Have you ever stared at a wall of snowboards, knowing you wanted to buy one, but you didn’t know what type it should be? Most of us have had that issue when learning about shredding. When you snowboard, there are lots of crazy words and phrases. They all pop out at you, and they seldom make sense. If you’ve ever wondered what is camber or what is a Magne-traction? (it’s not a transformer)
When purchasing your first snowboard, don’t buy something epic or high-end. Most likely you’re gonna tear that thing apart, save some money, and learn from your mistakes.
Pro Tip: The Color Scheme And Design On A Snowboard is a personal preference. Many companies have one style per board type and the color of the design will change depending on the size. If you find the perfect board design but don’t like the color. Check out some other sizes. I made that discovery when I was buying my Burton custom X, and it was a lifesaver…I hate the color yellow.
What Is Your Snowboard Style?
To start, most likely you’re a beginner snowboarder so we should talk about snowboarding styles. These are just generalizations, but they’re mainly focused on where they spend the majority of their time. For example, if someone is on a park border it doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t leave the park and explore the mountain. They just spend the majority of their time in the park. Snowboards have special differences that help each category. You can still ride them in another area, it’s a good idea to be mindful of what your board can and can’t do well.
This category is what most snowboarders will fall into. The all-mountain crew will generally be all over the place. They hit up groomed runs, ride in trees, and go wherever they can find fresh powder. Usually, they ride on stiffer snowboards as they need more control to make directional changes on the fly, and dodge stuff on the hill. The items they’re dodging can be anything from tree stumps to small children on skis.
The quick reaction times given from the stiffness of the snowboard can make or break the day. On Amazon I found some epic all-mountain boards for a decent price. Depending on when you’re reading this the price may change but don’t forget to check it out.
These are the guys/gals who tear it up in the park. They hit up rails, ride boxes, and get mega air on the jumps. Generally, they have softer boards because they need something more forgiving, and less sensitive.
I’ve actually started to ride a softer board even though it isn’t considered a park board. Anything is soft when you convert from a Burton Custom X though.
A split board is a snowboard that separates into two climbing skis. Generally, they’re used when riding in the backcountry. A climber will use the split board in the ski configuration to climb the mountain and then assemble them into a snowboard for the ride down.
I’ve personally always wanted a pair of these for a mountain trip. There’s something about hiking up the mountain and getting fresh tracks that would make the day epic.
Alpine boards are usually left out of the discussion, but I’ll add them as a footnote. These boards are really stiff and only used for snowboard racing, which sounds and looks pretty hardcore.
Personally, I’ve never ridden on one, I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot if given the chance.
What Is Your Riding Ability?
Another question you should ask yourself when purchasing a snowboard, is what is your riding ability? If you’ve been riding a long time, you already know what you want in a board, but what if you’re just starting out?
If you’re a beginner I recommend you pick an all-mountain snowboard with a good amount of flex. This will make your day easier because it’s more forgiving if and when you use the wrong edge. Hopefully, it’ll prevent you from wiping out as much. Always be sure to wear a helmet, you’ll thank me later for it.
If you’re looking for information on helmets, I wrote another blog post on helmets, it’s called Helmets; A Buyers Guide.
If you’re an intermediate rider, I can assume you’ve been riding for at least a season. This means you should know your skill level, and what type of riding you wanna do. At this point, I usually recommend either sticking with your beginner board or finding a cheap one for the style you’d like to ride in the most. For example, if you wanted to be a park rider, you could make some adjustments to your edges, instead of buying a new board. Then when you’re ready for an expert-level one, you can go all out and buy something high-end that you’ll love.
Expert-level snowboards aren’t cheap. I currently have two of them, the first is my Burton Custom X and the other a GNU Riders Choice. One is medium soft, and the other super stiff. Sometimes it’s difficult to adjust when I switch between them, but it’s totally worth it.
When you ride an expert-level snowboard. Make sure you know what you’re getting, don’t settle for anything less than what’s on your wishlist.
I really wanted a Custom X. and during the season the going price was around $800. I waited until the summer and bought mine in July for $300. The main issue I faced then was waiting 4 months to use it. If you’ve got patience, and don’t mind riding last year’s model, you can find some awesome deals in July on Amazon. I’d start my search there.
The Snowboard Shape:
A snowboard’s shape will give different characteristics. A basic snowboard shape is an hourglass form. The reason it’s an hourglass is for turning purposes. When you turn on a snowboard you’re using the edge of the board to cause some friction and cut into the snow. However, if the board was straight it would only do downhill on its side.
This would be a problem, hence the hourglass shape. However, there have been some advances in snowboard shape technology and a few distinct styles of boards have developed from it.
Directional snowboards are built to ride one way, they have a true nose and tail. Riding switch isn’t impossible on them, but it takes more skill. Sometimes, they’ll have a setback stance for riding backcountry and deep powder (more on that below). At the extreme, these are the boards with a crazy-looking tail, but it isn’t always that way.
True Twin Snowboards:
True Twins can be ridden in either direction. These are truly hourglass-shaped. Riding switch can be done easily with them, but this depends on the skill of the rider.
Directional Twin Snowboards:
With directional snowboards, the tip and tail are the same in geometry but the stance is setback like a directional snowboard.
