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Snowboards: Selecting the Right Board

By Visitor - September 19th, 2000

You've taken a lesson or two, rented or demoed a few boards, and now consider yourself a dedicated convert. At this point you may not know your boarder bent but be assured you'll either end up a freestyler who frequents halfpipes and terrain-parks, a freerider who rips the whole mountain, or a carver who dances and slices on the groomed. Well, it's time to buy a board, and here's the stuff that will point you in the right direction.

Shapes and Sizes: Yours and the Board
You'll be psyched to know that you already have the answers to the important questions. Your weight, height, foot size and style are the factors that will define the appropriate stiffness, height, width and shape of the board you'll buy.

Stiffness. Regardless of whether you're a freestyler, freerider, or carver, the softer the board, the easier it is to maneuver. All boards are comparatively softer as they get shorter (assumes the boarder will be naturally smaller-lighter), but at any given length you will find variations in flex that can impact your performance. As a rule if you have a lighter frame—say up to 125 to 135 pounds—you will want to choose a softer board. If you are between 135 and 150 pounds, look for a medium-flex board. Stiffer boards work best for people weighing more than 150 pounds.

Height. In selecting the length of board, your weight and style define your needs. The general rule is to choose one that, when stood on end, comes up somewhere between your chin and nose. If you are above average in weight for your height, go for a board that reaches your nose; for example, on average, a 188 cm (6-foot-2) rider would want a board between 170 and 165 cm long, someone 163 cm tall (5-foot-4) would want to go with a board between 140 and 145 cm long. A friend can help you measure the length from your feet to chin or nose. Once you have that measurement, consult the sizing chart on any of the snowboard brands on our site. In addition, while doing so, consider your aggressive or timid style. If you really attack the hill, you'll want to go up five centimeters from the average size and conversely go down five centimeters if your boarding style is naturally slower in character. In general, if you're an all-mountain and backcountry rider, go longer for stability, if you're a freestyler go shorter; it will be easier to turn, spin, and hit the halfpipe and terrain parks. Keep in mind, however, that one board doesn't do it all. If you're really committed, you'll eventually want to expand your repertoire of styles and boards—different board lengths for different days and different conditions.

Width. It's equally important to measure your feet and determine what size snowboard boot you fit into. Begin by referencing the our easy-to-use sizing/conversion charts. Note your shoe size on the chart and determine the equivalent boot size. In doing so, you can cross-reference either the US sizing or the Mondo (International sizing) standard as it applies to each brand. If you are unsure of your size, simply print out the International Sizing Chart (from the PDF sizing file provided) and follow the sizing chart instructions. The size of your boot will help determine what width, or "waist," of the board you should go with. You don't want your toes hanging over the edge of your board tripping you up before you have a chance to carve. If you're foot is size 9 (Mondo 26.0) or smaller, you should choose a board that has a narrower waist —something below 260 mm. If you are size 10 (Mondo 27.0) you are in the "gray zone," and it will depend on how directional you make your stance. If you are size 11 (Mondo 28.0) or larger, you'll definitely want a wide board. The sizing charts and product descriptions accompanying each brand of snowboard we carry will help you determine the best boot-to-waist width.

Anatomy of a Snowboard
If you're just starting out, snowboarding vocabulary can be a bit confusing. You'll hear comparisons such as "freestyle" or "all-mountain" riding, "twin tip" versus "directional" boards, "gradual" versus "aggressive" side cuts, "soft" boards and boards with " hard flex." To cut through the fiberglass forest try to think of boards existing on a snowboard continuum, where it's easier to ride on a soft flexing, twin-tip, gradual side cut, all mountain board and it is harder to ride a stiffer flex, directional, aggressive side cut freestyle board with all sorts of combinations in between.

Board length. By design longer snowboards are for all-mountain or backcountry riding, where you take longer sweeping turns. Shorter boards are best for freestyle riding, where you need responsiveness, easy turning ability, and quick maneuverability.

Board width. The width, or waist, of the board is measured across the skinniest section, from edge to edge. Narrow boards are easier to maneuver; they initiate turns much faster, and are much quicker. Small-waisted boards are also good for women and riders with smaller feet. Wider boards are made for stability, for deep snow and to accommodate riders with large feet. Wider boards are slower, more stable, and respond well in deep snow.

Flexibility. A soft, flexible board is great for beginners. Riding a flexible board requires less technique and strength, and is a great way to go with young kids. As your strength and technique increase, you'll find yourself graduating to stiffer boards.

Side cut. The side cut of a snowboard—how deeply or how shallowly it cuts in from the nose of the board to the waist (or middle of the board)—determines its turning ability. A very gradual or shallow side cut allows for long sweeping turns and easier maneuverability and control. All-mountain boards have shallower side cuts. A more aggressive or deeper side cut allows for tight or quickly initiated turns and are best for freestyle riding.

Flex. Freestyle boards, built for half pipes and terrain parks, tend to have more flex than all-mountain/freeride boards. A short, freestyle board also can be a good beginner board: it will turn more quickly and with greater ease at low speeds than a stiffer or longer board.

However, a very flexible board won't hold an edge at speed, resulting in vibration or "chatter." Stiffer boards with rigid torsional flex (the flex across the width of a board, between the two edges) are better for use on groomed runs and open terrain, as well as at high speeds and thus are less forgiving at slower speeds. They are often the board of choice for expert big-mountain riders.

Board shape. There are three basic snowboard shapes. Carving boards are commonly called directional boards. The tip and the tail are designed differently, and you can only ride them in one direction. Twin tip boards that have identical nose and tail dimensions can be ridden backwards and are designed for doing tricks. "Directional twin" boards have slightly different characteristics in the tip and tail, providing a more stable ride on a variety of terrain.


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