How to buy a Snowboard

So you are looking for your first snowboard; whether it is your first board or the 5th one in your quiver, nothing is quite has the same combination of excitement and being overwhelmed. There are so many choices out there, how do you know what boards will work for you? This blog entry is designed to make the decision process a little less over whelming and to just add to the excitement of your purchase.

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself when selecting a snowboard; what size boots/shoes do I wear, how much do I weigh, and what kind of riding do I want to do. Answer each one of these honestly and you are on your way to choosing the perfect board.

Snowboard Width

The first question to ask yourself is, “What size boots (or shoes) do I wear?” I understand that this may sound like putting the cart before the horse but there is nothing worse than getting totally stoked on a particular board, only to find out that it doesn’t come in a wide model. Most companies target their wide boards for riders whose feet are a size 11 or larger. Some boards are consider mid-wides and they are designed for that tweener 10-11 ½ rider (usually in freeride snowboards). Mid-wides are not quite narrow waisted and not quite a wide board.

If you get on a board that is too narrow (a size 12 on a narrow board), what happens is you get a lot of toe and heel drag. This will hinder the performance of the board, handicap the rider, and make for some pretty wicked spills.

If you get on a board that is too wide (a size 9 on a wide board), the board becomes too stable of a platform and causes the rider to have to over commit to get the board up on edge. Think of an ice skate tipping from one edge to the other, compared to if your shoes were nailed to a 3′ wide piece of plywood. To get the plywood to go up on its side, you would have to lean way over (using a lot more energy) before the opposite edge would come off of the ground, meanwhile it is almost effortless on the ice skate.

Snowboard Size

The second question is, “How much do I weigh?” This is a pretty simple and straight forward question that will get in the “size range.” Remember a board can only feel how much you weigh and not how tall you are (there are exceptions to this rule; short heavy guys and tall skinny guys). Every model of every brand will have a weight range for each size board (an generic size chart can be found here). For example, I weigh 160lbs. (size 8 boot) and I am looking at getting the new Burton Custom V-Rocker, the size chart tells me that I can ride the 151, 154, 156, 159, and 163…that is every size! How did that help? That is when we move on to the next question…

Style of Snowboard

Answering, “What kind/type of riding do I do?” will help you narrow down the board/brand’s size range. If the park is where you ride size down and fit yourself to the top of the weight range (151 or 154 Custom V-Rocker). If you are looking to do it all and kick it freestyle/all-mountain, stay in the middle of the weight range (156 or 159 Custom V-Rocker). Or if you are wanting to slaysh some big mountainy/freeride lines and have that extra float in the fresh, stay to the lower end of the weight range (163 Custom V-Rocker).

This is the hardest question to answer because of the “gray” areas, just remember: shorter equals less swing weight/more control at park speeds and longer equals more stability at speed/more float in powder.

Along with where you ride, the other factors that will help determine the size board that you get into will be is; board stiffness, level of riding, and height/weight anomalies. A stiffer board will handle speed better but it tougher to turn and manipulate at slow speeds and therefore can sometimes be ridden shorter. Novice riders can always benefit from having less swing weight or edge hold, a shorter board will help them learn board feel and turning. If you are tall and thin, you may consider sizing up just to balance out the amount of leverage that you will have on the board. Conversely if you are shorter and heavier, you may want to size down a touch so that the board is not too long and too hard to control.

Choosing the Right Flex for Your Snowboard

Flex refers to the degree of stiffness or flexibility that a snowboard delivers. Since snowboard flex directly affects the rider’s ability to control the board in different snow and terrain conditions, it should be an important consideration when buying a snowboard. There are two types of flex associated with a snowboard:

  • Longitudinal flex: the flexibility of the board from nose to tail
  • Torsional flex: the stiffness of the board from toeside to heelside

In general, the more flexible a board, the easier it will be to maneuver. Snowboards with greater flex tend to make sharp turns easier. It is for this reason that many experts suggest a more flexible board for beginners. The improved control delivers easier turning, especially at slow speeds.

Freestyle riders often prefer flexible boards as well. This is because sharp turns and improved maneuverability are frequently needed to land tricks or hit an obstacle with precision. Superior longitudinal flex also provides the flexibility needed to execute popular tricks such as nose grinds and 5-0 grinds. Tricks such as these require the snowboarder to ride along the surface of an obstacle while balancing only on the nose or tail of the boar

The downside of flexible boards is their reduced ability to hold an edge. Because of this, stiffer snowboards deliver better stability and performance at high speeds. They are also ideal for groomed snow runs. As such, freeriders and speed demons often prefer a stiff snowboard over more flexible options.

Snowboarders who enjoy both open-mountain and freestyle riding typically compromise by choosing a medium-flex snowboard. It is for this reason than many intermediate boarders avoid the extremes and buy a snowboard that provides relatively good control under all snow and terrain conditions.

Beyond riding style, a snowboarder’s weight should also play a part when it comes to choosing the best type of board flexibility. Broadly speaking, the lighter the snowboarder, the more flexible the snowboard needs to be. This is because less hefty riders need to exert additional effort to initiate turns and maneuver their board.

If you have any questions about snowboarding, give our sales associates a call at 866-786-3869.

Finally Snowboard Equipment Made Just for Women

Women have been down for snowboarding since day one. In fact, Sherman Poppen invented the Snurfer (the 1960s forerunner to the modern snowboard) for his daughter to ride. However, ladies haven’t always had the same choices men do when it comes to snowboard equipment-that is, until now. Excitingly enough, snowboard companies have finally taken notice of the female snowboard contingent and are building gear specifically for women, taking into account everything from her weight and foot size to her sense of style.

What Does “Women’s Specific” Mean?

So what makes a women’s board, well, a women’s board? The simple answer is waste width and flex pattern. For the most part, women have smaller feet and frames than men, so a narrower board keeps everything to scale, ensuring optimum steering power and control over your edge. The flex pattern (meaning how easy it is to bend the board and make it turn) is also specifically designed around the proportions of a lady rider, who’s usually lighter-weight and needs her board to be a bit softer in order to flex it and get it up on edge.

Length is also a factor. A snowboard should reach to about a rider’s chin, so women’s boards tend to be a bit shorter to accommodate the average female height. Of course, riding steep mountains or deep powder requires a longer, stiffer board and such women’s specific freeride models are also available.

Graphics are undeniably important to a board’s appeal, and because women are naturally attuned to style, companies have definitely had to get with it graphics-wise. Most brands employ talented designers (many of them women themselves) who know exactly what appeals to snowboarding’s feminine side, from colors to designs to treatments.

The Perfect Connection

Just as boards are being made specifically for women’s smaller frame and foot size, so are boots and bindings designed for their narrower heels and different leg shape. Women’s boots are typically lighter and narrower than men’s versions. It’s impossible to rip when your feet are sloshing around, so these narrower boots keep the heels firmly in place for ultra-responsive turning power. Also, shorter and wider ankle cuffs accommodate the female calf muscle, which attaches lower on the leg than a man’s. Bet you didn’t know that, did you?

Your boot should not move once it’s in the binding, so ladies’ bindings come in smaller sizes to create a super snug boot-binding fit. Today’s bindings also offer complete adjustability from side to side, in the heelcup, and with the amount of forward lean. It might take a little while to get your binding perfectly dialed, but it’ll be worth it when you do.

Just like in nature, every piece of your snowboard setup is connected. Equipment compatibility is extremely important. If your boot doesn’t jive with you binding, or your binding baseplate won’t work with your board’s hole pattern, then it’s game-off. Make sure everything works together before you leave the store.

Content courtesy of SnowSports Industries America | SIA and