Camber is an important factor in choosing a snowboard. Most snowboards are set up with a regular camber (see definition below). The camber regulates how your edges come into contact with the snow.
To see what sort of camber your snowboard is, lay it on a concrete or hard floor (not carpet as you won’t be able to see the subtle changes) Then take a look at it from the side. You should be able to see the parts of the base that come in contact with the ground.
Regular Camber Snowboards:
A regular camber board will have a rise in the center of the snowboard between the contact points, and then a slight rise going outward from the tip and tail.
With regular camber it’s easier to apply pressure on the tail and ollie, it also helps keep the edges in continual contact with the snow. You can maneuver easily with this camber type.
No Camber, Or Flat Snowboards:
Flat camber is exactly what it sounds like. When you lay this thing down, it’ll be flat until the nose/tail curls up at the ends.
A lot of brands claim they create a loose, or catch-free ride, like a reverse camber board, and they can also feel more broke in when you ollie.
Reverse Camber Or Rocker:
Reverse camber is subtle concave arcing upward. These boards are amazing for floating in powder, presses, and are generally more forgiving.
I recommend only getting one of these only if you’re at the intermediate or expert level as they tend to have more of a learning curve.
A hybrid camber is a combination of a rocker and regular camber. My GNU happens to be one, and it’s got a great feel. The pop I get off the tail is solid, and my contact points in the snow are sick. Pair them up with some great bindings and you’ll be having fun all-day
How To Choose A Snowboard Size
The general rule of thumb you should use to find the proper snowboard length is to stand the snowboard on its tail in front of your face. Take a look at where the nose height reaches. You’ll want it to stop between the bottom of the nose and your chin.
There are guidelines for this, and I don’t trust them. If I followed them, I’d be riding something taller than me. Maybe it’ll work for someone a bit more compact, but I can’t figure it out.
How wide the snowboard is. If you have a boot size greater than 11. You might need to consider a wider board. A smaller width might give you some toe drag, causing control issues. To fix this issue you can adjust the bindings, or buy a wide board. Sometimes the adjustments can only go so far.
Extra Features To Check Out
It’s the measure of the snowboard sides when you’re looking down on it. Snowboards have an hourglass shape, and the sidecut radius is the outline of it.
The larger the number means it has a straighter cut, likewise a smaller number means more curvature in the hourglass shape. More curvature usually means faster turning and response.
***Side Note: The curvature of the snowboard is how you initiate turns. The more curvature, you’ll get faster turning.
What is Magne-Traction?
Finally an answer to the question I posed above. Magne-Traction is a newer (slightly) invention to the Snowboarding world. If you look at the edges on a board with magnetic-traction you’ll notice a serrated edge look. This adds extra contact points to the edges and increases turning/maneuverability.
In my experience on the GNU, you’ll need to make sure this is tuned up properly. Magne-Traction is pretty epic, but if the adjustments are off, you’ll have a horrible ride. I messed up with my contact points and have a rough time of it.
Most snowboards are measured on a scale of 1-10 in regards to flex. 1 being soft and 10 being stiff. I usually recommend beginners use a softer board, usually in the 4-5 range maybe even as low as 3. As your skills improve it becomes a matter of preference, but there are times when it’s nice to switch things up.
These are usually ridden by park and freestyle riders. The softer flex is more forgiving so you won’t catch your edge as easily.
All-mountain riders are usually on a stiffer board. They need the speed and maneuverability that they can provide.
Snowboard Manufacturing Materials
These bases are usually cheaper, and they’re made from polyethylene pellets. They’re melted together and pressed into a sheet. They don’t need to be waxed as often.
These bases are made from the same material, however, instead of using the melting process, they are forced together under high pressure. This causes the base to be more porous. You’ll need to wax these boards more often, but they accelerate a lot faster.
How To Mount Snowboard Bindings
This is an exclusive set up for some Burton Snowboards. The channel system consists of two channels where the bindings will attach to the snowboard. The channels give a lot of adaptability for your stance width.
3X4 & 4X4 Binding Mounts
These are traditional binding mounts, just set the angle and pop in the screws. Make sure they’re tight as you don’t want them getting loose on the hill.
Extra Snowboard Information:
The Board Graphic:
This should be the last thing you look at when purchasing a snowboard. So many other factors are more important. however, don’t ride on something you hate.
If you’re starting, or you see the board you wanted two years ago, go get it. Make sure you check it for damages, and if so can they be easily be repaired.
An Older Model?
I usually buy my snowboards in July before the new models come out. They’re on sale then, and I love saving a lot of money. Every $60-$100 you save is a lift ticket in the fall, and that’s important.
Check out some of the epic deals I find every summer. I have a few other sites I check out regularly, but here’s a few I’m already seeing and it’s the only springtime.
How Long Do Snowboards Last?
If you take care of your snowboard it should last you a long time. Keep in mind I don’t ride rails often, if at all, but my Burton Custom X is a decade old. She’s got scratches, dents, and scrapes all over her, and she still rides true.
A snowboard can last as long as it’s taken care of, but sometimes things happen. Most of my friends who do park go through Snowboards a lot faster than I. This is because park riding does a lot of damage to Snowboards.
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