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Buying a Snowboard – Basic Guide

Posted on: Dec 29, 2010 Listed in: Equipment by Chris Skinner

I’m often asked when coaching, what type and style of snowboard is best to buy. This is especially the case when coaching freestyle and more so when instructing beginners.

Choosing a snowboard involves taking many considerations into account, especially in todays market where there are so many cross over styles between makes.

Ultimately though, when purchasing a snowboard we want something that is designed to suit our needs, something that is going to give us hours of enjoyment when out on the hill and that won’t hold us back.

Buy something that you’re going to grow out of, rather than something you need to grow into

In others words, don’t go buying a Ferrari when you’ve just passed your driving test!

So here’s a few things to consider before you go out and spend your hard earned cash.

Are you a beginner? Pro?

Probably the biggest area for concern when it comes to buying a board. You first have to be honest about your ability level and the target ability of each individual board you are looking at. In other words, if you’re a beginner don’t go and buy a £500 board. Why?

Well, because the design is such that the materials used to construct it are more expensive. A £500 board is designed to go fast and needs to be stiff to deal with the pressures exerted upon it when going fast.

If you’re not an advanced rider then you will hate it, and it will hold you back.

What do you ride – Park / Powder?
park riding powder riding

As mentioned before, with the boards on todays market there is a lot of blurring going on between the main 3 areas of performance, (All-Terrain, Freestyle and Freeride) leading to cross-overs between many styles.

That said you we can still categorise each section to make choosing a board a little more easy.

All terrain: Says what is does on the tin. Go anywhere do anything board. Some lines however with be more specific. Examples are:

All-terrain freestyle board: A little softer than a regular all-terrain board and possibly pure twin-tip. Allowing for a centred stance bang in the middle of the board, preferable for freestyle but still versatile enough to go anywhere.

All terrain freeride board: More of a directional board and a bit stiffer throughout the length of the board with a slightly stiffer tail. But still able to take a lap through the park.

Freestyle Boards: We can divided these into 2 categories.

Park specific:Very soft, shorter and wider aimed at those who ride rails a lot.

Freestyle: Jumps and pipe riding. Not so soft, a slightly stiffer tail and more versatile than the park specific boards but still able to hit rails.

Freeride Boards: Longer and stiffer, designer to go fast with longer noses and a directional shape

Board Shape:

There are 3 main shapes that are used. Twin, Directional Twin and Directional

Twin: This will ride the same forwards as it will backwards. Allow for a centred stance with the same shape at the tip as the tail. Good choice for freestyle riders.

Directional Twin: All the same properties as a twin in shape but with a stiffer flex towards the tail and a set back stance. The most versatile and popular shape – suited for all terrain riding.

Directional: Stiffer in the tail with a longer nose, a set back stance giving better performance to those who ride predominately on piste or in powder.

Profile:

When we talk about the boards profile we refer to it’s camber or, as of late rocker!

Camber: When you ride a normal board the camber flexes tightening the arch of the turn (radius of the sidecut), this aids edge grip and stability. As you exit the turn the camber retracts giving you a spring or popping yet stable feeling to the ride.

Rocker: Riding rocker will give you a looser feeling – easier to turn, however when you increase speed the board may become more unstable and lose that dynamic feel. Ideal for park riders.

As a rule of thumb, if your a park rider – like doing a lot of ground tricks go for rocker. If you don’t then camber is better.

Flex:

The flex of a board usually specifies it’s performance type. Lets look at the 2 main areas of flex.

We’ve all done it. Gone into a shop and grabbed that board, one hand on the nose the other in the middle and flex it. But what is this telling us about the board.

Generally a softer board is more suited for beginners. When riding, the board will flex more under their feet and absorb the terrain with ease.

However, as you improve you will want a board that will stand up to the pressures of you riding harder and faster.

Tip to Tail Flex: Gives you information about the stiffness of the tail and how well the board will absorb the terrain.

Torsional Flex: Many people miss this one out. Grab the board, put the tail between your feet and look it there. Now with one hand on each edge, look directly down the board and twist it.

This is torsional flex, the softer the flex the more the board twists torsional. And therefore will be easier to turn. We all use our feet to turn the board (right..?) not our shoulders…!?.

Other factors to consider:

Structure , Core and Base: What is the board made out of? How many layers? This will determine flex, weight, speed etc.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what you are looking for in a board. So, next time you head into that snowboard shop you’ll have a clear picture of the style, shape and level of board that suits your needs the best. Remember, if someone says “that board felt great for me” it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be good for you!

This post goes hand in hand with the snowboard how to / tips and tricks which can be found in the Tips & Tips section.
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5 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    I’ve known loads of people who’ve bought boards off the internet cos the artwork looks cool, or its had great reviews in magazines – but have ended up with a difficult ride.

    My advice is to ALWAYS try before you buy. Most snowdomes in the UK carry a huge range of demo stock, and after a quick chat with the shop guy they’ll line-up 3-4 boards to suit your style.

    I spent a couple of hours switching between boards & was amazed at how it affected my ride, speed, and confidence – even on short snowdome runs.

    I now have a board that rides super perfect for me, altho the artwork is a bit ugly 🙂

    • Spot on Tom! That’s the best way, try as many as you can before you spend the cash.

      Very true about the snowdomes, seams that most people are in such a rush to buy a new board that they sometimes don’t give enough boards a try.. go demo I say!

  2. paulboy99 says:

    Hi Chris,

    I just have a question about recommended rider weight. My weight is 160 lbs and the maximum recommended rider weight for a board I’m looking at is 160 lbs. Does this mean I exceed the limit when wearing boots, clothes etc., or does the recommended weight exclude this. Also, what are the implications of exceeding it (I’m assuming sinking in pow and less pop)? Cheers

    • Paul,

      Generally speaking when choosing a board you will want to try and get right in the middle of the weight range and here’s why. Yes sinking in powder is one of these but more importantly:

      Like you mention, do snowboard companies take into consideration the added weight of boots, bindings, clothing etc. Maybe not! Do they also consider that as you ride (and depending on what type of turn shape you are making. i.e. long or short) the added forces that you are now putting through the board.

      When we do shorter turns at higher speeds and especially on steeper terrain, your body mass increases and therefore the board will bend more. That’s why it’s easier to influence the board at higher speeds and many people struggle with influencing the board the same at slower speeds (it’s harder! more skill is required).

      Sometimes your body weight can double during a turn! You are now certainly at risk of being out of the ‘weight range’. But this only happens for a faction of a second and this is when we get ‘rebound’ out of the board but it’s worth thinking about.

      Another factor is the size / lengh of the side cut. Long or short? A longer side cut will produce sharper turns with less effort, sometimes feeling twitchy to the novice rider. Short side cut will result in a more ‘cruise feeling’ drawn out turns. Better for beginners.

      So you might want to look into the length (radius) of the side cut before buying as this is a big factor.

      Chris