Having a snowboard that matches how you snowboard, your ability, and your size is important in making it easier to ride and improve enjoying your day on the mountain. Different factors like board length, shape, stiffness, and profile and the conditions of the mountain and where and how you ride are all factors that help determine what type of snowboard is best for you. Once you know this basic information, it’s also important to take into account your personal preferences. Not all boarders are the same and we all have our little likes and dislikes and it’s important to take those into consideration. Also, there are no rules you can only own one snowboard. Having multiple snowboards for different conditions or terrain can make your day even more enjoyable and give you variety when hitting the slopes.
In this article, I’ll try to give you as complete of an overview on different types of snowboards and the differences between them and I’ll explain some of the terminology used. Hopefully this information will help you make a better choice when you buy your next snowboard. Also, be sure to check out the ZepicDealFinder to not only help you find the right snowboard for you, but also at the best price. PowderCam’s ZepicDealFinder tool scans many of the biggest retailers on the internet to help you find the best deal.
Snowboard Features and Definitions
Let’s start by going through how snowboards are different and the definitions used to describe the snowboards.
The shape of the snowboard is how the board curves where and by how much. The shape has an effect on how the snowboard maneuvers and how well it reacts to different terrain. The basic terms are:
- Tip Width - The width at the widest point of the tip of the board.
- Tail Width - The width at the widest point of the tail of the board.
- Waist Width - The width of the snowboard at its narrowest point in the middle.
- Length – The total length of the snowboard from tip to tail.
With the various widths and length, there are four basics shapes of snowboards: directional, true twin, twin directional and tapered.
Directional boards are designed to primarily go in one direction where the tip is usually in front while going down the mountain. This is a common shape with freeride and all mountain snowboards. These types of boards will have a longer nose and the tip width will be wider than the tail width. Directional boards typically have a tail that is stiffer then the tip giving a smoother ride. Binding inserts are also set back more towards the tail so riders have a better weight distribution for a fast and powerful ride.
True Twin Shape
A True Twin (or twin tip) shape is a completely symmetrical snowboard where the tip width and the tail width are the same measurement and flex pattern. This often exists in freestyle snowboards so riders can go in either direction on terrain parks and pipes. The bindings are mounted in the center of the snowboard.
Directional Twin Shape
A twin directional snowboard is a combination of twin and directional snowboards. It has the same symmetrical shape in the tip and tail, but the core construction of the snowboard will be softer on the tip and stiffer on the tail. This is a common shape on all-mountain and freestyle terrain snowboards. Riders can ride in either direction without noticing any negative effects. Typically, the binding inserts are set back closer to the tail.
A tapered board is shaped like a directional shape but has a wider nose. This design is for powder riding where the wide nose will allow for better float in powder.
Snowboard Profile (Camber/Rocker/Flat)
The profile is the side view of the snowboard. The profile will have any combination of rocker, camber, and flat. Each of these combinations offer different pros and cons.
Just like it sounds, a flat snowboard touches the ground at the center of the snowboard when there is no one on it. This is common with snowboards. A flat snowboard enables quick turns and maximum feel while increasing float.
Camber is a bow that runs across the snowboard when no one is on the snowboard. When the rider is on the snowboard, it flattens out and puts tension at certain points on the snowboard. This tension will cause the snowboard to maintain contact on the snow giving the rider more stability on turns and giving a livelier feel. Experienced, speed-oriented riders favor cambered boards.
Rocker (also called reversed camber) refers to the ends of the snowboard and if they are turned up. You can have a Tip Rocker where the front of the snowboard curves up or a tail rocker where the back of the snowboard curves up. Rocker offers improved flotation in powder and offers greater maneuverability by making it easier to initiate a turn. This makes rocker common with powder and park and pipe snowboards. Freestyle riders tend to like rocker boards because they won’t catch edges on rails, backcountry riders like them because they float over powder, and beginners like them because they roll from edge to edge easier.
