Buying Guide for Snowboards



By Steve Kopitz

When buying a snowboard there are many things that you’ll want to consider. Luckily, we’re here to makes it easy! You’ll notice on that you are given many refinements on the left side of the screen that will aid you in choosing the perfect board for you. The purpose of this guide is to walk you through these refinements so that you are able to make a more informed decision even on your own.


The most common mistake is to buy a snowboard solely based on the looks of the board, or on the manufacturer’s brand name. Doing this means you’ll more than likely end up with a snowboard that isn’t appropriate for your skill set. If this occurs, it may actually hinder your performance rather than help it. Once you read through this guide and understand the individual refinements we are certain you will be able to make an informed decision and that you’ll be more confident with your purchase.



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Gender Ability Level
Intended Use Price
Board Width Rocker Profile
Flex Shape
Specific Terms and Features Sizing


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Let’s start out with gender. That’s an easy one right? Are mens and womens snowboards different? Absolutely! Women are obviously not built the same way as men. This of course means that women’s snowboards should be, and are built differently. Luckily, female riders now have as many options as their male counterparts when it comes to equipment selection, as well as technology that is actually specifically designed for them.


Snowboards Gender Refinement

 The major differences though come down to width, flex and weight. Women usually have smaller feet than men, meaning the waists of their boards can be made narrower, and are therefore easier to turn. The flex of the board is also generally softer so that women can properly flex the board to receive better control and response. As far as board construction is concerned, women’s snowboards are also made from lighter materials. Again, this makes the board easier to control, easier to flex, and better for board response. If you are a female rider there isn’t any reason you shouldn’t get on a women’s board.


Video Tutorial:  The difference between men's and women's snowboards




In terms of boys and girls snowboards, these are no longer just shrunken down versions of adult boards. Kids snowboards are generally built with a flex appropriate to the size of a kid as well as with technology to aid them in learning and progressing. Unlike mens and womens boards however, boys and girls boards are actually the same. Girls snowboards simply have a more feminine graphic. Kids snowboards have advanced quite a bit over the years, as more and more kids are elevating their level of riding, and many higher end kids snowboards are now available



Ability Level


The next thing to do is determine what ability level you are. Different snowboards are designed specifically to help each level of rider perform to their needs, and often the complexity of the construction increases as the level of expected performance increases. While it’s often a good idea to buy a snowboard that you will be able to progress into, you want to be careful that you do not get a board that is too advanced for your ability level. If you do, this will only make advancing your skills more difficult. On the flip side, if you get beginner board despite being a more advanced rider, you will find that the board lacks the response and performance you need hindering your progression and overall enjoyment.


Snowboard Ability Level Refinement


On, we put each board into one of five ability levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced intermediate, advanced, and expert. As you read on, you should get a good idea of what a board at each of these levels offers as well as which category you can place yourself in.


Beginner riders are typically within their first couple of seasons of riding. For many, this means trying to connect turns and basically make it down in one piece. Snowboards are this ability level are soft flexing and forgiving, to accommodate for common mistakes a new rider will generally make. These boards are not usually very complex with a simple design that will provide the confidence that new riders need.


Intermediate level riders typically have a season or two under their belt. If you are getting more and more comfortable making turns and carving, and you can generally make it through a run without catching an edge, then you probably can classify your skill level here. Intermediate riders still aren’t considered aggressive and may still be somewhat cautious, but are beginning to look for more performance in their gear and are experimenting with increased speeds, or perhaps some smaller terrain park features. Intermediate riders may not be able to take on all runs or terrain, but they are becoming more comfortable and confident with the skills they have already acquired.


Advanced riders usually have a good feel for what type of terrain they prefer to ride. They are comfortable with making quick turns and are in control at any speed. They may be specifically interested in riding in the terrain park, or carving hard on steep runs. Either way, they are confident in their abilities and generally have a preference as to what they are looking for in their equipment. Snowboards at this level also tend to be more specific to styles of riding as well and will have technology to accommodate these needs.


