There is a LOT of high tech snowboarding gear on the market. How much do you really need? Do you need the latest space age materials snowboard that sells for $2600? Do you need the most expensive Gore-Tex Pro shell? Do you need a full carbon helmet for $300? No…you don’t. But would some of those things be nice to have? Perhaps.
Lib Tech’s Cygnus X1 BTX snowboard
A good rider can ride anything. As seen on Signal Snowboards’ feature Every Third Thursday last year, these guys can snowboard with 2” x 4”s strapped to their feet. And for years people learned to ride on little more than sleds with blocks and a string.
So why all of the fancy, expensive stuff on the market today? Like any other industry, snowboarding is changing and improving with the times and with new materials and new manufacturing methods and new tech. There are innovations constantly happening in the industry and some of it is for the better and some of it is just to push the limits.
So what do you really need?
As a beginner snowboarder you will barely know the difference between a plywood deck and a carbon board with a sintered base. But some things will make learning to ride easier and more enjoyable. For quite some time, camber boards were the only option out there. So that’s what people learned on. They caught edges and face planted all over the mountain. But camber boards lead to better form because they are less forgiving and you just can’t get away with cheating in the way you ride. Now there are rocker boards which lift the contact points off of the snow, eliminating a lot of edge catches and making them more forgiving and easier to turn.
A carbon board will not be fun as you start out either. They are very stiff and designed for expert riders on very steep, technical terrain. So if you’re riding lines with Jeremy Jones, a carbon board might be a good option for you…short of that, it’s probably more board than you need.
As you start to improve, you may really begin to feel the differences in equipment. You can start to appreciate some of the benefits of more expensive boards. You might notice and prefer sintered bases, hybrid profiles, and more “poppy” core materials. More expensive equipment might start to make some sense. As you pin down the type of riding you want to do, a board made especially for that could really begin to benefit you (for instance a park board versus a powder board). You might start to appreciate the way the “king pin” system of the NOW bindings transfers energy directly to your board. And that’s great, enjoy all of your new features, you paid for them. Not saying that’s a bad thing. I personally put a lot of stock in my equipment and credit my new board for my improved riding more than I credit myself. I am admittedly a gear junkie…I’m not judging.
If you are spending a lot of time in the backcountry it becomes more important to have good gear. Carbon is typically lighter and carrying less weight up a mountain is a good thing. Gore-Tex pro is more waterproof and breathable than a 10K/10K shell and you never know what you could get caught in and you will definitely feel the benefits from clothing that breathes well as you exert yourself trekking up the mountain and then start to freeze as you transition over your splitboard from touring to riding mode in preparation for the ride down.
You might find that a $300 helmet with MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System which represents a new direction in helmet design) technology could very well be worth the extra money if you take a good hit to the head. But a $100 Bern helmet will go a long way to protecting you too and is a much more affordable choice.
It’s true, you might enjoy your experiences a little more with some of this fancy equipment, and your local snowboard shop should be able to hook you up with enough gear to help you have fun and get the most out of your riding, while sparing you a whole lot of tech and expense that you don’t need.
The other day we rode the lift with a couple donning ancient gear that was falling apart. They got off the lift, strapped in and took off! They were incredible riders. Clearly they didn’t need anything fancy. Perhaps they would take pleasure in riding some new, high tech gear, or maybe they would stay warmer or drier in some space age material jacket and pants, but at the end of the day, they were ripping out there and having a blast doing it! Isn’t that what it’s all about?
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