Many companies experiment with different combinations of camber and rocker on a snowboard. There are so many combinations that it really is best to experiment by borrowing or renting different boards to see what you preference is. Here are a few examples :
The effective edge of a snowboard is the length of the side that makes contact with the snow while the board is on edge. A longer effective edge adds stability and a shorter effective edge makes your snowboard feel looser and easier to turn.
A snowboard’s contact points are the points on the edge of a cambered snowboard towards the tip and tail on either side of your board that make contact with the snow.
The sidecut radius of a snowboard is the radius your board would create if the curve of the edge was extended out into a complete circle. The smaller this number is, the sharper a snowboard can turn and spin. Freestyle riders will prefer a smaller sidecut while Powder riders will prefer a larger cut which allows for more surface area that will float over powder better and provide more stability for higher speeds.
Different companies have come up with different technology with sidecut. Lib Tech, GNU and Roxy snowboards offer Magne-Traction™, which is a serrated edge technology. Serrated edges are designed to cut into the snow like a knife and give the rider more edge hold and control. Burton and DC have created different technologies that are intended to produce different types of sidecut to improve contact points on the snow and product a better grip.
Flex of the snowboard is simply how flexible it is. Flex ratings range from 0 to 10, with 0 being softest and 10 being the stiffest. Typically, freestyle riders and beginners should look at boards with a softer flex rating since these types of boards are easier to turn and handle. Riders who enjoy a more buttery feel on slow runs, may enjoy this flex also. All mountain riders typically prefer a mid-range flex for more versatility. A stiff board is more stable and therefore is best for hi-speeds or just advanced riders who desire the stability. Someone who likes to ride in a halfpipe will also prefer a stiffer flex. Note that flex can vary through the board. For example, a tip could be soft and the middle could be stiffer. Also, flex can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Side walls are the vertical area on a board between the base and top. By having better construction and materials, the edge and snowboard will perform better and last longer. The construction method and the material used varies for side walls. Construction varies in how they hold the board together and protect the edges of the core from damage.
- CAP construction – When the top sheet of the board wraps over the edge of the board and there is no side wall. This is better in icy or hard packed snow. It is more durable but it is difficult to repair if it gets damaged.
- Sandwich construction – This is when an epoxy is used to cover the core for protection. This is more common in snowboards since it is easier to manufacture, cheaper to make, and easier to repair.
- Half-Cap construction – Combines CAP and Sandwich construction.
There are basically two types of polyethylene used to make the base in snowboards:
- Extruded - These bases are less expensive, requires less maintenance and waxing, are easy to repair, but sometimes vulnerable to warping. This type of base is good for freestyle riders since going on boxes and rails will abuse the snowboards and will in-turn require more repair. Also, this is better for beginners as well.
- Sintered – These bases are faster, stronger, lighter and more durable. But, they are more expensive and require more maintenance than an extruded base. A Sintered base is good for boarders who ride the half-pipe, go on backcountry, or ride the powder.
Also, on most boards a number will be assigned to the base. This number indicates the amount of pores in a square inch with a range of 500 to 8,000. The higher the number the faster the base will be, but will also require more waxing.
Mounting Binding System
Different snowboards will have different methods (systems) of how the bindings attach to the board. The different systems based on hole-patterns for the threaded metal insert holes that the binding attaches to on the board. This is where personal preference on your stance comes into play. You’ll need to make sure that the hole pattern can give you the stance you’ll prefer and you’ll want to make sure that if you want to put a particular type of binding on the snowboard, that it can fit. Below are the different kinds of binding systems:
- 4 X 4 - Common on many boards. This is a basic hole-pattern in a 4×4 arrangement. The 4×4 hole-pattern means that the inserts are spaced an equal four centimeters apart vertically and horizontally from one and other. This works with many bindings and it offers a moderate number of different stances.
- 2 X 4 – Offers more options than the 4×4 hole-pattern by offering more holes placed vertically on the board, which are all spaced an equal two centimeters apart. This method is found on the majority of boards today and works with almost all binding disc designs.