Expert riders have plenty of years and experience on all types of terrain under their belts. Some of us may have trouble classifying ourselves as an expert, while to others it may be easy! The bottom line here is that this ability level is for those who want the ultimate level of performance out of their gear made from the lightest materials. These riders are aggressive, sure of their selves in any terrain, are pushing the envelope and want their gear to aid them in doing so. Boards at this level should not be taken lightly, and riders should be honest with themselves before seeking out product at this level.


Fortunately, many boards actually span an ability level range. For example, many beginner boards last up until the rider is a true intermediate, and many intermediate boards can accommodate an athletic beginner. To make this more transparent, we have developed a “skill rating” image that can be found in the “overview” tab on each individual product page. This will show you the true range of each board. An ideal board for you will either place your skill level in the middle of the range.


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Intended Use


Snowboards are designed for different types of terrain as well as all kinds of riding styles. For the most part you will find that boards loosely fall into the categories of All Mountain, Freestyle, and All Mountain Freestyle.


Snowboard Intended Use Refinement


All-Mountain boards are designed for general cruising and carving anywhere on the mountain. If you are just learning to ride or simply have no intention of venturing into the park or pipe then an All-Mountain board is the ideal type for you. These boards tend to be somewhat directional which means they have a definite nose and tail and a flex that is purposed for riding in one direction. This does not mean you can’t ride these boards switch (facing the other direction) or take them into the park, it simply means that they are better suited for riding in one direction and cruising.


Freestyle boards are designed for doing tricks in a terrain park on rails, boxes and jumps or on natural features such as logs and banks. If you find yourself constantly looking for something to slide onto or jump off of then a freestyle board is what you’re looking for. Freestyle boards are often twin in shape so that they can be ridden both ways. The name of the game here is pop, so boards will be springy as the goal is usually to get as high off the ground as possible with the least amount of energy. Freestyle boards also tend to be on the softer and more playful as a stiff responsive board tends to be too unforgiving for learning and perfecting tricks.


All-Mountain Freestyle boards are the most common type of board you’ll find these days and offer the best of both worlds. For the rider that truly wants to go everywhere on the mountain, seeking both the pop and playfulness needed for freestyle terrain, as well as the power and response for carving at higher speeds, an All-Mountain Freestyle snowboard is ideal. Often just slightly directional in shape and a bit stiffer than your traditional freestyle board, these boards tend to perform better at higher speeds without losing the maneuverability and still have that slight playfulness desired by those who still want to add a freestyle element into their riding. Maybe you’re the guy that charges hard, yet still dips into the park here and there, or the guy who wants to hit bigger features and needs the response and speed. If that’s the case, a true freestyle deck may be a bit too soft for you, but an All-Mountain Freestyle board will give you that perfect balance.




Deciding what price you’re willing to pay for a snowboard really depends on determining exactly what you're hoping to get out of your board. As a beginner, if you’re simply hoping to get out of rental equipment, and are still trying to learn the sport, then maybe a more inexpensive option may be the route you go. However, if you’re athletic, know you plan on getting out a lot and want something you can grow into, then a higher quality (and slightly pricier) entry level board might be the better choice. When buying for a child, the plan might be to pass it down to a sibling in the future. Getting the most inexpensive choice may not have the quality to make it past the first child and still giving the second the response and energy needed to learn. Like with most things, you get what you pay for, and snowboards are no exception to this. Luckily most of the manufacturers tend to price comparable models of snowboards within roughly the same price ranges. Using Original Retail Value of the board (not the sale price), we’ll help you set expectations for each of the price ranges you’ll come across.


Snowboard Price Refinement


Here are the typical price ranges and the level of quality and rider levels they will likely correspond to:


$199 – $299 (Entry Level Boards): Soft flexing and very simple in design. Boards of this price range and rider level are easy to ride and very forgiving. They are perfect for first-timers and beginners to help build the confidence necessary to progress their skills. High quality brands such as K2, Ride or Burton will make a solid entry-level board in the price range of $299 – $349 with technology built to aid the new rider in progressing. Less known brands will typically make a more inexpensive $199-$269 option that will feature a more simplistic design, and mainly serve as a way to get people out of rental equipment and into their own gear. These boards tend to lack newer technology and riders choosing the more inexpensive route will likely need to upgrade more quickly than those who choose the other option.


