Choosing a snowboard can be an overwhelming process, there are so many choices, combined with so many ridiculous technical terms that each brand uses. Hopefully after reading this, you will be able to make an educated decision and have a better idea of how a snowboard will ride by its description.
Snowboards can be divided into these groups based on their flex rating, shape, sidecut and camber.
All Mountain Snowboards
A board for riding everywhere
All Mountain is the most common style of snowboard, and they would be good for the majority of riders. They are made to be ridden everywhere, so they are designed to work just as well on groomed runs, in powder, in the trees and in the park.
They generally have a directional or directional twin shape, with a medium flex. If you don’t really know what you are after, an all mountain board is probably best for you.
Best in deep snow
Powder snowboards are designed and ride best when the snow is deep. They have a directional shape, a set back stance and medium to stiff flex. In the past it was common ride a larger board in powder, as the added surface area helped to keep you afloat in the deep snow. There are a few brands now that have a new style of powder board, that is short and wide and can actually be sized up to 10cm shorter than what you normally ride.
Made to ride in the terrain park
Freestyle snowboards can also be called park boards, as they are designed to work best in the park. They are at home doing jumps, tricks and spins. Freestyle snowboards vary in their flex ratings, but the main feature is the twin or true twin shape. This means that they are symmetrical, and they ride just the same regular (forwards) as they do backwards (switch).
Jib or Street Snowboards
Made to ride in the street and on rails
Jib boards are a type of Freestyle or Park boards, they have a twin shape but a soft flex. They are normally ridden much shorter than normal, so that they are light and easy to spin. They are normally made with cheaper but tough materials, which helps keep the cost of jib boards down.
The best way to snowboard and hike in the backcountry
Splitboards are for the serious riders, who want to ride powder out in the backcountry and hike for their turns. Splitboards are made for hiking in the backcountry and are split down the middle. When they are separated they are used like skis to climb up hills. At the top they are connected and are ridden down the same as a normal snowboard.
Womens snowboards generally come in smaller lengths, and have a softer flex rating than mens boards. They have a smaller waist width to fit smaller boots.
Kids snowboards are the same, they are smaller, and have a soft flex to reflect the lighter weight of the rider.
Snowboard Camber Types
Also know as Regular Camber, Traditional or Positive Camber
Regular camber boards have a lot of pop (spring) and have a much more stable ride at high speeds, and on hardpacked snow or ice. Riders who like to go fast, or ride big jumps often choose camber boards.
The contact points are driven into the snow, which gives them their grip and power, but they aren’t forgiving for beginner riders.
Some snowboards with a regular camber profile:
Also known as Zero Camber or No Camber
Flat boards are a balance between Camber and Rocker. They are easy to turn, are stable and have decent float in powder. Not as good edge hold as a camber board, but better than a Rocker board.
Also known as Reverse Camber or Banana
Reverse camber boards keep the contact points out of the snow, which makes them very easy to ride and turn. Great for beginners, they make turns easy, the ride is forgiving but they are not stable at high speeds. The rocker shape also helps them float in powder.
Rocker boards are also used by advanced park riders/jibbers because of their forgiving ride on rails.
Also known as Gullwing, Flying V and Moustache
Hybrid camber boards are very popular, with almost every brand having some hybrid camber options. They are a mix of regular camber and reverse camber, which is designed to get the best of each style with less of the drawbacks.
They are designed to get the playfullness of a rocker board, but still have the stability, pop and edge hold of a camber board, without the catchy ride.
Directional boards are designed to go one way, they generally have a larger nose, and a slightly set back stance.
Twin / True Twins
Twin boards are symmetrical, and are used for freestyle and park riding. The symmetrical direction means that the board will still ride the same if you are riding it regular (forwards) or switch (backwards). Good for park riders who will be riding and landing switch.
Halfway in between Directional and Twin, Directional twin boards will ride best forwards, but will still do a good job riding switch. Directional Twin boards are good for people who want one board to ride everywhere, including the park.
