Snowboarding is, without a doubt, one of the best things you can do standing up – but if you’re new to it or looking to improve, choosing the right snowboard can be crucial to your enjoyment and progression in the sport. There are thousands of variations across hundreds of models aimed at a host of disciplines, but it doesn’t need to leave you baffled.
If you know your ability level and the type of riding you prefer, our snowboard buyer’s guide can help you to cut through the jargon and make the right choice. We’ll take you on a tour through the types of board available, what makes them different, and how that translates when they’re under your feet.
STYLE GUIDE: HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT TYPE OF SNOWBOARD
We put a lot of thought into our snowboard range, only stocking quality products that we believe in, and we divide them up into a few different categories according to what they’re best at…
And we’ll explain the key characteristics of the tech that goes into them along four main lines…
We’ll take you through what each of those means in detail in the Tech Guide later, but you can always skip there and swot up first if you need to. In the meantime sit back, grab a cup of tea, and let us help you to find your next weapon of choice.
The vast majority of riders will choose an all-mountain board. If you’re looking for a go-anywhere, do-anything option, then the ultra-versatile boards in this category are a great place to start. Exact styles can vary as they tend towards favouring a particular niche, but an all-mountain board should be perfectly happy on the piste, venturing off into powder or cruising through the park – whatever you want to throw at it.
The precise mix of shape, sidecut, profile and flex that you’re looking for will depend on your ability level and where you aim to spend most of your time. More flex and tighter sidecuts if you’re a beginner, something stiffer and straighter for speed, longer and directional for off-piste adventures, shorter true twin shapes for switch landings in the park – whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find an all-mountain board with the flavour to suit.
Powder snowboards are designed to excel off-piste. Generally sized a little longer, they’re generally stiffer too – often with very pronounced directional shapes – all with the aim of making it super-easy to coast over powder or blast through crud.
Even on the shallowest of gradients in soft snow, a powder board with its longer nose and shorter stiffer tail will make it easy to keep your nose up and minimise the strain on your legs. On steep faces, in choppy broken snow, or at speed, the extra overall length and stiffness keeps the board solid and stable under your feet, letting you charge through whatever gets in your way.
Generally though, all that length and lack of flex can make powder boards more of a handful on the piste. They’re likely to be more difficult to turn and less forgiving, so they’re not always ideal for beginners.
Park or jib boards are usually most at home in the park – cruising the pipe, or hitting jumps and rails. Riders will generally choose a shorter board, and they’ll usually have more flex and tighter sidecuts than freeride boards, making them easier to control.
They’re predominantly true-twin or directional twin in shape, so they’re equally at home riding in both directions – ideal for landing tricks and spins.
In terms of profile and flex, you can still get a fair bit of variety within the category. More rail-oriented jib boards are often designed super-flexible with almost full-rocker profiles, making them ultra-manoeuvrable at lower speeds, with the flex to make butter tricks and rail presses a piece of cake. The drawback of this is that they’ll be far less stable at speed, so boards aimed at the pipe and bigger kickers will employ a stiffer flex more camber in their profile, to stand up to the greater forces involved in high speed take-offs and landings.
While they’re undoubtedly aimed at skilled riders looking to progress their tricks, park boards are often very similar to beginner boards in that they’re more flexible, easier to turn, and therefore quite forgiving.
A splitboard is essentially a snowboard that can be split into two parts that work effectively like touring skis. With the help of climbing skins attached to the underside, and a clever binding system that allows you to mount your boot in a ski boot position on each half of the board, you can ski cross-country and climb mountains to reach powder fields and descents that can’t be accessed by lift.
In order to work well as a pair of touring skis, allowing you to traverse steep icy pitches, a splitboard has a set of straight ski edges down the centre. When you’re using them as skis, they should allow you to go anywhere that a ski tourer would go, using the same efficient motion, sharing the same skin tracks, and without the added weight of having the board on your back during the climbs.
At the top of the hill the two halves of your board clip back together, you mount your bindings back in the traditional position, and you’re ready to rock and roll. With a little practice, the whole process should only take a couple of minutes, even wearing gloves.
As you might expect, splitboards ride a lot like freeride boards – stiffer, longer and floatier than average. And despite the extra metalwork, weight is kept as low as possible for painless climbing.
Mini-shredders are the future of our sport, so we shouldn’t restrict them to anything but the quality and tech we’d expect in our own boards. That’s why we stock a range of boards that are ideal to help little people learn and progress their skills before they’re ready to invest in a big board.
Available in much smaller sizes, youth snowboards will also have the profile, shape and flex to suit smaller frames and help maximise their progression. But despite being scaled-down and aimed at development, youth boards still benefit from the advances in technology that all the major brands have made in adult boards in recent years.
TECH GUIDE: CUTTING THROUGH THE JARGON
From butters and methods to shredding the gnar, there’s a whole heap of jargon involved in snowboarding. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop when you’re talking about the snowboard itself – how it’s constructed, how it works, what the differences mean and how it’ll feel out on the hill.
