Do You Need a Wide Snowboard?
There are a lot of options when shopping around for a snowboard! Snowboard Expert Gaelen Mast explains the difference between riding a wide and a regular board.
Searching for a new snowboard can be chaotic; there’s no doubt about that! With dozens of different brands and hundreds of different models, it can be hard to determine the perfect new snowboard.
In your search, you may even notice some boards are classified as “W” or wide. While this is somewhat self-explanatory, knowing if you should use a wide board can be a tricky question. This is why today, I’ll be breaking down who needs a wider snowboard, what are the advantages, disadvantages, and everything else you need to know! For some background, I’ve ridden plenty of snowboards in both wide and regular widths and worked in a ski resort rental shop where I’ve sized boards for people for years.
Defining a Wide Snowboard
A snowboard is generally considered wide if it has a waist width of 260mm or more (26+ cm). The waist width is the width of a snowboard directly in the middle of the board between the bindings. Some brands will also sell “MW” boards or mid-wide/medium-wide boards. There isn’t an industry sizing standard for mid-wide snowboards, but they’re typically 255-260mm at the waist width.
Some brands will label wide versions of their boards as such; however, some won’t, and you’ll have to look at the specs to confirm the actual waist-width. This is important to do to make sure you end up with a board that is the correct width for you (you’ll learn how to determine this in just a minute here).
It’s also important to note that board width typically increases with the length. For example, if a specific snowboard model comes in a 150mm, 155mm, and 160mm length, the width will increase with the length, and you shouldn’t assume the board width of the 150mm version will be the same as the width of the 160mm version.
Who REALLY Needs a Wide Snowboard?
The most straightforward answer is that larger riders are the ones who REALLY need a wide snowboard. The main factor here is if the rider has a large boot size.
Getting a wide board if you have bigger feet is essential to avoid excessive boot overhang when riding. Overhang is when your boot hangs over the board's edge either on your toe, heel, or both. A tiny bit of overhand isn’t an issue for most riders; however, a rider with a large boot size is going to have some serious overhang if they are riding a regular snowboard and not a wide one.
When there is an excessive overhang, you’re much more likely to have toe drag and/or heel drag when carving, and this is when your boot digs into the snow when you go up onto your toe edge or heel edge while carving. Boot drag is one of the quickest ways to end up on your butt in the snow (speaking from experience), and is going to make your life on a snowboard way more complicated than it should be.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what boot size actually requires a wide snowboard, and unfortunately, there’s no one clear answer. There’s no agreed-upon industry standard, with some people saying you only need a wide board if you’re a men’s 12 boot or bigger and some people saying you should ride a wide board if you’re a men’s size 10.5 boot or bigger.
In my experience with my riding and sizing others for snowboards in my line of work, a men’s size 11 boot is when you should seriously consider a wide version of a snowboard. Women rarely have to worry about a snowboard being too narrow, and unless you’re a size 12.5 in women's snowboard boots, I wouldn’t pay any mind to this section.
An Easy Alternative
Let’s say you’ve got larger than average boot size, but you can’t get your hands on a wide snowboard. Maybe you already bought one that’s less than 260mm at the waist-width, or perhaps the board you want simply isn’t offered in a wider version (some aren’t). Well, the good news is, there is a somewhat simple alternative that might just save the day, and it’s to adjust your stance.
When you adjust your stance, you are changing either your stance width or your binding angles; in this case, to make a narrower board rideable for someone with bigger feet, you’ll want to adjust the binding angles. The larger the angle of your bindings, the more room your boots have on the board, which will reduce overhang. An essential factor to note is that adjusting your binding angles will affect how riding your snowboard feels. Everyone has their preferences, and you can experiment with what feels right, but if you want to increase your binding angles, I’d strongly advise against going over 20° or -20°. If you want to learn more about binding angles and how they affect performance, check out this article here!
Who Else Should Consider a Wide Snowboard
Even if you’re not a larger rider with big boots, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should rule out getting a wider board, as they do offer certain advantages over a regular-sized board. However, they also have their disadvantages, so you should make sure that you’re getting a wide snowboard for the right reason.
Advantages of a Wide Snowboard
Powder, powder, and more powder! Wide snowboards thrive in deep snow and have a phenomenal float; this is why you’ll see many powder boards with very wide waist widths, even if they’re not classified as “wide.” Two great examples of snowboards like this are the 2022 Ride Mtnpig which is 261mm wide, and the 2022 Lib Tech Orca which is 265mm-269mm, depending on the length you select.
A wider board offers better snow displacement than a narrower one and more effectively pushes snow out from under it, allowing the rider to float on the surface and “surf” through deep snow. If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around this, think of how a boat leaves a wake in the water as it moves forward, this is the same concept as when your snowboard plows through the snow!
Another advantage to wider boards is increased stability. With more surface area, riders can ride at high speeds without being worried about getting bucked around as much due to better stability. This makes wide snowboards a great option if you’re a speed demon on the snow or have heavier body weight. Additionally, if you're a freestyle rider and like catching a lot of air in the terrain park, some freestyle boards (primarily jump-oriented ones) come in wider sizes as they offer more stability on the take-off and landing on jumps.
Disadvantages of a Wide Snowboard
Unfortunately, one of the most significant disadvantages of a wider snowboard is turn initiation and the overall agility of your ride. With a wider surface area, it’s going to naturally take more time to transfer from one edge to the other (especially at slower speeds), and while this slight delay may seem pretty minor to most riders, it can hold you back if your riding requires split-second response time such as riding in the trees.
Some wider boards are also heavier than their non-wide counterparts simply because they have more surface area, which means that they’ll also be more challenging to get in the air and throw around. An easy solution to this, however, is to look for “volume shifted” boards that are wider than average but also meant to be ridden shorter than normal. These shorter boards will typically weigh less by increasing width but reducing length.
If you’re a beginner, you should try to avoid a wide board if possible due to the reasons listed above. It’s not the end of the world if you have to use a wide board as a beginner so don’t sweat it too much as it’s not going to severely impact you. However, if you aren’t constrained by your boot size and can choose between a wide snowboard and a regular snowboard, opt for the regular width one while learning the basics.
It’s All Personal Preference
At the end of the day, unless you’ve got massive boots that hang way over the edge of your snowboard, board width is all about personal preference and riding style. I, for example, have 10.5 men's snowboard boots and ride fairly aggressively with no problems on a regular width snowboard, but this doesn’t mean that’s the case for everyone.
Now that you have an understanding of how board width will affect your experience, I encourage you to experiment with different board widths as they progress through their riding. Everyone will find something slightly different that suits them based on their size and what they like to ride.
If You’re Still Unsure…
If you’re still not sure of what snowboard width to go for, that’s totally fair, and it’s not an easy decision! One method for figuring this out is to consult a snowboard size chart to get a good idea of what size range to look for. Most brands will have a snowboard size chart on their website that provides recommendations for which board length and width to select based on your height, weight, and boot size.
While looking at these charts can be a great place to start, sometimes even that isn’t enough. If you really want to feel confident in your next purchase, why not talk to a Snowboard Expert on Curated? In just a few minutes, you can connect via chat with a real-life person who knows their gear inside and out, tell them what you’re thinking, and get immediate recommendations for snowboards that suit you, all for free! Shoot me a message, and let’s figure out the perfect snowboard gear for you!