Choosing a Snowboard
Our guide to selecting and buying a snowboard.
Most of the time people ask: What length snowboard is best for me? An often unasked, but equally important question is: What width snowboard is best for you? Both snowboard length and width factor heavily in finding and buying the correct size snowboard.
Snowboard length is measured in centimeters 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. The shorter the board is, the more manoeuvrable it will be and therefore easier to learn on.
All around intermediate to advanced snowboarders may opt for a board that comes up to between the chin and nose, making it more suitable for riding a variety of terrain all over the mountain. Snowboarders who are heavy for their height can stay within these guidelines, but should look for boards that have a stiffer flex. Lighter riders will need snowboards with a softer flex. Also, remember that these are general guidelines - personal preference can also strongly sway your decision of what length snowboard to buy.
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 in your snowboarding position on the board, 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.
Base - Bottom of the snowboard, which slides on 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.
Camber - 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. A flat camber indicates a board that is more suited to either freestyle of powder. Many boards now use a variety of 'rockered' shapes, which aim to make a board perform both on and off the groomed pistes.
Effective Edge - The length of metal edge on the snowboard which touches the snow; it is the effective part which is used to make a turn. The effective edge is in contact with the snow when the board is in a carved turn. A longer effective edge makes for a more stable, controlled ride; a shorter effective edge makes for an easier turning snowboard.
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 fully symmetrical freestyle board this may 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. Tail width is the widest part of the snowboard measured across the tail area of the board.
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. Snowboards with narrow waist width are quicker from edge to edge, but if your feet are size 11 or more you will most likely have to get a wider board.
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 - The top side of the snowboard is where the bindings are mounted, and the large surface area 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 (outer skin) 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)
fibreglass or epoxy
wood or foam core
more glass or epoxy
steel inserts to attach the bindings
Snowboard flex pattern
How (and where) the snowboard bends. Modern technology produces snowboards that are soft in flex tip to tail, but torsionally stiff (twisting on the longitudinal axis). Stiff torsional flex allows a board to grip ice and hard snow; soft torsional flex makes a snowboard more "forgiving," but less responsive. Carving snowboards are built with fairly firm flex and stiff torsion; freestyle snowboards are softer. Freeride snowboards are somewhere in between.
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.