It’s quite confusing when you start snowboarding and there are many things you need to take into account (not just the sick graphics) when choosing a snowboard that could have a dramatic effect on the way you progress and the speed to which you do too. Having the right board can be the difference between enjoying yourself a lot and injuring yourself as there are all sorts of different shapes, bends, lengths, flex and materials you need to take into account. We thought we would try and simplify the board choosing process by breaking down all the information you will need on how a snowboards works so when picking your own board you get the very best for your money and most importantly the best board for you.
The right length snowboard for you isn’t an exact science and it involves your height, weight and the styles of riding you want to do. When it comes measuring boards traditionally, it was always from the floor to somewhere between your chin and nose in height. This gives a real broad guess and doesn’t take into consideration the weight of rider, this may work well for average heights while for shorter/ taller and heavier riders, it doesn’t quite work. However now the technology and understanding of snowboards has grown throughout the industry, we can get more specific in regards to comparing your height to weight ratio to find the right size for you. We have created these tables to give a rough idea of the sizes to start with to which after finishing this article, can be narrowed down to a more specific size. What we often find is that some people get very tied up thinking about the exact size to the cm they need when in reality, it is a range of different brands and varying nose/tail shapes that can give you normally about a 5-6cm size range that is your perfect all mountain size!
The width of the board is a vital element to measure where it affects the pivot point of your edge. A board that is too wide for you can reduce the boards performance, where as a board that is not wide enough will result in having your heels and toes coming into contact with the snow as you carve which will raise you off the edge and probably make you crash. Snowboards come in sizes suited to the size of boot you have, so be sure to invest in some boots before purchasing a board. As a rough guide, board sizes to foot sizes are; Narrow (UK 8 and under), Regular (UK 8 – 10) and Wide (UK 11+) although this can vary very slightly with some mid wide boards out there that are suitable for many riders without needing a full wide. Also some boots are bulkier than others so mean you need to upsize a bit in bindings and boards if you are on the cross over sizes.
The flexibility of a board really depends on what you want to be doing. Snowboards can be remarkably flexible or super stiff like a plank to which is often the preferred flex in powder boards, the more flexible the board the more freestyle, park style riding you want to be aiming for as they offer more energy transmission in turns. If your choosing a board for the first time aim for a softer to medium flex as it has no specifics to styles of riding and you can use it on a variety of terrain until you have learnt your favourite style of riding.
Snowboard Shape & Bend
The shape and bend of snowboard will be the result of how quickly you progress in the sport and depends on your skill level and experience as a rider. If your a complete beginner not to worry as follows is a list of board shapes that you will find on the market today in order of complete beginner to boards for experienced riders only:
The Rocker is your your entry level board or jib freestyle board that features a single contact or pressure zone dead in the centre of the board, this allows for easier on-the-spot pivoting for slower riding. With both tips of the board raised it makes it harder for beginners to catch an edge (but not impossible!), however this reduces steering responsiveness as it has less contact with the snow by poking out of powder or piste slightly.
The Flat shape is exactly that; a flat board with near to full contact with the snow. This board is basically a move on from the rocker to create a middle ground. Depending on the board design it’s often flat between the feet or further out before then rocking up at the tips. This Flat is designed for more responsive steering with no pressure zones to catch you out jumping and landing in the park. This also offers a slight floaty feeling however catching an edge is more prominent than true rocker depending on the width of flat. It can be a great beginner to intermediate board and many traditional classic rocker boards are evolving this way to offer more rounded performance.
The Rocker/Camber or Flying V as Burton have called it (Look out for Gullwing and many other brand terms too), is a combination of the classic Camber shape and the Rocker, creating often the ultimate beginner-intermediate board featuring three pressure zones that create a near “m” shape bend; one dead in the centre for pivoting and one either side prior to the tips for steering. This shape of board gives beginners a more responsive feel while having the stability of a rocker. The rocker geometry also gives good lift in powder so you don’t need to upsize as much for float and can even ride pow in twin tip stance with ease. The Rocker/Camber shape is very popular among intermediate and experienced riders and was also my choice of board when I departed for SKD Snow Kite Camp 2015. The Rocker/Camber board is now probably the most popular profile design in snowboard sales as it’s the most versatile for many styles of riding.
Now the Camber is your traditional board featuring the “upside down smile” bend that earns two pressure points near the tips of the board. This is the “almost original snowboard” design evolved from ski’s many years ago when all boards where this way and only the stiffness of board and radius defined them for riding. This camber shape of board delivers a far more lively ride than the other shapes and is shown to be more stable and responsive in regards to steering especially at high speeds on the piste. These are favoured by the pro and more experienced rider as they can deliver powerful turns and more aggressive pop. However due to the full contact the board has with the slow, not to mention the pressure put upon it with its shape, it makes this board the most likely to catch an edge, there for not necessarily recommended for beginners! These used to be the most popular boards until the rocker/camber designs blended the tech but they are still there ideal for some riders that want that snappier edgier board.
