Snowboard selection requires you to determine what terrain you'd like to ride on the most. Photo Credit: Volcom.
Snowboard selection requires you to determine what terrain you'd like to ride on the most. Photo Credit: Volcom

When it comes to choosing a snowboard, regardless of your level of experience, picking the right board can sometimes be a tough decision to make. Making the right decision can lead to smiles and loving being out there; making the wrong decision could leave you spending more time in the lodge or just not into going when you have already dropped money on a pass. We’re here to aid in making a decision to lead you to more smiles, high fives from friends and hooting and hollering out on the hill.

When choosing a snowboard, there are a handful of specs that really shape how a board will ride:

  • Type of Snowboard

  • Camber

  • Shape

  • Length

  • Flex

  • Width

  • Effective Edge/Sidecut Radius

Selecting an all-mountain snowboard can fit most of your needs, allowing you to use one board rather than getting a selection of very specific boards.
Selecting an all-mountain snowboard can fit most of your needs, allowing you to use one board rather than getting a selection of very specific boards.

1. Type of Snowboard

One of the most important things to consider when purchasing a snowboard is the type of board. There are three main types of boards for different riding styles. If you are newer to riding, a good rule of thumb is to consider what your ambitions are for what you want to do on the hill. “Park” and softer “All-Mountain” boards make great entry level decks that are still fun down the line for playful riding after you have progressed more. While there are tons of different marketing names for boards they generally can be divided into three types:

  • All-Mountain: This type of snowboard can be very accommodating to a broad range of riding styles whether your looking to ride groomers, slash powder or cruise the terrain park; all-mountain boards can fit just about all of your needs without over accommodating in any one particular area. All-mountain boards, depending on flex pattern, can accommodate just about any skill level also. Think of these as your trusty pocket knife. They are never the absolute best option for any one style or task, however they allow you to keep one board on hand rather than a quiver of very specific boards.

  • Freeride: This type of snowboard tends to be geared more towards the "freerider", or someone looking for stability at high speeds, deeper snow, steep terrain, and generally isn’t concerned with hitting park jumps or rails. Freeride boards are typically designed for riders that are intermediate to expert level. However, there are some freeride boards suited to beginner riders, too.

  • Freestyle: Freestyle boards are inspired by the need to catch air, slide on rails and generally be more playful. A softer freestyle board could be better suited for rails and a stiffer freestyle board could be better suited for jumps. Regardless, freestyle boards are designed for riders looking to get creative with their snowboarding and spend more time cruising the park rather than heading for steeper, more aggressive terrain.

Traditional Camber vs Reverse Camber
Traditional Camber vs Reverse Camber

2. Camber

One of the most critical factors to consider when buying a snowboard is the camber profile. The camber profile refers to the shape of the snowboard underneath your feet, between the contact points. At the most basic level there are two types of camber profiles—1.) traditional camber 2.) reverse camber. There are also many hybrid shapes that offer benefits of both profiles. In general, the following benefits are associated with these shapes:

  • Camber: Power and precision, stability, pop, response, liveliness, edge hold.

  • Reverse Camber: Forgiveness, flotation in deep snow, easy turn initiation.

There have been many thoughts over the years since reverse camber has emerged in snowboard construction on which shape is best for which style of riding. As a result, many brands have designed hybrid shapes that aim to offer the best of both worlds. Generally speaking, the most common of the hybrid profiles is camber between the feet with rocker in the nose and tail. Assuming the benefits that each shape can offer, it’s best to determine what you’d like to do with your riding and choose a camber profile that fits your style best.

Snowboard shapes from left to right: Directional, Twin, Directional Twin
Snowboard shapes from left to right: Directional, Twin, Directional Twin

3. Shape

The shape of your snowboard can refer to many different variations. To keep it simple, we’ve narrowed it down to the fundamentals and broken down each category:

  • Directional: Directional boards have a significantly longer nose than tail and can vary in flex from tip to tail. Directional boards are designed to perform better at high speeds, in deep snow, and allow for beautiful arced carves. Generally, they aren’t as capable of being ridden switch.

  • True Twin: A true twin snowboard has an identical length nose and tail, meaning if you ‘cut’ the board in half, the nose and tail would be symmetrical. True twins are great for all types of riding and tend to be favored by freestyle riders. Because the board is symmetrical, a twin can aid your ability to ride switch.

  • Directional Twin: A directional twin sits somewhere between the aforementioned shapes. Meaning the board is directional, but not far from a twin. A directional twin shape could refer to a taper in the tail, a longer nose, a stiffer tail or all of the above. Directional twins can offer benefits of both shapes without over accommodating in any area.