How to choose the right size snowboard
Snowboards used to be sized up to a rider based on their height. Normally people would choose something between their chin and their nose.
It doesn’t make sense that a 6ft 140lbs man should be riding the same size board as a 6ft man that weights 220lbs as the board is going to ride very differently just based on their weight difference.
The better way to size a snowboard is based on your weight. When you are looking at a board, they will list a weight range that is suitable for each size. For example, the 156cm model has a recommended weight range of 135-175 lbs.
Do I need a wide snowboard?
If you have size 11 or larger snowboard boots, you will want to get a wide snowboard. The wider board will stop your toes and heels from dragging (touching the snow) when you are carving.
One of the measurements on a snowboard is the Waist Width, which is the narrowest part of the board. Wide boards have a wider Waist Width, which is made to fit people with bigger boots. Wide boards would generally have a waist width of 258mm or bigger.
The Effective edge of a snowboard is the length of the edge that touches the snow when turning. The longer the effective edge, the better grip you have. The shorter the effective edge, the easier it is to turn and move the board, but you have less grip.
The Sidecut radius is the name for the curved edge along the side of a snowboard. The number they use to measure it. is the radius of the circle used to cut it out.
The larger sidecut radius on a board (from a larger circle) means that the board will have a bigger surface area, so they will be quite stable at speed and have good float in deep snow. Powder and freeride boards often have a larger sidecut.
Boards with a smaller sidecut radius (cut from a smaller circle) will be easy and quick to turn. Beginner boards and park boards often have a smaller sidecut to help you make quick and easy turns.
Radial sidecuts are the standard type of sidecut, they are cut out from a simple circle. They give you the same arc on the entry and exit from a turn, which give them a predictable feel.
A progressive sidecut is made up of two or more radii that are blended together to make a smooth shape. The changing sidecut means that starting a turn (initiation) is easy and smooth, it is controlled while in the middle of the turn and then you get the most power or acceleration when you exit the turn.
Although they were popular in the past, Asymmetrical or Asym boards are making a comeback, with a lot of manufacturers offering at least one Asym board in their range.
An Asymmetrical board has a deeper sidecut (from a smaller radius circle) on the heel edge compared to the toe edge of the board. When riding normally, it is easier to get your weight over your toes than it is to get it over your heels. On a regular board it means that you end up with a stronger toe edge turn than on your heels.
To even that out, Asym boards have the tighter radius on the heels, so putting a little weight on turns the board more aggressively on the heels than it does on the toes.
Riding an Asym board just has a natural and easy feel, it isn’t a huge difference.
Many brands offer a combination sidecut, that is made up of different radius circles, flat sections and blended areas.
The flex of a board is very important, it is a major factor in how a snowboard rides. They are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the stiffest.
- A snowboard with a softer flex is easy to move around, manouver and press. Soft boards are recommended for beginners and jibbers.
- Medium flex boards are stable enough to be ridden at high speeds, but still have a bit of playfullness to them. Most boards have a medium flex.
- Stiff flexing boards are the best for going fast, and holding a good edge in hard or icy snow.
There are two main types of base materials used on snowboards, extruded and sintered. They are both made up of polyethylene.
Extruded bases are cheaper to make, and are found on lower end boards. The material is made by melting polyethylene pellets together which are then forced through a machine to make a sheet of the base material.
They don’t need much maintenance, so you don’t have to wax them as often as sintered bases. They are slower than sintered bases.
Sintered bases are made up of the same polyethylene pellets, but they are not melted together, they are crushed. It is a more expensive process, but it leaves “pores” in the base, which means that the base material can hold or soak up wax.
Sintered bases can soak up a lot of wax, which means that you will be able to go faster than on a board with an extruded base.
Sintered bases are normally found on higher end, expensive boards.
Now that the basics have been covered have a look at some good snowboard setups for beginners. If you already know what snowboard you want to buy, you can use this search page to find out what retailer has is in stock, and if they are on sale.
Have any questions?
Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it.