The snow is falling in the mountains and the ski areas will be opening in the weeks ahead. If you’re buying snowboard gear for the first time it may be tempting to buy older used equipment or equipment. You will often see that rental equipment at ski areas has been used over and over again for a long period. The edges of the snowboards may be dulled and/or damaged. The boots may be packed out or the seams are bursting making them impossible to give proper support. I have even been to ski areas where they are still using click in set ups on their boards- a technology that came and went in the nineties.
These same issues often plague used and out dated snowboard gear. Normally this is not a huge problem if you have been riding for a time and simply want to try something different as a change of pace or for whatever reason. But if you are new to snowboarding or still learning then worn and outdated equipment will probably have a considerably negative effect on your riding. Let’s look at boards, boots and bindings and some of the new advancements over the last several years that will help progress as a rider just getting into the sport.
Snowboards have evolved a lot over the last 35+ years. In the beginning you had strictly flat boards with enormous noses and short, stubby tails or tails that had a V notch (swallowtail). Then came the age of camber, which is an upward bow in the middle of the board that mimicked the technology that the ski industry developed at an earlier time.
Camber is still very present in today’s snowboard industry because it has proven to offer a great amount of edgehold, stability and pop. But for a good number of years now rocker, or zero camber, has taken over the better part what is being offered on the snowboard market. The main reason is that it is easier to turn your board and to learn new tricks on a board that doesn’t have camber.
Rocker is a better choice for most folks who just want to get out once in a while with their friends and have some easy fun. It takes less effort to learn to turn a board that has some rocker in it and there is less chance of catching an edge and taking a smack down. A lot of boards these days combine some combination of rocker and camber to give you the best of both worlds.
Boots are extremely important to get right when you buying your first set up. Your boots needs to be snug enough so that your feet can mold themselves into and your heel doesn’t lift out of the heel pocket. But they shouldn’t be tight to the point where your toes are crunched up. They should have the right flex and stiffness in specific areas so that you can move freely but also have the support you need to make sure you can turn your board correctly and not twist your ankles.
Today, boots are made to accommodate a wide variety of riding styles and levels. Beginners can get durable, well made boots that give them enough flex for added mobility and feel warm and comfortable. At the same time they also will have good heel hold and support that allows them to progress rapidly.
Today’s bindings are so far ahead of what was available just several years ago. For a beginner, the best options are bindings that can easily be adjusted to fit your boots (think tool-less) and are easy to get in and out of. I’ll admit, most of the advancements on bindings now will be lost on beginner riders but one thing that will not be is the level of comfort and functionality they provide over older models.
Look for bindings that have a softer flexing highback and a comfortable ankle strap. The foot bed should have plenty of cushioning and adjust to the size of your boot. Some bindings have rear entry tech that allows you to buckle down with out having to use ratchets.
If you’re buying new snowboard gear the best place to be doing is at your local shop. These shops specialize in fitting the gear to the customer. There is nothing worse than spending money on new equipment that you think you are getting a deal on and when you get to the mountain ends up being more of hindrance than an asset. Your local shop will make sure that doesn’t happen.