Board Length: Shorter
Boards for rail riders should be ridden a few centimeters shorter than their regular set-up, mainly for extra ease of maneuverability, especially at slower speeds.
If you’ve ever thought about really getting into jumps, you’ve probably heard the term “pop.” This term refers to a little characteristic of snowboards that gives you that extra ease in takeoffs, helping you lift off the ground and boost off a kicker with less effort. The physics of pop is essentially a spring-type technology that works simultaneously with the verb definition of “pop,” which is the physical act of lifting your board. Finding a board with good pop comes with a combination of the flex and camber profile.
Although hitting rails and jumps both involve a bit of spinning, flexing, and tweaking, jumps do not require as much pressing on the nose or tail. Generating pop often requires your weight to be centered, shifting only edge-to-edge for spins, speed checks, or lining up. Instead of wanting the board to flex easily near the nose and tail, riders hitting jumps want to be able to lock in their edges for smooth, controlled take-offs and landings. That way, they can focus on their maneuvers in the air, and not what happens afterward.
Flex Rating: Medium
You want your jump board to be a little bit stiffer than your average rail-specific board to hold tighter on the edge and make turns more sharp and tight. This helps keep speed and control when lining up for jumps.
Rocker Profile: Positive Camber or Hybrid Camber/Hybrid Rocker
A board with this profile is generally lifted for a majority of the space between the feet, giving that spring-back effect after being pressed down—this is the basis of pop. Hybrid profiles often offer either rockered or flat areas under the feet and towards the nose and tails, adding forgiveness to carves and dampening at higher speeds.
Board Length: Regular-Shorter
Riding at your regular length will offer more stability. But for the more advanced park-rat, you can drop a few centimeters for extra ease of spinning and control.
For many, the idea of spending a good bit of money to only be able to ride one kind of feature is a bit daunting. Luckily, in the modern world, snowboard technology has allowed for the invention of cover-all-bases boards. As previously stated, each area has boards designed specifically for it, but there are boards capable of having you enjoy it all, and rip it all too.
In order to find that all-inclusive ride, the specifications are a combination of both the middle ground of rail boards and jump boards, with technology designed to work specifically for both aspects.
Flex Rating: Medium-to-Soft
Boards with medium flex are still able to be pressed, it just takes a little more effort. The chosen flex varies from rider to rider, depending on their technique, style, and skill level. Softer boards will still be more maneuverable at lower speeds, which means it takes a little more effort to hold them in place at higher speeds.
Rocker Profile: Hybrid Camber/Hybrid Rocker
Hybrid profiles encompass a wide variety of camber-rocker (and even flat) combinations. Look for profiles with mostly camber between the feet and even under the bindings. This adds pop and stability, required for jumps especially. Profiles with rocker at the tips give extra ease in carving and evening adding in presses, as the overall ride is more smooth and catch-free than with regular cambered boards.
Board Length: Regular-Shorter
The same general rule of thumb as the rest—shortening by a few centimeters just makes spinning a bit easier, but your regular length will give better stability in landings.
These all-inclusive boards can look a lot like your all-mountain boards, much like the Arbor Westmark Rocker. Since this board works off rocker for its pop, it provides a more versatile ride.
Finding boots to fit best with park riding can bring some difficulty. The requirements of this style of riding consist of a very unique bunch. Essentially, the boot needs to be comfortable, sturdy, responsive, and be able to absorb a lot of shock—quite the list of to-do’s.
Usually, highly responsive boots aren’t the most comfortable and can often feel too stiff. Thankfully, advancements in designs have allowed new boots to be packed with all kinds of technology to cover all these strange demands. Ultimately, nowadays, comfort is never in question. Especially since most boots use an internal liner designed to mold to your foot. Brands are able to make the insides incredibly comfortable for your foot but pack in technology to the external layer that works almost opposite what you would expect for a highly comfortable boot. Furthermore, the soles can be packed with dampening mechanics while the boot remains sturdy and responsive.
The Burton Swath BOA is a great example of this.
Typically, to maintain the balance of all the mentioned aspects, a mid-flex boot is a safe bet.
To learn more about dialing in the fit of your snowboard boots, check out our tips here!
For bindings, the key is finding anything with advanced shock absorption in the baseplate, just for that extra bit of cushion on landings. This can consist of merely just extra foam in the plate. Thankfully, with technology today, this isn’t difficult either.
Additionally, a mid-flex rating is necessary for maintaining good response with the board, without making your legs feel too cramped and stiff. Mid versus fully stiff also allows for a little extra forgiveness during your trick-based progression.
Now go get out there!
In the end, park riding is all about just finding a way to show off your creativity, and I hope you’ve now learned that you can find a set-up that will fit exactly the style you wish to show. If you want some advice on exactly which board is right for you, hit up one of our Curated Snowboard Experts who can help with personalized recommendations. Whatever your forte may be, just go get out there and rip!