Choosing a snowboard for beginners can be challenging given that there are many different types of snowboards on the market today. Snowboards come in different shapes, camber profiles, materials and other technical features that make the board perform in specific ways. It is a good idea to have some knowledge on what types of boards will fit your skill level and riding style before you purchase. Here are some things to consider when choosing your first snowboard.
In general, there are boards that excel on park features such as boxes and rails. Other boards are more oriented to landing jumps and riding pipe, and there are also boards that are geared for all-around riding and steep terrain. A good beginner snowboard will have features that allow you to try out different types of terrain. Manufacturers will clearly describe on the sales sticker which type of terrain(s) the board is designed for. Also ask the staff at your snowboard shop what you they have to offer- local shops have the best people for this.
So let’s look at sizing, flex and shape.
- Length – As a general rule your first board should stand somewhere between your collarbone and chin. This is a little shorter than normal but that is OK because it will be easier to work with and control.
- Width – Ideally, you want no more than an inch and a half of your boot to hang over the front and back edge of your board. More than that, and you risk having your boot toe and heel dig into the snow as you ride and that is not good. If you wear a size 11 boot or smaller, you should do fine on a board with a 25cm width or less. If you have a larger boot you may need to be on mid-wide or wide board- these boards can usually range up to 28cm wide.
- Camber Profile – There are four basic camber profiles to consider: regular camber, flat, rocker and hybrid (which is a combination of camber and rocker). Regular camber can be tougher to learn on because of the extra effort it takes to turn. Flat, rocker and some hybrid boards are easier to learn on because they allow you to have greater leverage and control over your board.
- Flex – A softer flexing board make it easier to turn at slower speeds. This is great because it gives you time to really feel what the board is doing and how it reacts to your input as you put pressure on the edges. A stiffer board will be less forgiving and if you make a mistake you will be more likely to catch an edge and fall.
- Shape –There are basically three shapes for snowboards: twin, directional (and directional twin) and tapered. A twin shape is the easiest to learn on since the sidecut radius is evenly consistent for the entire length of the board. The sidecut is also centered in the exact middle of the board and the insert packs (where the bindings go) are also centered. This allows the nose and tail to be the same length giving the board a more predictable ride. On directional boards, the side cut is set back along with the insert packs making the nose longer than the tail. This is a great design for stiffer boards made for steeper terrain. It is more stable when going really fast. The sidecut radius on a directional board can also be transitional (deeper at one end) which adds to the performance of the board but can make turn intitiation unpredictable for a beginner. A directional twin is normally a twin board with set back insert packs. A tapered board has a much longer and wider nose than tail with set back inserts and sidecut. Tapered boards are specialized, and designed for deep snow so that the nose floats up on top instead of sinking down- not a good choice for beginners.
So, to recap. When choosing a snowboard for a beginner look for one that:
- has a length that stands somewhere between your collar bone and chin
- has a fairly soft flex
- is either flat or has rocker between the bindings
- is wide enough to accommodate your boot size
- has a twin or directional twin shape
Stayed tuned for our next post on choosing a snowboard for park riding.