$359 – $449 (Mid Level Boards): Boards in this price range are usually ideal for the intermediate level rider. For all mountain and all mountain freestyle boards, this price level generally means the board will have more response than its entry level counterparts. It will also be constructed out of more complex materials, making it slightly stiffer as well as lighter providing the rider added stability at higher speeds and less chatter. This allows the progressing rider to get more confident and aggressive, now that they are surer of their movements. Freestyle boards in this range will also have added tech that the beginner boards don’t generally see, however their soft, buttery flex will not be compromised either. Rather than hard charging response, here the goal is to provide more pop in the board, and greater dampening underfoot.


Many boards in this price range are still soft enough to accommodate the athletic beginner or quick learner who wishes to bypass the true entry level board, however as you near the $400 price range some all mountain or all mountain freestyle boards may more response and power than the new rider is ready for.


$450+ (Advanced Level Boards): A board at this level and price range will offer you the ultimate in performance and stability. For an All Mountain board this will mean that you can take on any conditions. The drive and response of the board will ensure a smooth ride regardless of your speed. Boards in this range also tend to utilize the lightest materials, which are generally desired by advanced-level riders. In boards that are more freestyle oriented, the ultimate combination of pop, flex and response makes for a go anywhere do anything freestyle experience. These boards may not be as stiff as their all mountain counterparts, but still hold their own outside of the park at higher speeds.


It’s at this price level where brands tend to vary the most. While all quality brands will make a good competitive product suitable for any advanced level rider, brand specific technology tends to vary the most here and rider preference tends to take hold. Most new technology is also introduced at this price level.


Board Width


Width doesn’t become a huge issue to those with average sized feet, but those in larger boots should be aware of the impact it can have. Generally speaking, if you wear a size 10.5 or larger, you should be looking at a wide board. The fact of the matter is, if the board you purchase is too narrow, your boots will hang over the edge of the board too far and will hit or drag the snow causing you to catch an edge. Wide boards specifically accommodate for a larger boot size. They are, however, harder to turn and less responsive if your feet are not large enough for them. This occurs because it takes longer to transfer the energy to the edges. Nowadays, some riders in newer 10.5 and 11 boots can get away with a regular board, but it depends on the model and size. Older boots are generally bulkier and thus even smaller sizes may still hang over the board too much. New boots usually have a footprint that is roughly a size smaller than an older boot.


Snowboard Width Refinement


Kids and width never used to be much of an issue, but now kid’s feet are bigger than ever! You may find that your child is an adult boot, maybe an 8 or 9, yet still needs a kids snowboard based on weight. Fortunately, manufacturers are now making wide kids boards in some of their larger sizes. It’s not uncommon to see a 145W or 148W which will accommodate kids wearing adult boot sizes from about a 8 on up. This will keep them from getting toe or heel drag while also allowing them to still ride a board they can flex, rather than bumping them up to an adult board.


Video Tutorial:  The Purpose of Wide Snowboards




Rocker Profile


Snowboards have what is called camber, rocker, or various hybrids of the two.


Snowboard Rocker Profile Refinement


Traditionally, all snowboards used to have camber. A board has camber if when placed on the ground the board arches upward with the middle raising slightly off the ground. When you flex the board, you engage the contact points of the board in the nose and the tail by flattening out the arch which allows you to turn. Camber gives you pop, response and performance from your board. The more camber a snowboard has, the harder the nose and tail of the board will have to work which helps stabilize the board at higher speeds.


Rocker is the opposite of camber, meaning that when placed on the ground the ends of the board arch up from tip to tail while the middle touches the ground, almost like a rocking chair. Rocker has become popular for a few different reasons. It’s often used on entry level boards to raise the contact points of the board out of the snow making it easier for new riders to slide their turns without catching their edges. It makes the board more forgiving. Rocker is also used in freestyle applications as it makes certain tricks easier to do as transitioning your weight to your nose or tail become much easier. Rocker is also great for riding in deep powder. You simply sit back on the tail of your board and the nose will rise out of the snow rather than digging deeper into it. It allows you to actually float over the snow.