- Burton 3D – This is only found on Burton boards. It is a 3D hole-pattern that offers numerous stance options. This setup will require to purchase specific Burton bindings with the proper disc to fit properly. Some companies do offer Burton compatible binding inserts
- Channel Sliding Insert - Some companies have a sliding insert system which attempts to allow the most stance options possible. With this, riders can make fine adjustments to customize their stance. This requires specific bindings to fit the system.
SELECTING YOUR SNOWBOARD
Selecting the correct snowboard involves just a few steps including identifying: type of snowboard for the terrain type, ability level, the rider’s height, boot size, weight, and personal preferences. Let’s look at each of these.
Types of Snowboards (Terrain Type)
Manufacturers design snowboards for how riders will use the snowboard and the terrain they will ride on. Each type will have particular shapes, sidecuts, and flex that will make it easier to ride on that particular terrain. So, the first question you need to ask is where do you ride now and how you want to ride in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the different types of snowboards:
All-mountain snowboards are designed to work well in various snow conditions and terrain. This is the most popular type of snowboard because of the versatility. If you are a beginner, this is a good choice. But, even if you are more experienced and you like to hit the terrain park, ride the half-pipe, or just take in some long groomers, this type of snowboard is a great choice. Because these are built to handle various terrain, all-mountain snowboards will vary in shapes and profiles. So, make sure you are familiar with the definitions of these to pinpoint what combination will work best for you.
Freestyle snowboards are designed for riders who like to spend the majority of their days in the terrain park doing rails, jibs, wall rides, and anything else that comes their way. Freestyle boards often feature a true twin shape to allow going in either direction. They also tend to be shorter in length and have more flex than other boards to allow greater control and maneuverability. The base also tends to be built to be more durable due to the constant punishment in the terrain park. Freestyle boards will have various profiles.
Freeride snowboards are designed for the rider who spends most of the day off groomed runs and in varied terrain. These boards typically have a stiffer flex for stability and will have a directional shape for riding in one direction. This is also is a good board for back country. The boards will be on the longer end of the range to make it easier to stay on top of the snow.
As the name says, powder snowboards are for riders who love to ride in deep powder. Powder boards will have a wider nose and a tapered narrower tail. You will often find these boards with rocker to help the board float on top of the snow. The binding inserts tend to be set back to help the rider float the tip of the board.
A splitboard is a special kind of board built specifically for the backcountry rider. Splitboards are made from two separate pieces. When attached, they act like a snowboard. When they are detached, they create two skis that can be used to climb up and through various terrain. Special bindings are required for a splitboard.
Since snowboards will vary greatly in shape, flex, construction, materials, and price, it’s important that you properly match your ability level to the type of snowboard. This can make the difference between enjoying your day on the slopes and finding it difficult. The different levels are basic: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
- Beginner – This is someone who is starting out and is still learning to link turns. These boards will tend to have a softer flex to make turning easier and give the rider more control. If you are a beginner, you will also want a board that is on the lower range of the length for your height and weight. This also will give you more control and by having less area of the board on the snow, the board will go slower allowing you more time to work on your control.
- Intermediate – This is someone who has mastered the basics and is ready to move on to a particular style of riding. Therefore, these riders will want to key on the snowboard type first. If you are unsure, get an all-mountain board.
- Advanced – These are riders who have solid technique in the style of riding they have been working on. At this stage, these riders are looking to master the details and make adjustments for their personal preferences for sidecut, profile shape, and construction. These type of riders should try different types of boards (rent or borrow) to find a perfect match.
Size of the Snowboard
The size of the snowboard that you should get depends on the following: height, weight, ability, and preference.
Height is the most important factor in selecting the snowboard length. In general, the snowboard should come up between your shoulder and your nose. The chart below will give you the general guideline for a range. You can also use the following formula to get a specific number for your board length:
Your Height (in inches) X 2.54 X 0.88 = Your Recommended Board Length
Whether you use the formula or the chart, this is just a starting point. Once you know the range of size for the snowboard based on the rider’s height, you should adjust the length based on the following:
- Weight – In general, riders who are lighter should go with a shorter board and heavier riders should go with a longer board.
