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