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Snowboards Explained

Buyer's Guide > Snowboards Explained | Snowboard Boots Explained | Snowboard Bindings Explained | Goggles Explained | Snowboard Helmets & Protective Gear Explained | Outerwear Explained | Base Layers Explained

When determining the right snowboard to fit your needs, you need to think about your ability level, your snowboard boot size, snowboard length, your riding style, and the terrain that you prefer to ride.  These factors play a crucial role in choosing the right snowboard.  There are snowboards designed for every ability level, each addressing specific rider needs.  Flex, shape, length, construction, materials, design, and intended use are each considered when building a snowboard and should also be considered when selecting a snowboard.

Ability Level

Be realistic in assessing your own ability when researching and deciding on a new snowboard.  Finding the right snowboard for your personal needs, including your ability will help make your riding experience more enjoyable and may even help you improve.

Width

The most important factor when determining the right width is your boot size.  If the snowboard is too narrow for your boot size, your snowboard boots will hang over the edges, resulting in toe or heel drag.  If the snowboard is too wide, you will have trouble with turn initiation and board response.  To determine the proper snowboard waist width for your snowboard boot size, view the chart below (simply put, if you wear a size 11 or smaller, go with a standard width…and if you wear a size 11.5 and up, go with a wide board).

Boot Size (US. Men's) < 7 8-9.5 10-11.5 11.5+
Width (mm) 240 mm-245 mm 246 mm-254 mm 255 mm-259 mm 260+
Snowboard Width Narrow Regular Mid-Wide Wide

Please refer to the size/spec charts on each individual snowboard product detail page for waist widths and other information.  Also note that some manufacturers design snowboard boots with smaller overall footprints.  This should also factor into the equation when determining snowboard width.

Length

The length of your snowboard will vary depending on your body weight, and the type of riding you do, and the terrain you ride.  The accepted way to size a snowboard used to be to stand next to the snowboard and, if it came up to your chin, it fits.  While that may be a good place to start, it is an oversimplification.

Naturally, the less you weigh, the smaller the board that you will want to go with.  Similarly, the more that you weigh, the longer the board that you will want to select.  If you do more freeriding thany anything else, freeriding consider a slightly longer board for more stability and speed.  If you are more of a freestyle rider, consider smaller sizes that will be easier to spin and maneuver in the terrain park or half-pipe.  And…traditionally, if you ride in deeper snow, you'll want to go with a longer board…while, if you ride under more groomed conditions, you'll want to go with something shorter (this has become less of a rule of thumb with the advent of rocker technology and longer effective edges).

Remember: Length is nearly as much a matter of personal preference as anything else.

The size chart below will give you a general idea of where to start (note: your snowboard has no idea how tall you are - it does, however, know how much you weigh).

Rider Weight (Lbs.) Snowboard Size (cm)
70 Lbs.-85 Lbs. 119 cm-125 cm
85 Lbs.-110 Lbs. 126 cm-135 cm
90 Lbs.-115 Lbs. 136 cm-140 cm
80 Lbs.-130 Lbs. 141 cm-145 cm
110 Lbs.-160 Lbs. 146 cm-151 cm
120 Lbs.-170 Lbs. 152 cm-154 cm
125 Lbs.-175 Lbs. 155 cm-156 cm
130 Lbs.-180 Lbs. 157 cm-158 cm
145 Lbs.-195 Lbs. 159 cm-160 cm
150 Lbs.-200 Lbs. 161 cm-163 cm
155 Lbs.-205 Lbs. 163 cm-165 cm
175 Lbs.-210 Lbs. 166 cm-169 cm

Remember: If you are a lighter-weight rider, more of a freestyle rider, or ride primarily in the park, pick a board towards the shorter end of the size range…and…if you are a heavier rider or are more of an all-mountain or freerider who rides in deeper snow, consider a snowboard on the longer end of the size range.

Riding Style and Favored Terrain

While you can ride any snowboard on any type of terrain or in any snow condition, there are specialized snowboards for specific terrain, conditions, and applications.  For example, it's going to be more fun to ride a powder board in powder and a park board in the park.  And…while it's easy to over analyze the multitude of offerings available today, the following descriptions give you a good sense of the broad categories into which snowboards are divided.

All-Mountain

All-mountain snowboards are designed for exploring the entire mountain.  They are your go-to for a snowboard that will do anything.  They feel at home on groomers, in powder, on park runs, and almost anything in between.  The vast majority of snowboarders choose all-mountain boards for their great versatility.  If you're just getting started or are unsure of exactly what you need, an all-mountain snowboard is a great choice.

