What To Look For When Buying A Snowboard

Getting ready to buy your first snowboard? Snowboard expert Alex Dolan breaks down everything you need to know.

Photo by Naomi Hutchinson
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With so many options on today's market it can be overwhelming trying to find the right snowboard to fit your personal needs. In this article we’ll discuss important factors to consider when picking a board, like what types of boards you have to choose from, what the right size will be for your height and weight, and what different snowboard profiles look like. Hopefully all of this will help you maximize the amount of fun you have while slippy sliding in the fluffy white stuff we call snow.

Where do you like to ride on the mountain?

The type of snowboard you want is largely dictated by the type of terrain you plan on riding. Take some time to determine where you see yourself riding your new board on the mountain. Here are the basic categories of board types to consider when picking out a new shred stick.

All-mountain

All-mountain snowboards are the all-in-one package. They slay powder in the trees, cruise the groomer all the way to the lift line, and are well suited to take an occasional lap through the terrain park. Many riders have an all-mountain board as their “daily driver” (the board they ride on most days in most conditions) as well a couple other options in their quiver: one for deep powder days and another for purely park laps. All-mountain boards often feature hybrid profiles and medium flex ratings.

Terrain Park

Terrain park riders do some wild maneuvers on their way down the mountain. A park board is typically a shorter, softer board. This enables riders to be more playful and agile while jibbing, twisting and turning their way down the terrain park. That said, some park riders or freestyle riders prefer a stiffer flex that will be more stable for stomping landings when catching big air. Many park and freestyle boards are a true twin shape, which means that they ride forward exactly the same as they ride backwards.

Powder

Today, powder boards come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are designed to surf the snow, often with big sweeping turns that allow the rider to float on top of the soft, powdery deep snow. Most powder boards feature a large nose and tapered tail. The large nose provides a wide surface area to float on top of the snow. The tapered tail allows the back of the board to sink down into powder surfaces more than the front of the board so the rider expends less energy leaning back to maintain the angle that enables floaty, surfy turns.

Groomers

Groomers are the main trails on the mountain that get groomed every night by the giant snow cats. The finished product of the cat resembles a corduroy pattern. This creates a predictable, controlled, flat surface that is ideal for going fast and carving hard. Riders that want to focus on groomer riding typically prefer a longer stiffer board that will be less playful but more stable at higher speeds.

Beginner Slopes

There is no shame in staying on the bunny slope as long as you need to. It is always smart to stick to trails within your ability level. If you don’t you could easily end up biting off more than you can chew, at the top of a slope that you don’t want to go down. Pushing your limits often leads to injuries, which are no fun for anyone. With all of that in mind, a beginner snowboarder looking for their first board will want a board that will be manageable to ride while still being able to progress with the rider to a certain point. Many all-mountain boards will do this quite well and will also allow the rider to try a variety of riding styles to determine what he or she likes best about snowboarding. A good beginner board will have soft-medium flex and often feature either a rocker or rocker/hybrid profile.

A snowboarder in an orange jacket flies through the air
Photo by Tyler Tornberg

What snowboard profile do I want?

Different shapes will perform best depending on a rider’s preference and skill level.

Rocker

Also known as reverse camber, a rocker profile looks like a smile. The tip and tail rock back and forth when placed on the snow, which allows for catch free riding and less face plants. Rocker is best for beginners or someone who rides nothing but powder.

Camber

Also known as traditional camber, camber profiles curve up in the middle like a rainbow, when you look at it from the side. It will give you a longer effective edge to carve on at high speeds and is best for intermediate or advanced riders that want superior edge hold.

Hybrid

Hybrid profiles are a mix of rocker and camber that gives you advantages of both the catch free riding of rocker and the superior edge hold of camber. Any rider who is exploring a variety of terrain on the mountain will benefit from a hybrid profile.

Flat

Flat boards are best for beginner to intermediate riders who would like decent edge hold for faster speeds, but also the forgiveness of catch free edges.

What length board do I need?

The right length of snowboard for you is largely a matter of personal preference, but here are some general guidelines to give you a better idea of what you’ll want.

If you stood your snowboard up vertically on its tail while wearing your snowboard boots, as a good rule of thumb, the tip of the board should be somewhere between your chin and your forehead. If you are looking for a board that is more stable at high speed and you are willing to sacrifice some maneuverability, you will want something closer to forehead height. If you want something that is more maneuverable, particularly for terrain park riding, and you are less interested in stability at high speeds, you’ll want something closer to chin height. If you want a board that is versatile and well suited for a variety of terrain and speeds, choose something that is closer to nose height. Snowboard lengths are measured in centimeters.

Most snowboard boots will add two to three centimeters to your height. A rider’s snowboard length takes both height and body weight into account. If you are above average weight for your height, you’ll likely want a longer board that will provide more rigidity and stability. If you are below average weight for your height you’ll likely want a shorter board that will be easy to flex and maneuver.

Note: Many asymmetrical boards, especially swallow tail boards, will not follow these guidelines. Chat with your Curated expert concerning height for specific boards.

What width board do I need?

Make sure you’re getting the right board width for your boot size.

If your boot size is 12 or larger, you’ll most likely want a wide board. If your board is not wide enough for your boot, you will like get heel drag or toe drag caused by your foot hanging over the edges of the board.

If you do not have a size 12 or larger boot, you can still ride a wide snowboard. Wider boards will actually provide more float in powder, however it will add stiffness and rigidity to the board making it more difficult to maneuver.

A snowboarder in pink pants and a striped jacket looks down the mountain
Photo by Xue Guangjian

If you have any questions on finding the right board for you and your riding style, please don't hesitate to reach out to me or one of my fellow Snowboard experts here on Curated for free advice and recommendations. There's no better feeling than unlocking your best snowboarding with the right gear.

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Written By
I have been working in the outdoor recreation industry since 2011, and I spend my summers as a river guide and safety kayaker. ​ During the winter, I shred as much POW as possible, and working at ski shops across the counrtry (in Colorado, North Carolina, and Washington) has given me great snowboard...

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