Full Rocker in Snowboards


Everything has it benefits though, and that’s why many have found that a Hybrid of both rocker and camber gives you the best of both worlds. Camber has power and performance, but rocker provides that catch free feel and float. Camber boards can feel too catchy at low speeds or in the park, but rocker boards can feel too squirrely at high speeds and lack pop. Because of this many manufacturers play with various degrees and combinations of rocker, camber and have even introduced flat profiles to ensure stability. Hybrids are designed for different riding styles and the use of both camber and rocker is implemented differently depending on the brand, but overall the goal is simple, give the rider the pop and response of camber with the catch free floaty feel of rocker.    


Hybrid Rocker in Snowboards




Snowboards vary in flex which greatly affects their performance. Simply put, the stiffer something is, the more responsive it is and the quicker it will transfer energy from the rider to the board. A good beginner board is usually soft. This is because it a beginner rider is unsure of their movements and therefore does not want something that will respond to every move they make. Put a beginner on a stiff board and they’re more likely to catch their edges. The board will feel like it’s controlling them rather than them controlling the board. On the other hand, an aggressive advanced rider looking to charge hard will feel more at home on a stiff board. A stiff board will give the rider better edgehold at higher speeds and will have quicker response. Put an aggressive rider on a soft board and take it up to higher speeds and it will chatter giving the rider less control. Intermediate riders or athletic beginners will find themselves most comfortable on something in between. Most intermediate All-Mountain boards feature a medium flex which provides a ride that isn’t too aggressive yet maintains it’s edgehold at high enough speeds to give the rider more confidence to progress their riding.


Snowboard Flex Refinement


Flex also varies by discipline. While the above information best describes All-mountain or All-mountain Freestyle boards, true Freestyle boards tend to be softer all around. This gives the rider the flexibility they need to perform certain tricks. While the flex of freestyle boards does still vary, they are still generally softer than their All-mountain counterparts.




When snowboards first hit the market, all boards had a directional shape. This means that the nose of the board was actually longer, the bindings were set further back, closer to the tail, and generally the tail of the board was stiffer, allowing the board to float better in deep snow. This is still common with some basic entry level boards or boards made specifically for powder or the backcountry.


Snowboard Shape Refinement


True twin snowboards are typically found in the freestyle category. A twin board has a nose and tail that are identical. The dimensions are the same and they are constructed the same way. Simply put, a twin board has no designated front or back. This allows the rider to snowboard regular or switch (your opposite foot forward), and have the board perform the same way.


True Twin Snowboard Shape



Directional Snowboard Shape


In today's snowboarding market, most snowboards fall under the directional twin category. This means that the nose and the tail will look pretty similar, but have slight differences in shape or flex. This means the board still technically performs better when ridden regular, but will give the board and the rider a little more versatility allowing it to perform very similar when ridden switch. The idea here is that while the rider may occasionally ride or land switch there is still a preference for riding regular and the board will perform likewise. For most the difference is almost unnoticeable, and the “directional twin” category has taken over than of the “directional” category.


Specific Terms and Features


The information presented above should help give you a good idea of what you’re looking for, but we also understand that you will come across many terms and snowboard "lingo" while undertaking your search. Here are a few terms and features that you will find when searching through snowboards, along with some insight to help you decipher what they mean.




The core is the interior construction of a snowboard. This is usually made up of laminated fiberglass that surrounds wood. However it isn't uncommon to find a variety of other technologies included that are designed to affect other areas of your ride. Companies are routinely experimenting with technologies designed to change the flex, strength, weight, and dampening of the board. Boards with added technologies are typically more expensive, but have features sure as increased response, more pop, and better dampening.


Snowboard Core Diagram


Foam cores are occasionally still found on inexpensive entry level snowboards. They will provide a soft, forgiving flex at first, but will lose that flex and energy transfer. Wood is generally used as it will maintain a more consistent flex over time.