Freestyle

Freestyle or park snowboards tend to be a bit shorter in length and love terrain parks, rails, jibs, trash cans, tree trunks, riding switch (non-dominant foot forward), wall rides, and more. Freestyle boards often feature a true twin shape and are typically selected by those looking to ride the terrain park.  A more versatile variant of a freestyle board is the all-mountain freestyle snowboard, which combines the versatility of an all-mountain snowboard with the playfulness of a freestyle snowboard.

Freeride

Freeride snowboards are designed for the rider that spends most of the day off groomed runs and in backcountry terrain.  They typically have a stiffer flex and are ridden in longer sizes than freestyle snowboards.  Freeride snowboards often feature a directional shape that is designed to be ridden in primarily one direction.

Powder

Powder snowboards love powder.  Often associated with freeride snowboards, powder boards sometimes feature a wider nose and a tapered, narrower tail.  The binding inserts are often set back on a powder snowboard to help the rider float the tip of the board through the deep stuff.  Powder snowboards sometimes also feature rocker, a design element where the tip (and tail) rise starts farther back on the board, which also helps the rider maintain tip float through the pow.

Shape

Directional

Common among freeride and all-mountain snowboards, directional boards are designed to be ridden predominately in one direction.  They are often stiffer in the tail and softer towards the nose to help maintain stability while carving at high speeds.  Typically, the binding inserts are set back (set closer to the tail of the snowboard).

True Twin

Twin shape (also referred to as a true twin) is completely symmetrical with identical tip and tail measurements and flex patterns.  Bindings will be mounted in the center on a twin tip snowboard.  Often found in freestyle and park-specific snowboards, the twin shape is known for its ability to ride in either direction.

Directional Twin

With a combination of a twin and directional features, directional twins have a similar size tip and tail, but the tip is more flexible than the tail.  Directional twins are most at home on all-mountain and freestyle terrain.

Camber vs. Rocker

Camber

Before rocker mania struck, boards only had traditional camber, a mellow convex rise from the contact points of the tip and tail inward with an apex at the midpoint.  A rider's edge hold and pop derive from the pressure exerted and expelled when camber is flexed under a ride's weight.  This downward pressure, the flattening of camber, initiates lively turns and provides continuous edge contact with the snow.  Alternative cambered boards produce differing amounts of edge contact and pressure on the snow depending on the model/technology, which changes how a board turns, snaps, and feels underfoot.

Traditional Camber

Rocker

Rocker is a subtle concave or arcing profile that curves upward.  Essentially, it's the opposite of camber.  Many boards contain multiple arcs rather than a single, smooth arc (every model is a bit different…where rocker is built into multiple zones and in varying degrees and all placed in critical areas of the board for an enhanced ride).  Picture a mildly kinked "U" or "V" shape when the board is laid on a flat surface.  Keep in mind that each brand is trying to make their technology distinct.  Rocker boards are sick for powder float and presses, and are known for offering an incredibly forgiving ride.  The design essentially reduces pressure at the contact points by bringing it inward and closer to your feet.

 Rocker/Reverse Camber

Flat

Like the term implies, this design is devoid of camber.  A board with flat or zero camber will lay flush atop a level surface and distribute pressure on snow in a neutral fashion.  Manufacturers of flat snowboards claim this creates a "loose" and "catch-free" ride similar to reverse camber while remaining relatively more stable and predictable.  These boards can also feel more "broken in," requiring less Ollie force to get it in the air compared to a traditional board.  Flat camber exhibits traits from both sides of the camber/rocker spectrum with an overall balanced feel.

Flat Camber

Cambered Medley

This is the catchall category where the majority of reverse camber design is situated.  A whole slew of boards employ some combination of camber, reverse camber/rocker, and zero/flat camber throughout the length of the board.  Such blends utilize the best qualities of each design and implement them to create a more encompassing and versatile ride or to excel in a specific style of riding.  A powder-specific reverse camber may have a boat hull shape, while a jib rocker design might have a super soft reverse camber for accentuating presses.  A mix of all the above make for a board that excels in a variety of conditions and for a variety of riding styles.

Cambered Medley

Rocker variations have replaced traditional camber as the new standard.  Rocker offers better float in powder, is more maneuverable, and makes riding a dream.

Flex

The amount a snowboard flexes varies significantly between models.

Soft Flex

Softer flexing snowboards are going to be very forgiving and much easier to turn.  A soft flex is good for beginners, riders with lower body weights, and park riders.  Soft snowboards tend to be a bit looser at higher speeds but can also provide a soft buttery feel at slower speeds.  A softer flex is primarily found in freestyle-specific snowboards.  Some all-mountain boards also feature a softer flex.