- Ability/Riding Style – In general, beginners should go with a shorter board since shorter boards are easier to control. But, more advance snowboarders should base length adjustments more on preference and riding style. Freestyle riders will tend to go on the shorter end of the range for more control in the terrain parks. Freeriders will tend to go with longer snowboards for stability and speed.
Snowboard Size Chart
|Riders Height (Ft/in)||Snowboard Size (cm)|
Width (Boot Size)
A key measurement when selecting a snowboard is the waist width. This width should correspond directly to your boot size. If your snowboard is too narrow, your boot will drag on the snow during your turns causing you to lose control on your edge. If the width is too large, it will be harder to control turns. Basically, the snowboard boots should only slightly hang over the edges of your board by about ½ of an inch. The chart below provides a guideline.
Snowboard Width and Boot Size Chart
|Boot Size (US Men’s)||less than 7||8-9.5||10-11.5||11.5 and higher|
|Boot Size (US Women`s)||5-9||9.5-11||11.5+||13+|
|Board Waist Width (mm)||235-245||246-254||255-259||260+|
|Snowboard Width||Narrow / Women`s||Regular||Mid-Wide||Wide|
Since women’s bodies and turn mechanics are different than men, women’s snowboards tend to have narrower waist widths, thinner profiles and softer flexes. While it is acceptable to use a man’s snowboard, women’s snowboard will fit better and in turn ride better by giving better edge control and maneuverability. Tall women with a boot size of 9 or higher, may want to consider a man’s board to get proper sizing.
With children’s snowboards, the same rules as adult snowboards apply. You want the correct length based on height, weight, and ability. You should never get a snowboard that children can grow into or one that is too small. Having a board that is not properly sized can make it more difficult to maneuver and thus make it more difficult to learn and easier to get hurt. With the correct board, children will learn more quickly and boarding will be more enjoyable.
Kids’ Snowboard Size Chart
|Rider Weight (lbs)||Length (cm)|
|30-60||under 100 cm|
Everyone is different and we all have different preferences. Snowboarding is no different. You can take two boarders who like terrain parks and have freestyle snowboards. But, one may prefer a stiff flex and the other may prefer a soft flex. That’s all good. Once you get more comfortable on a board and understand where and how you ride, you want to get familiar with the different features on snowboards and what they do to your ride. Whether it’s a particular shape, flex, binding system, or something else, it’s all good.
The construction of a snowboard affects the durability of the snowboard and how it rides. Like anything else that is manufactured, better materials will improve the quality but will typically be more expensive. So, naturally you need to consider how much you will be snowboarding and what features you are willing to pay for. The main areas of construction are: core, fiberglass, and base.
- Core - Ideally you want a core to be light and strong. The core has a large effect on the stiffness. Wood cores are in about 85% of snowboards. There are many variations in how wood cores are constructed. Higher quality snowboards will use several layers of wood for strength. The wood core can also be engineered with the wood grain running in different directions in different areas of the core for added strength and improved edge grip. There are also bamboo cores. Bamboo is very strong and it is one of and lightest woods available. But, it is more expensive. There are also other cores made out of synthetic materials like honeycomb, aluminum or fiber base.
- Fiberglass - Snowboards with a single layer of fiberglass weaved in a single direction are going to be softer and have more flex. Boards with fiberglass laid in multiple angles will offer a stiffer flex and increase the durability of the snowboard. There are also different qualities of fiberglass, and the higher the quality the lighter weight it will be.
- Base - There are two types of bases: extruded and sintered. Extruded bases are less expensive, low maintenance and relatively easy to repair, but sometimes vulnerable to warping. Sintered bases are faster, stronger, lighter and more durable, but more expensive and require waxing.
There are a number of factors that go into selecting the right snowboard for you. Hopefully, this article describes different features of snowboards and which ones might be good for you. By selecting the correct board for the terrain you’ll be riding, your ability, height, weight, and adjusting the size and features based on your preferences, you’ll be able to narrow down the vast options of snowboards available. Along with this information, take a look at ZepicDealFinder where we give you the power to easily scan many of the largest ski equipment and snowboard retailers to find the best deal on the ski or snowboard equipment you are looking for.