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Selecting a Snowboard

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Selecting A Snowboard

This Article was written and contributed by ABC-of-Snowboarding: The Snowboard Info Portal 

Buying a snowboard is not as easy as it might seem and the main question should certainly not be: 'How will this cool board look with the rest of my gear?'. You need to know quite a few things about yourself, about snowboards and about riding styles before you can choose a board that will fit you and your riding style. This guide will help you through the basics.

A Detailed Look At Snowboards

Before you can learn snowboarding you will first need to learn about its primary piece of equipment: the Snowboard. You will need to know what a snowboard consists of and what the different elements are before you can choose which snowboard is best for you and how you should use your snowboard. In this section you will learn that snowboards now-a-days are highly technical feats of engineering. If you have a snowboard yourself make sure to identify the following elements:

Snowboarder

Base

The snowboard's base is the Bottom side of the snowboard or the part of the board that touches the snow. Most snowboard bases are made from a polyethylene called P-Tex. These bases are made in one of two ways: sintered or extruded. Extruded bases are melted and cut to shape. Sintered bases are ground into powder, heated, pressed and sliced into shape. 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 board on a budget, an extruded model will do. Even better than sintered P-Tex base is a graphite base. They hold wax even better and run even faster. Graphite basis are always deep black and are mostly found on fast racing boards.

Camber

Camber is the amount of space beneath the center of a snowboard when it lays on a flat surface and its weight rests on the tip and tail.  In other words, 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 board puts at the nose and tail. A Flat camber indicates a board may spin easily, which can be good for certain freestyle moves. In a used board, however, it may also be a sign that the board is worn out. In most new boards you want a slightly springy camber, which helps stabilize the board at higher speeds and on harder snow.  It also makes it easier to turn the snowboard.


Snowboarder

Contact Points

Contact Points are the points at which the board contacts the snow without the pressure of the rider being displaced on the board. This is also called the board's wheel base. The contact points can be found by placing the board on a smooth, flat surface then slide a piece of paper under the center of the snowboard, slide it toward the nose or tail until it stops.

Edge

Edge refers to the metal edge of the snowboard. The toe edge is the edge at the toeside of the snowboard. The heel edge is the edge at the heel side of the snowboard.

Effective Edge

The length of the metal edge on the snowboard which touches the snow, known as the edge and is used to turn the snowboard.  Therefore, it does not include the edge of the tip or tail. 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, and controllable ride; a shorter effective edge makes for a looser, and more easily turning board.

Sidecut Radius

Sidecut Radius is the measurement of how deeply or shallowly the boards cut is from the nose of the board to the waist (or middle of the board). This is what helps the board turn. The smaller the sidecut radius the tighter you will be able to turn. A board with a larger sidecut will make big arching turns. It is the radius of a circle that makes the hourglass shape of the snowboard and thus how it is defined and measured. It works in conjunction with the running length of the snowboard.

Flex Point

The flex point is located between the two bindings and is the point where the board begins or ends its flex and allows for sidecut radius contact.

Nose/Tip

The nose or tip is the front end of the snowboard. If your snowboard has a similar front and back side then the side that is turned up higher is usually the nose. A higher nose/tip is needed for higher speed alpine riding as you will need to keep your snowboard from digging itself into the snow. Alpine boards often have a pointier nose also.

Nose/Tip Length

Length of board from the widest part of the board's nose to the tip of the nose.

Nose/Tip Width

The widest part of the board measured across the front tip or nose area of the board.

Overall Length

Overall Length is measured from the tip of the board to the tail and is generally expressed in Centimeters (cm).

Stomp Pad

A stomp pad or nonskid pad is a rubber mat that you can stick on top of your snowboard next to your backfoot binding. It is used when you need to slide with only your front foot bound to your snowboard, for instance when you are exiting a lift. Without a stomp pad you could slide off your board, catch the snow with your back foot and pull your legs apart, which could be extremely painful.

Click here to view our current stomp pad selection

Tail

The rear end of the snowboard, which is opposite of the nose/tip. Often the tail is flatter than the tip and is more squarely cut. Some alpine boards have a split in the tail to give more turning power and coordination in high speed turns. Freestyle boards will often have similar tips and noses to make it easier to ride "fakie" (with the front foot in the back).

Tail Length

The length of board from the widest part of the board's tail to the tip of the tail is referred to as the tail length.

Tail Width

The widest part of the board measured across the tail's tip or tail area of the board is the tail width.

