Choosing a Snowboard
Our guide to selecting and buying a snowboard.
When looking for the snowboard best for you, there are 3 main factors.
The shorter the board is, the more manoeuvrable it will be and therefore easier to learn on. The longer the board, the more suitable it’ll be for riding a variety of terrain all over the mountain.
Snowboard length is measured in centimetres and is sometimes abbreviated to just the last two digits. Hence, a 'Burton Custom 56' is a snowboard made by Burton that measures 156cm from tip to tail. Kids' snowboards run as short as 100cm and race/powder snowboards can be upwards of 180cm. For most riders, a board should come up to just below the chin. Intermediate to advanced snowboarders may opt for a board that comes up to between the chin and nose, the extra length being more stable and All-Mountain capable.
While length has some room for personal preference, snowboard width is directly tied to your foot size. Snowboarders with small feet need narrow snowboards; likewise, snowboarders with big feet need wide snowboards. Snowboard width is measured in either cm or mm and can be found in the snowboard's specifications under waist width. The best way to find the correct snowboard width is to stand on a board that is flat on the ground. When standing, the toes and heels of your boots should be flush or slightly over the edges of the snowboard. If you have too much 'overhang' you'll experience 'toe drag', if the board is too wide you'll struggle to apply pressure through the edges.
This is simply how the board bends. Stiff flex allows a board to grip ice and hard snow at speed; soft torsional flex makes a snowboard more "forgiving," but less responsive. Manufacturers do differ slightly but will all give the board a rating.
The flex ratings are done on a 1-10 scale:
• 1-2 translates to soft flex
• 3-4 means medium-to-soft flex
• 5-6 means medium flex
• 7-8 means medium-to-stiff flex; and
• 9-10 means stiff flex
This is where the riders weight and stature come into the equation. Snowboarders who are heavy for their height can stay within the length+width guidelines, but should look for boards that have a stiffer flex. Lighter riders will need snowboards with a softer flex.
Taking Length+Width+Flex into account should point you towards a good one board quiver.
Base - This is the bottom of the snowboard, that’s in contact with the snow. Snowboard bases are made in one of two ways: sintered or extruded. A sintered base is superior - it's more durable, faster and holds wax better than an extruded base. It's also more expensive and difficult to repair. If you're looking for high performance, go with a sintered base; for a snowboard on a budget, an extruded model will do.
Profile/Bend - This is the gentle arch the board makes when you rest it on a flat surface. It's closely related to flex: the higher the camber, the more pressure the snowboard puts at the nose and tail and the more control and response you’ll get. A flat camber, is exactly that - flat. It’s a board profile that is more suited to either freestyle of powder, as its less ‘catchy’. Many boards now use a variety of rockered shapes, which aim to make a board perform both on and off the groomed pistes by raising the tips for more float.
Edge - The length of metal running along the side of the board; it is what lets the board bite the snow when turning.
Flex Point - The flex point is located between the two bindings and is the point where the snowboard begins or ends its flex and allows for sidecut radius contact.
Nose - The front end, or 'tip' of the snowboard. The nose length is the length of snowboard from the widest part of the board's nose to the tip of the nose, while the nose width is the widest part of the snowboard measured across the front tip or nose area of the board.
Tail - The rear end, or 'tail' of the board, though in a ‘twin’ freestyle board this’ll be exactly the same as the nose. Tail length is the length of the snowboard from the widest part of the board's tail to the tip of the tail.
Waist width - The narrowest point of the snowboard, in the middle between the bindings. Waist width of a snowboard should be relative to the size of your feet.
Sidecut radius - This is the measurement of how deep or shallow the curve of the snowboard's edge is, from nose to waist to tail. The smaller the sidecut radius the tighter you'll be able to turn. A snowboard with a larger sidecut will make big arching turns.
Top sheet - The top of the snowboard is where the bindings are mounted, and is often used for striking and detailed graphics.
Usually made of wood or foam, a snowboard's core should be light, resilient and durable. Some snowboard designers say that a good wood core retains its liveliness and camber longer, but this feature alone shouldn't lead you to choose one snowboard over another.
There are two main types of construction; cap and sandwich. The topsheet on a cap snowboard extends to the edges. On a sandwich snowboard the topsheet is flat, with the armor plating on the sides provided by separate sidewalls.
While both types of construction have their merits, it's the guts of the snowboard, the materials under the skin, that make the biggest difference.
A snowboard consists of the following (from the base up):
• plastic base, (P-tex)
• metal edges
• fibreglass or epoxy
• wood or foam core
• more glass or epoxy
• steel inserts to attach the bindings
There are two kinds; partial steel edges that run only along the sides of the snowboard, ending at the nose and tail, and edges that wrap all the way around both ends of the snowboard.
The major structural component of a snowboard. Different weaves and placement of fibreglass within a snowboard can influence its flex pattern, strength and weight. All snowboards contain "unidirectional" glass fabric (with most of the fibres running the length of the snowboard). Torsionally stiff snowboards use additional layers with the fibres running diagonally. Any layer may be reinforced with carbon fiber or Kevlar, which can help reduce the snowboard's weight while improving its strength.