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Snowboard Buyers Guide
Choosing your snowboard
If you're an expert snowboarder, chances are you already know what size board you want. For those beginners who don't, this buyers guide will help. It explains in some detail each component of a snowboard and will help you choose the perfect snowboard for you.
KNOW YOUR SNOWBOARD
First is the Length of the board, this is measured from the tip to the tail in centimeters.
Next is the effective edge, which is measured from the front contact point with the snow to the back contact point. This is the amount of edge that will touch the snow when you make a turn.
SideCut & Sidecut Radius
The sidecut is the curve of the board’s edge and will determine how sharp the board will turn. A deeper sidecut makes for quick, tight turns, whereas a shallower sidecut makes for long mellow turns. When the board is slanted up on its edge and flexed to the snow, it will flex to a similar shape as the sidecut and follow the sidecut radius. The sidecut radius is basically the path the board will take on its edge. A lot of other factors also come into play like how much the board is being flexed, the camber of the board and the overall condition of the hill. Here are a few sidecuts you might see:
Radial sidecut is based off a perfect circle and if you were to follow its sidecut radius it would make a circle. This sidecut will have a smooth initiation and exit to turns and always feel the same because the shape is continus. This sidecut rides the same switch as it does regularly and is used mostly in twin boards.
Progressive sidecut has a longer curve in the front of the sidecut and a tighter curve at the back. This sidecut will have a smooth initiation with a snappy push on the exit. Many boards that have a sidecut like this will most likely have a set back stance but not always. You will see this side cut is found in more all mountain boards.
Magne Traction Sidecut
Magne Traction side cut is designed, patented and used in all Lib Tech, Gnu and Roxy boards. They have added 5 more contact points to each side of the board for a total of 7 contact points, the biggest contact point is in the middle between your feed and the points get gradually smaller towards the nose and tail. The reason for this is to add traction by the contact points digging in, like how a serrated knife is more effective. The same happens with the bumps in Magne Traction.
This side cut is made up of straight lines, usually 3 or 5 lines to create the shape of the sidecut. This provides a grippy powerful turn with smooth initiation and exit. This happens because were the straight lines meet they form slight angles, these angles create a contact point that helps dig into the snow.
Ability level plays a huge part in picking your board. As you get better at snowboarding, you will start to look for different characteristics in boards. Some boards are made stiffer and are meant for high speeds while others will be geared towards beginner riders and be too soft for an advanced rider. Choosing the right board for your level of ability will allow you to improve faster and have a better day on the hill.
You have just started snowboarding and are still getting the basics down. You are still learning how to sideslip and link turns.
You have got the basics down and can get down most of the runs in one piece. You are able to link turns but are improving constantly.
You have riden for a while and know exactly what you want. You are confident on all runs and always pushing yourself.
Snowboard length is measure from the tip to the tail in centimetres. Rider weight is the main factor in selecting the length of board (whereas in skis, height is more important).
Choose a shorter board (within the size range) if:
- You are beginner snowboarder. A shorter board will make it easier to master your turns.
- You want to do tricks/freestyle. A shorter board will be more maneuverable.
Choose a longer board (within the size range) if:
- You are more experienced and like to ride fast.
- You are riding in deep snow.
SNOWBOARD SIZE CHART
Board flex is an important part of your snowboard and is based on your ability level and the terrain you are looking to ride. Snowboards are stiffened by the materials they are built with and the camber of the board. Companies use materials to make tons of different flex patterns in snowboards to either stiffen or soften certain areas on the board. A symmetrical flex pattern is a pattern that allows the the board to flex the same in the nose and the tail. We see this more in twin boards. An asymmetrical flex patter will allow the board to be softer at the nose and stiffer at the tail. We see this in directional boards. There are tons of different flex patters nowadays and each are specifically tailored to each board and will affect the way it rides. With every turn you take, you are using your weight to flex your board’s edge into the snow to start your turn radius. When a board is soft it is easier to flex it into it's turn radius and when a board is stiff it is harder to flex and requires more weight that the rider can generate by going faster and pumping through their turns. Imagine windshield wipers: If you had a soft flexing wiper, it would touch the whole window but have loose points whereas if you had a wiper that was too stiff the weight of the wiper arm wouldn't be enough to push the edge down to the window.
Softer boards are more suited towards beginners with a few exceptions because of how forgiving the ride is. It is easier to initiate a turn on a softer snowboard and harder to catch an edge. When a rider has too soft of a board it can cause them to over flex their board during a turn and wash out. Usually if a board is too soft, it is because the rider weighs too much for the board or they trying to get too much from out of it.
A stiffer board will be more responsive to a rider’s movements and feel livelier on the snow. A stiff board forces the rider to use the momentum of their body to flex the board. When a rider has too stiff of a board and not enough weight or experience, the board can become hard to put on edge.
