Buying your first snowboard?
Buying your first snowboard can be a really confusing process, but we'll walk you through it to make sure you understand all the gear you need and help you find it at the best possible price.
If you're rather just pick up a snowboard package and save the hassle of figuring out what together while getting a sweet deal,
check out the packages section.
First, you need to figure out what kind of snowboarding you're interested in. There are three basic snowboard types:
- All Mountain
Freeride snowboarding is just cruising on the mountain. You basically glide down the mountain, controlling your speed to a level you're comfortable with by carving, which just means weaving left and right down the slope to prevent picking up too much acceleration. You can go as fast or as slow as you want by carving more or less. Most people just want to freeride because it's fun and less dangerous than freestyle.
Freestyle snowboarding is like skateboarding - you do tricks by jumping onto boxes or rails, twists and turns in the halfpipe, and generally playing around in the snow. The area of a mountain designated for freestyle is called the park, which usually contains a halfpipe, boxes, rails, and ramps. Freestyle snowboards tend to be a little more flexible to give it the pop necessary to initiate a jump, but they are not as stable when going fast and tend to not float well on powder.
All mountain snowboards are a hybrid mix of freeride and freestyle boards. In my personal opinion, all mountain boards tend to not be very good at either - as they say, jack of all trades but master of none, but the ability to transition from park to powder is pretty nice to have if you're interested in both freestyle and freeride.
Most snowboards are somewhere between the two spectrums, so every board can be used on every part of the mountain, but their suitability is just different.
Okay, so now that you've identified the style you're interested in, it's time to learn about the gear!
There are three parts to a snowboard setup:
- Snowboard (of course)
The bindings are attached to the snowboard and they are responsible for keeping your boots locked onto the board when you're riding.
Most of the time, you'll be forced to pick each part of the setup yourself. Unfortunately, not all pieces are compatible with each other (some snowboards only use some types of bindings) so it can get a little confusing.We've included a ton of information for you below, but if you're not interested in picking out each piece of gear and figuring out what goes with what, there are pre-selected packages available below. These packages tend to be cheaper than buying each piece separately so it's definitely something to consider, check them out below!
Otherwise, if you're still curious or just want to learn more, read on!
Choosing Your Snowboard
The qualities you're looking for in a snowboard consist of the following:
- Flex / Pop
- Edge Grip
- Smoothness / Butter
1. Length is the most important aspect of your snowboard and the only one you can figure out from a product description. Getting the right size board can make a huge difference in how quickly you learn and how easy it is to ride down the mountain. Snowboards are all measured in centimeters from tip to tail, so for instance a 151 means that the snowboard's length is 151 cm. The correct size should be approximately chin height, so if you are 5' 6" (167 cm) and your head is 10", then your board should be 141cm.
You can use our handy snowboard sizing chart to figure out what size is best for you.
A longer board is more stable when going at speed, but it comes at the expense of making turning easier. However, weight plays a role as well - if you weigh more than the average person of your height, you'll want to get a stiffer board or a longer board. Conversely, if you weigh less, then you should consider a more flexible board or a shorter board.
If you're interested in freestyle, it's often advisable to go a couple of cm shorter to make pinpoint turns easier. A shorter board also weighs less, giving you more airtime and control to do your tricks during a jump.
2. Weight is also important - a heavier board will be more stable but will be harder to turn. This is rarely included in the product descriptions though, mostly because the variance is quite low, so don't worry too much about it. Men's boards tend to be heavier than women's snowboards, which is why ladies should always try to go for women's boards as much as possible.
3. Flex is how flexible the snowboard is, how easily it bends. If it bends easily, it usually has more pop, which makes it easier to jump higher or initiate jumps from standstill. This is more important for freestyle boards.
4. Edge grip is what allows the snowboard to change direction, by firmly cutting through the snow or ice. Snowboards with poor grip tend to slip on ice which is bad news and results in unnecessary wipeouts. This is hard to judge based on product description though, you'll have to experiment to find your own personal preference.
5. Smoothness describes how well the snowboard glides over powdered snow. You'll often hear it referred to as buttery, which is what you want - an almost melting, slippery feeling. Pretty much all modern snowboards excel in this category nowadays so don't worry about it either.
6. Obviously, you want to look stylish so it's important to choose a snowboard whose graphics matches your personal taste. Just make sure that the topsheet is protective and stands up to wear and tear, because there are snowboards that are gorgeous but chip easily.
Choosing Your Bindings
Good bindings are very important as well - they transfer your body's motions into the board, so quality bindings make it very easy to control your snowboard.
However, some bindings are only compatible with some snowboards. Traditionally, bindings attach to snowboards via 3 screws for each foot. These are called D-holes, and they allow some modifications to your stance on the board. For instance, you can stand slightly higher up or lower down on the board, depending on where you screw in the bindings.[Photo]
Burton has proprietary technology called The Channel on some of their snowboards that only works with specific bindings. Abbreviated ICS (Infinite Channel System), it allows riders to customize their stance however they want by positioning the bindings exactly where they want it. Unfortunately, only ICS compatible bindings work with ICS snowboards. However, Burton does offer conversion kits for free that basically take a disk and allow it to slide anywhere on the Channel; this disk is then where you screw in your traditional bindings. I've written up a full explanation of the ICS Channel Conversion Kit if you want to learn more.
Choosing Your Boots
Boots don't have any compatibility issues, thankfully. You just want to pick comfortable, warm boots that are easy to get in and out of. Laces tend to be a pain to tie and untie, and come loose rather quickly - you'll want a pull style boot for the most part which you can get in and out of faster while staying tight.
Since boots will stretch over their lifetime, it's advisable to choose boots that are slightly smaller than you'd like at the beginning, but not enough to cut off circulation. Other than that, they should just be comfortable and warm!