4. Length

Another important item to consider when purchasing a board is the length. Generally speaking, a longer board will be more stable at high speeds and provide more float in deep snow, however with added length you compromise maneuverability. On the other side, a shorter board will offer a more forgiving, playful ride with less swing weight for spinning and turning. Historically, freeride boards tend to be longer and freestyle boards tend to be shorter. However, there is no absolute standard for this. There are many freeride boards that are intended to be ridden shorter.

Before determining whether you want a ‘true to size’ board, a shorter board or a longer board, you’ll need to establish which length is appropriate for you based on your weight. Some people will tell you that your board should be somewhere between your Adam’s apple and your nose; in reality, finding the appropriate board length is more complex than that because we’re all shaped differently. Luckily, most manufacturers provide detailed specs with a recommended weight range for each board size. The board can't tell how tall you are, just how much weight you are applying to it. A stiffer flexing board can usually accommodate more weight than a softer flexing board of the same size. We suggest that you follow the manufacturer's suggested guidelines. If you’re lesser skilled or looking for something on the playful side, position yourself on the high end of the range. If you’re more skilled or looking for something more stable at speed, aim for the low end of the range.

5. Flex

Like camber profile, flex pattern is another critical item to consider when looking at the options available. Flex patterns can also have a large impact on your ability to maneuver a snowboard. Many boards have different flex zones — meaning different areas of the board offer a different amount of flex. For example, many freeride boards will have a stiffer tail and a softer nose. The stiffer tail allows for power and drive while the softer nose is more maneuverable in the deeper snow.

Generally speaking, a softer flexing board will be more forgiving and a stiffer flexing board will be more responsive. Furthermore, softer flexing boards tend to be preferred for jibbing boxes and rails where as a stiffer board is preferred for stability at high speeds. Taking all of that into consideration can be overwhelming, so generally speaking if you’re a beginner, a softer flexing (more forgiving) board is better suited to help you progress. If you’re looking to go fast and carve hard, you may prefer a stiffer board. A medium flexing board is great for someone seeking all mountain performance whether in the park or on steeper, faster terrain.

Waist Width: the width of the snowboard between your feet at the narrowest point
Waist Width: the width of the snowboard between your feet at the narrowest point

6. Waist Width

Waist width refers to the width of the snowboard between your feet at the narrowest point. Most boards have a standard width which works great for people with an average size foot. However, if you have a larger foot a standard waist width may be too narrow. This results in ‘heel drag’ or ‘toe drag’, which can slow you down and interfere with your ability to ride. If you have a larger size boot, you may want to get a wide board. Wide boards are designed to accommodate a larger boot size and reduce the likelihood of toe and heel drag. Inversely, if you have a smaller foot, it’s possible to have a board that’s too wide resulting in a ride that is slower edge to edge. Ideally, you’ll want your boots to hang just over the edge of your snowboard by 1-2 cm; this will give you leverage over the edges without lending to heel or toe drag.

A deeper dive into waist width involves rider preferences. A narrower waist width will allow for quicker edge to edge control. For this reason, some people prefer a narrower width. Alternatively, some boards are intentionally designed to be wider throughout, with a shorter overall length; this volume shift can result in reduced swing weight without sacrificing stability.

Ideal Waist Width by Men's Boot Size
24-25 cm US men's 5-7
24.8-26 cm US men's 7.5-9.5
25.2-26.3 cm US men's 10-11
26.3-27.5 cm US men's 11.5-14

Ideal Waist Width by Women's Boot Size
23.7-24.5 cm US women's 5-7
23.9-24.9 cm US women's 7.5-9.5
24.1-25.3 cm US women's 9.5-11

Effective Edge vs. Sidecut Radius
Effective Edge vs. Sidecut Radius

7. Effective Edge & Sidecut Radius

The effective edge refers to the length of the snowboard between the contact points—the portion of a board that grips the snow when a turn is initiated. A shorter effective edge will be more playful and easier to turn. A longer effective edge will provide more stability and better edge control.

Sidecut radius is measured in meters and will give you an indication of how a snowboard will turn. A larger sidecut radius lends to longer arced turns and a shorter sidecut attributes to tighter quicker turns.

We have covered a pretty hefty amount of information here, and each of these can be expanded on quite a bit, but these are the things that will most influence how a board will ride for you. If you're still having trouble deciding between a couple of different decks, we are always down to help! Either in store, on the phone, or through email. We hope you get out there and enjoy the season, progress your riding, and have a great time with family and friends. Cheers!

- Derek Tiplady,
Skirack Buyer
Click here to learn more about Derek.