Thankfully, our Tech Guide should equip you with the knowledge you need to understand the most common terminology used to describe board construction and characteristics. If you ask us, the key elements are…
Once you know the difference that each one will make to the performance of your board, you’ll be in good shape to explore the range and find one that works for you.
When we talk about shape in this context, we’re generally talking about the proportions and symmetry of the board from tip to tail. Traditionally, a snowboard was very directional – built to go in one direction – and would be symmetrical from the toe to the heel edge. Over the years manufacturers have developed unique shapes to suit different styles, disciplines and advances in thinking. We’ll cover the main shapes available today here…
Directional shapes will, to a greater or lesser extent, favour travelling in one direction more than the other. This usually means that the board is longer in the nose than it is in the tail, with the default stance sitting proportionally closer to the tail.
The angle of the sidecut in a directional shape will make it easier to initiate and transition between turns, so they can perform really well in the carve. But it’s in soft snow and powder that directional boards really come into their own – a larger surface area up front than at the rear helping to keep your nose up and floating.
True twin boards are symmetrically identical from nose to tail. They were originally developed for the first freestyle riders, who wanted to take their skateboard tricks to the snow and be confidently able to land and ride away backwards (or switch, as it’s also known).
As you might expect then, they’re equally happy travelling in both direction. Nice and versatile for a rider that’s looking to nail anything from a simple 180 on the piste to a 1260 off a kicker.
A directional twin, like a true twin, is identical in shape from one end to the other. The difference usually lies in the position of the default binding stance, or in their construction.
While the stance being set back is quite easy to spot, other directional twin boards differ below the surface – being stiffer in the tail than the nose, or having an asymmetrical profile or sidecut. A more flexible nose will make for a forgiving ride, whereas an asymmeterical profile might help keep the nose up in soft snow. Whatever the development, the aim is to give you the versatility of a true twin shape, with extra enhancements that work in your favoured direction of travel.
While it certainly contributes to the overall shape of the board, sidecut is worth considering in its own right. The sidecut is the depth of the curve on the toe and heel edges of the snowboard. It’s this curve that you use to turn, and it’s the sidecut of the board that defines how tightly that turn will naturally happen.
In a basic sense, the deeper the sidecut, the easier a board will be to turn, particularly at low speeds. If you imagine the edge of your board as part of a much larger circle, that circle is the natural turning circle that your board will make in the snow when turned on the edge.
Choosing the right sidecut will depend on knowing how you like to ride and the type of riding you’ll be doing. Sidecuts with a smaller turning radius will be suited to lower speeds and tight manoeuvers, whereas larger turning cirles will be more stable at speed, suiting wider, more sweeping turns.
The profile of a board essentially describes how it looks when viewed from the side – how flat or curved it is, and in which direction it curves. We usually describe different profiles as being either camber, rocker, flat, or a combination of those.
Traditionally most snowboards have a camber profile – this is where the board curves downwards from the center towards the tip and tail. A camber profile transfers force from the rider along as much of the edge as possible during a turn to give maximum grip, especially in hard snow. Riders can leverage a cambered board to produce more pop when jumping too.
Rocker, or reverse camber, has become a popular profile in freestyle as it’s far more forgiving and less likely to catch an edge. Favoured by rail riders, rocker boards give a fun, super-manoeuvrable ride at low speeds and perform well in powder, where the nose and tail are lifted out of the snow. The downsides are that they aren’t nearly as stable at speed, and may lack the pop of a camber board.
Increasingly, manufacturers are using combinations of profile types together in the same board, to try and incorporate some of the favourable characteristics of each. For example, a board might feature a camber profile between the feet to give stability and pop, with a rockered profile outside the feet to improver performance in powder.
A snowboard’s flex describes how flexibile it is, how easily it bends or how stiff it is. Flex will have a big effect on how a board handles – how easy it is to turn at low speeds, how well it performs at high speeds, how much pop it provides when jumping.
More often than not, when we talk about flex we’re talking about longituninal flex, or how easily it bends along its length. Manufacturers will use different core materials and inserts, from wood to carbon fibre, to get the level of flex that they want.
Generally, beginner and freestyle boards will be more flexible. This is because a flexible board will be more manoeuverable at low speeds and more forgiving – less likely to catch an edge. All-mountain boards will have a moderate flex, good for most types of riding. Freeride boards will be at the stiffer end of the spectrum. Like race boards, which are extremely stiff, freeride boards are built to stand up to the extra forces involved in higher speeds.
Of course, flex isn’t always the same all the way along the snowboard’s length. Often with the likes of freeride boards, a softer nose will help with float in powder, while a stiffer tail will help the rider transfer power into the turn.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SIZE…
Now that you know what type of snowboard you want and the characteristics to look out for, you might want to think about what size to buy. It’s not always straightforward, but if you understand your ability level and the style of riding you like most, our snowboard size guide can help you make the right choice.