Now these boards are your powder cruisers, for those days you want to flow beautifully down the mountain in fresh powder. The Directional boards have your bindings situated back to tail end of the board with often an odd shaped, long nose that sticks out of the snow, almost as though surfing down the mountain. These are for the more experienced rider to be used mainly in fresh powder riding (hence the name powder board). They can be awesome fun as are effortless in the deep snow but often not so good as all round riding board so often a second board rather than a main board.
If you end up purchasing a second hand board or borrowing one, then it might be worth getting it serviced. A snow board servicing consists of re waxing the base of the board and sharpening the edges. A pain I know, but this is something that needs to be done! Usually new boards come factory waxed and sharpened and will last approximately a weeks worth of riding before needing to be serviced again. This can be done at a shop (we service boards also) or you can do it yourself! Find out in how to wax your board article or a video for guys here, Female riders click here instead (You will understand why).
One thing you need to take into account when choosing snowboard bindings is the higher the price, the more lightweight, stronger, more pretty and better performance they will be. Although it is possible to pick up a cheap pair, we recommend spending at least over £100-130 to get a good quality pair that you won’t grow out of. With Bindings there are a few things you want to look out for and keep in mind when choosing them:
Mounting System – Standard vs EST
So far there are two ways to attach your bindings to your board; the EST Channel which is a Burton design currently specific to their boards.Then there’s the traditional disk and bolt system that bolts straight into the integrated screw holes on the board. The EST rail system is becoming increasingly more popular as it is often easier to use and offers better precision when adjusting your stance and positioning. The EST also offers a better performance contact to the board as it allows the board to flex more freely unlike the standard binding as it is bolted as one lump into the core of the board offering less flexibility. This is not to put the classic disk and bolt down, it is still an effective system and still remains a very popular choice. Burton also offer a Re:Flex Binding which is more flexible than the standard original Binding making it a half way house between the two. Other snowboard brands also have low impact or increased flexibility based Bindings also. More bindings are becoming cross compatible as the industry progresses, however be sure to check the binding system required on your board before purchasing any!
When it comes to the size of your bindings, its worth checking the brands sizing guide as most are different. Usually bindings collaborate with the widths of boards so the same sizes apply however in Small (UK 8 and under), Medium (UK 8 – 10) and Large (UK 11+). Again you don’t want a binding that is too big for your boot or board or you will end up catching your heel and toe in the snow when you turn! Also some boots are bigger than others the same size so you have to take into consideration the boot size the most. You want a snug fit and not to have too much overhanging the front. Most bindings have a size range and can be adjusted to centre the foot over the middle of the board.
Step-Ins and Flow-Style/Quick entry
Step ins work in a similar way ski boots do, simply step into the binding and it will lock you in automatically without the faff of bending over and messing around with the straps. These however present a few disadvantages, as they are an older design they have been found to be pretty weighty and a common fault with this design in particular is the clipping mechanism can clog and jam with ice. Also when the boots go soft from use you generally have to change out the boot and binding. These systems are gradually phasing out as all the major snowboard brands have moved forward with different solutions.
Flow-Style or Quick entry bindings are a more advanced concept designed to simplify the strapping in, strapping out process. The way these work is a lever on the back of the binding releases a cable constructing the binding allowing the back to fall and your boot to slide in or out of the straps. This binding is ideal for Snowkiting as it allows quick and easy access that can be done up with one hand rather than attempting to tighten up for straps. One disadvantage to this type is the binding in and out whilst in deep powder as it’s not as easy as standard straps. But often you would be the first guy off from your group down the piste while the others are binding in! So it’s a choice of your ideal style.
Manufacturers usually give a flex rating ranging from 1- 10, 1 being the most flexible and 10 being super stiff. The bottom line in regards to flexibility is the more flex, the more you go down into freestyle, rail riding and jumping as they offer greater weight distribution and manoeuvrability on the board to tweak that grab out. The stiffer bindings are for more responsive and free ride, speed and powder riders who are looking for a little more aggression and power in their turns as they cruise or bomb it down steep slopes. In regards to a middle category (a mid flex rating of 4 – 6), this would be your all mountain binding to use anywhere for anything!
Choosing a Snowboard Summary
We hope this guide has given you some insight into how to choose your snowboard and bindings but it is “just a guide” and is no substitute to experience for yourself riding and getting personal advise in the shop to find your perfect board. Our snowboard test team have ridden every board in the shop on board tests and are varying abilities of riding so if you are unsure of what to go for please pop in or give us a call and we can advise some boards to think about and also best bindings to get the most from those boards. We are always happy to assist you getting the shred stick of your dreams!