Top/Deck

Opposite of the base, the top or deck of the board is where the bindings are mounted and the rider stands. Most boards have mounting holes in the deck where the bindings can be screwed into. Place the holes enable you to connect your bindings to your board at different angles or stances.

Waist Width

Waist width is the narrowest point of the board. This is usually the middle of the sidecut, located between the bindings. Waist width of a board should be relative to the size of your feet. Boards with a narrow waist width are quicker from edge to edge, but if your feet are size 11 or more you will most likely require a wider board.  Otherwise, your toes may hang over the edge and cause toe drag, which will slow you down.

Which Board To Buy?

There are roughly three classes to distinguish here:

In general, less expensive boards will be heavier in weight and simpler in design. As boards get more expensive they become lighter and have more design features to accommodate different styles of riding. As you progress in your snowboarding skills you will learn which features a new snowboard should have and your demands will become more specific. Beginning boarders should settle for a less expensive board that will teach them their exact needs and preferences.

What is my Skill Level?

Again there are roughly three classes to distinguish here:

  • Newbie: from total beginner to having a few days of riding experience
  • Intermediate: comfortable with common riding techniques and starting to attempt tricks
  • Advanced: comfortable with riding all pistes and off slope. Advanced tricks and skills

What is my preferred Riding Style?

Once you have evolved from a beginner to a more experienced boarder, you may want to choose a distinctive Riding Style and adjust your gear according to that choice. Again there are mainly three classes of snowboard riding styles although there are many subclasses. For more information on Riding Styles click here. That section will describe how the different Snowboarding Riding Styles work so you can make a choice. In short these are the main classes:

  • Freestyle
  • Freeride
  • Freecarve

Most boards will be in 1 of these categories. Some beginner boards might be a combination of Freestyle and Freeride. It is best to choose a board that will fit your style as soon as possible instead of learning a particular style on a combination board. Many snowboarders learn how to ride on a FreeRide/FreeStyle board and then choose one of these styles. FreeCarving is often selected by more experienced FreeRide boarders.

What Length should my Snowboard be?

Length is one of the most important characteristics of a snowboard. In general, there are a few rules:

  • For a person with average build, the board's length should reach the chin or mouth of the person when placed on the ground.  
  • Heavier riders should have longer less flexible boards
  • Lighter riders should have shorter more flexible boards
  • Freestyle riding is often done with shorter board to allow better maneuverability. Freeriding, deep snow and racing boards will be longer in size.

What Width should my Snowboard be?

  • You should make sure that your feet do not hang over the board too much. Feet that hang over the edges of a board cause Toe and Heel drag. Drag will make it difficult to carve on your edges. So riders with big feet should buy wider boards or adjust the angle of their feet. Wider boards are the most common solution.
  • Men and heavier riders will often need wider boards than women or lighter people

How flexible should my Snowboard be?

There are two kinds of flexibility:
  • Torsional Flex: how flexible the board is across its width. More torsional flex will make it easier to twist the board which is important in sharper turns.
  • Longitudinal Flex: how flexible the board is from tip to tail. More longitudinal flex will make it easier to bend the board in the length.
FreeStylers need more flexible boards for more board control and maneuverability. FreeRiders and especially FreeCarvers need stiffer boards to keep their boards under control in higher speeds. Heavier riders need stiffer boards.

How deep should the sidecut be on my Snowboard?

In general there are a couple rules:
  • The depth of the sidecut has everything to do with turning
  • A deeper sidecut makes it easier to turn, which is why beginner boards often have a deeper sidecut

Snowboard Size Chart

Below is a sizing chart to better help you choose the board with the right dimensions for you. Understand that board length is very much a personal preference and that these numbers are by no means set in stone. The lengths stated are relative recommendations for packed snow and can be increased by 3cm-9cm if you are riding in powder.

RIDER WEIGHT
(LBs)
FREERIDE BOARD LENGTH (cm)
FREESTYLE BOARD LENGTH (cm)
 70
 134
 129
 80
 137
 132
 90
 140
 135
 100
 143
 138
 110
 146
 141
 120
 149
 144
 130
 152
 147
 140
 155
 150
 150
 158
 153
 160
 161
 156
 170
 162
 157
 180
 162
 158
 190
 163
 159
 200
 163
 160
 210
 164
 161
 220
 165
 161

*If your shoe-size is a men's 12 or larger, you should consider using a double wide board. (a little wider than standard) ,though it is desirable to have your toes stick out at least half an inch from the board.



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