Stiff Flex

Stiffer flexing snowboards are usually built for freeride or backcountry use.  They provide better edge hold and are more stable at high speeds.  Stiff boards can be great for riders laying down high speed turns, but can also be tough for lightweight riders to flex properly.

Turning Ability

Snowboards make different sized turns based on their sidecut radius, waist width, and rocker.

Sidecut Radius

Sidecut radius is the radius your board would create if the edge was extended out into a complete circle.  Smaller numbers in the sidecut radius indicate a smaller circle.  Imagine a smaller circle vs. a larger circle and laying your snowboard on edge to turn around that circle.

Waist Width

The waist width is the length of the snowboard at its most narrow point.  It is typically measured in millimeters.  Narrow waist widths can be rolled from edge to edge faster than wider snowboards.  Snowboards are designed to be ridden with your toes and heels very close to the edge of the board so that you can apply pressure to roll the snowboard from edge to edge.

Rocker

Rocker in the tip and tail of your snowboard makes it easier to turn.  Sometimes it is referred to as catch-free rocker because there is less of the snowboard edge to catch as you turn the board.

Waist width, sidecut radius, and rocker are listed on the size/spec charts for each snowboard on their respective product detail pages.

Snowboard Hole Patterns and Binding Compatibility

There are four different snowboard hole patterns that you will find on conventional snowboards.  The patterns include 4x4, 2x4, Burton 3D, and Burton Channel.  3D and Channel technology are specific to Burton Snowboards.  2x4 is just a variation of 4x4 that gives a rider more mounting options.

Note: Non-Burton bindings will require a special adapter to be used on Burton snowboards featuring The Channel.

Snowboard Hole Patterns and Bindings Compatibility Chart

  4x4 2x4 Burton 3D Burton Channel
4x4 Binding Disc X X    
Burton 3D Binding Disc X X X X
Burton EST (No Disc)       X

Please hit us up with any questions regarding snowboard binding compatibility.

Women's Snowboards

For many years snowboard companies simply sized down men's snowboards and applied girly graphics to them and called them women's snowboards.  This isn't the case anymore, as manufacturers are now building snowboards designed specifically for women's bodies and their riding preferences.  For example, a women's center of gravity is, generally speaking, much lower than that of men.  Women's snowboards tend to have narrower waist widths, thinner profiles, and softer flexes that are better suited for the women who ride them.

Kids' Snowboards

As much as parents may want to buy a snowboard that their kids can grow into, it is important to find a snowboard that will work for them now, as the correct size snowboard will help your child progress faster and have a lot more fun in the process.  Kids' snowboards are typically softer flexing than adult snowboards, making them much easier for kids to ride.

Kids' Snowboard Size Chart

Rider Weight (lbs) Snowboard Size (cm)
25 Lbs.-40 Lbs. 80 cm-89 cm
35 Lbs.-50 Lbs. 90 cm-99 cm
45 Lbs.-60 Lbs. 100 cm-109 cm
55 Lbs.-70 Lbs. 110 cm-119 cm
65 Lbs.-80 Lbs. 120 cm-124 cm
70 Lbs.-85 Lbs. 125 cm-129 cm
75 Lbs.-100 Lbs. 130 cm-134 cm
85 Lbs.-110 Lbs. 126 cm-135 cm
90 Lbs.-115 Lbs. 136 cm-140 cm

Core Material

Typically, core material is wood or a mixture of different types of woods.  Foam and certain other materials (such as carbon) can also be found in snowboard cores.

Effective Edge

The edge length of the snowboard that actually makes contact with the snow when the snowboard is on edge during a turn is known as the effective edge.  The effective edge is shorter than the snowboard length.  A longer effective edge will add stability and a shorter effective edge makes your snowboard feel looser and easier to turn.

Base Material

Extruded Base

Extruded snowboard bases are made from polyethylene (often called P-Tex).  They do not hold wax as well as sintered bases so they can be slower than a well-tuned sintered base.  However, an extruded base can perform better than an un-waxed sintered base.  Extruded bases have great natural glide.  Extruded bases are typically less expensive, are more easily repaired, and require less maintenance than sintered bases.

Sintered Base

Sintered snowboard bases are designed to be super fast.  Like extruded bases, sintered bases are made from polyethylene (P-Tex).  But, unlike extruded bases, sintered bases are very porous and absorb wax very well.  As a result, sintered bases are much faster than extruded bases when waxed regularly.  Additional materials are often added to the bases to provided increased impact resistance, durability, and glide.  Sintered bases are typically more expensive and can be more difficult to repair than extruded bases.