Camber is the way a snowboard is bent from the tip to tail and affects how to snowboard controls on the snow. When you are just beginning to snowboard, reverse camber and hybrid cambers are usually best because they reduce the risk of your edge catching by lifting the boards contact points.
Positive camber is how snowboards have traditionally been made. It is the most aggressive style of camber you can get and produces the most edge hold of all the cambers. It does this by bowing the board up between the bindings so that when you stand on the board it flattens out and creates a spring like effect that adds pop and responsiveness to the board. Positive camber boards are still the most preferred camber amongst professional snowboarders.
Reverse camber is the opposite of positive camber. The board actually bows down into a banana shape lifting up at the nose and tail. This makes the board more forgiving by lifting the pressure of the contact points. Reverse camber boards are to learn on because they require very little effort to turn at low speeds. More advanced riders may notice that their board feels loose when going fast. These boards are also super fun to ride in powder and require little effort to stay on top of the snow.
Hybrid camber is a mix between positive camber and reverse camber. Many brands have different names for it and their designs are slightly different, but they are all generally achieving the same thing. Basically, it gives the board the responsiveness of positive camber with the forgiveness of reverse camber. The idea is by having the reverse camber between the bindings you can soften the feel of the board and make it easier put the board on edge, while still have the stability and edge hold of camber under both feet to prevent it from getting unstable at higher speeds. By having the two different cambers in one board, you also increase the contact points from 2 to 3 for better edge hold.
Flat camber is also refered to as zero camber because it has no camber. The board is completely flat tip to tail. Some companies will ad a little bit of reverse camber at the tip and tail to help move the contact points of the board in. Flat boards have a looser feel similar to reverse camber but will still stay stable under higher speeds.
Powder camber is designed for specifically riding powder. When riding powder one of the hardest parts is keeping your nose above the snow, riders are usually positioned further back on the board. The camber is a mix of reverse and positive camber, reverse in the from to float on top of the snow and camber in the back in between your feet to provide pop and stability. These boards ride more like a surf board and like to float on snow and be controlled from the from the tail end making them not great on hard packed snow.
There are many different types of snowboards and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Changing the way the snowboard is shaped will change the way it reacts to the snow and will define the terrain it is for.
Directional snowboards are snowboards that are meant to be ridden one way, that doesn't always mean that you can't ride both ways but the board will preform the best going forward. Directional boards will have a longer soft nose, a shorter stiffer tail, a set back stance and a progressive side cut. These boards are best for back country and faster riding.
A twin board can be ridden both directions and if you were to split this board in two, each side would be identical. These boards have a radial side cut, a symmetrical flex pattern, and the mounting inserts centered with equal distance from the nose and tail. these boards are perfect for freestyle and park riders.
Directional Twin Board
A directional twin board is a mixture of the first two types of boards we talked about. These boards will either have a symmetrical flex pattern and a directional shape or an asymmetrical pattern and a twin shape. If you like your twin board but want to star riding bigger mountain runs or you love riding your directional board down big runs and want to get a more playful board directional twins are a perfect option.
Asymmetrical boards are a newer style of boards but are starting to become very popular. They are meant to be ridden with your toes and heels on specific sides. Asymmetrical boards have a twin shape but the toe side of the board has a long shallow radial sidecut and the heel side has a shorter deeper side cut. Because as humans we are able to bend forward at the hip, we are able to transfer a lot of weight to the toe side of the board making it easier to turn. But because we can’t transfer as much weight to our heel side, it becomes harder to turn. By adding a deeper more aggressive sidecut to the heel side of the board it can dramatically reduce the amount of effort needed to initiate that heel side turn.
Split boards are used primarily for backcountry riding. The idea is that you can split the board in two, allowing you to traverse long distances over snow. Split boards preform best in powder because they have been split down the centre and have to be reinforced and become very stiff and hard to ride on pack snow.
2 x 4
2 x 4 hole pattern is the most common in snowboards. It offers a little bit more of an option for your stance on your snowboard.
4 x 4
4 x 4 hole patterns is similar to the 2 x 4 pattern except it skips every other insert, which gives you 4 options for binding placement.
The channel is a mounting system that Burton designed to make your board and bindings flex better together. The channel is inset in the board and there is one per binding, each board comes with bolts that slide into the channel and can move freely until the screw is tightened in to them. These boards work best with Burton EST bindings but can work with almost every binding available now some may require the purchase of an extra mounting plate.
The 3D pattern was also made by burton and works with almost all bindings.
WIDTH & BOOT SIZE
Snowboards come in a variety of widths, there are two main reasons somebody might be looking for a wide board. One is to increase surface area on the board to help float on the snow easier. This is why most powder boards have a wider profile that a board meant for groomed runs. The other reason is if the rider has large feet that tend to drag on the snow, most riders with size 12+ boots will benefit from having a wider board. Usually when you buy a board your boots will hang over the edge of your board an inch or so. This is okay because the height and rotation that is added by the binding will stop the boot from contacting the snow.