When it comes to the construction of a snowboard, you will find two common references: capped construction and sidewall construction (also referred to as sandwich construction). Capped construction refers to a method where the top sheet is pinched over the sides of the snowboard, meeting the metal edge. This allows for a very forgiving feel. The more commonly used construction is sidewall (sandwich) construction. This type of construction is exactly how it sounds; the core and the sidewalls are sandwiched between the topsheet and the base of the snowboard. Sidewall construction directs more power and energy to the edges, while minimizing energy loss.


Effective Edge


The edge of a snowboard refers to the metal that runs on the sides of the snowboard. The effective edge refers to the parts of that metal edge that actually makes contact with the snow. When you shift your weight and flex the board the contact points connect with the snow and you are able to turn and carve. Effective edge is more of a widely used term in the ski world, but many manufacturers in the snowboard world are trying to accomplish increasing your effective edge or contact with the snow. Magnetraction, a technology found on boards made by Mervin Manufacturing (Lib Tech and Gnu) is essentially a wavy sidewall and edge that looks like a serrated knife. The idea of this design is to give the board more contact points with the snow, and ultimately an increased effective edge. This will give you more control, increased edge hold, and helps immensely in any icy or hard packed conditions. Additionally, for freestyle riders, this means the ability to detune your edges for rails and boxes, but still have control everywhere else on the mountain.




Snowboard sidecut is the arch that can be seen on the side of the board between the nose and the tail. Sidecut is what allows the snowboard to turn. A board with a drastic sidecut will make quick, sharp turns and will have a small turning radius. Boards with a more gradual sidecut will make long, wide turns and have a greater turning radius.




The base of the snowboard is simply the bottom of the snowboard. While this may seem pretty basic, it’s the most important part to take care of. Since the base is the part of your board that is always in contact with the snow, it will get dry overtime. Waxing it keeps it performing as it should and from sticking. Bases are generally made of a polyethylene material called P-Tex which has small holes that hold wax.You will typically come across two types of bases, extruded and sintered. Extruded bases are basically just melted down P-Tex cut into shapes. Extruded bases are cheaper to make and easier to repair, but they also hold less wax because they have fewer holes to hold it. Sintered bases however, have more holes and hold wax better, but are also more difficult to repair and more expensive to make. They are generally quick on the snow and found on boards that are more expensive.


After you have determined what your rider level is, what type of board you're looking for, and what you hope to get from your investment, the fun part begins. While you should never select a snowboard based solely on looks, you will have already answered the questions you need to answer to select your board, and can therefore begin looking at graphics and such.


With all of the different manufacturers on the market, you will have a lot of graphics to choose from and one, if not many, are certain to be to your liking. Just don't forget that a graphic isn't going to help your skill progression or your performance on the snow. Find a board that fits your needs first and then find a board that you like from a visual standpoint.




Sizing a snowboard is frequently accompanied with many misconceptions. Often, people are under the impression that a snowboard should simply come up to an area between an individual's chin and nose. While this will generally end up working for an average size person, it isn't as accurate for slimmer or heavier riders. Simply put, the board does not know how tall you are, but it does know how much you weigh. Therefore, it is better to size a board based on rider weight rather than height. To do this, utilize the weight range/board size chart below. Keep in mind however, that the weight ranges are rather broad and there are couple of other items you should consider when sizing a board.


A smaller board is easier to maneuver and therefore better if you are a beginner, park rider, or riding on mostly harder packed groomed runs. A longer board is faster and will float better in deeper snow. If you are a more aggressive rider it is ok to lean towards the larger size board. Either way, you never want to ride something too small or long for your weight range. You will end up overpowering a snowboard that is too small for you, and a board that is too long will be too difficult to control.




Rider Weight Snowboard Size Chart


For additional help on snowboard sizing, please review our snowboard sizing guide.




Video Tutorial: Terms and Features of Snowboards



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Additional Media


It is our commitment to provide you with the most complete, accurate, and thorough information possible to help you make an informed decision. We encourage you to check out these additional pieces of media to help guide you to the best snowboard for you.




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