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How To Buy A Snowboard

Snowboarding has become one of the fastest growing sports over the past 10 years. If you are just getting into the sport the process of determining what equipment is "right" for you is probably the most subjective purchasing procedure you will experience. For most riders, the purchase of a snowboard is an emotional experience that fulfills not only a physical need, but also reflects the user's own personality.

Riding Style

Technical Freestyle

This type of rider is most often found on the halfpipe or riding in the snowboard park. Many of today's technical freestyle riders come to snowboarding with experience as a skateboarder, in-line skater, BMX, or other action sports background. While the equipment specific to this type of rider excels in park and pipe riding, it can also be very versatile across the whole mountain.

  • Technical freestyle boards
    • This type of board is for in the half-pipe or snowboard park, and working on your spins and tricks
    • Many technical freestyle snowboards are "signature" series boards
    • Signature series boards are made to the specifications of a pro rider
    • Usually found at the highest price points, "signature" series boards combine cutting-edge graphics with the latest in hi-tech manufacturing
    • Extremely light board weight is the most common characteristic of these boards

Freeride

While an overused term in snowboarding, freeride is still the best way to describe the majority of snowboarders and soon-to-be snowboarders. As it suggests, freeride describes a user who intends to utilize the whole mountain. These riders enjoy everything about snowboarding: the amazing feel of carving a turn on freshly groomed slopes, the sense of flight obtained at lift-off from the big-air jump, the creativity that can only be understood descending the half-pipe, and the feel of freedom one gets floating in fresh powder.

  • Freeride boards
    • This board is designed for boarders who want to ride the whole mountain including the park and pipe
    • Freeride boards can be found at EVERY price point from all snowboard manufacturers
    • Each board has a unique characteristic which is a derivative of its: construction technique and materials, shape, flex pattern, size, and graphics
    • For the most part, there isn't a "bad" board on the market
    • Even the least expensive board produced today can out-perform the "signature" series boards of just 5 years ago
    • This is the best type of board to learn on and can be used anywhere on the mountain

Freecarve

This "type" of riding style is one of the fastest growing segments within the snowboarding world. Commonly referred to as "cross-over," a majority of these riders were once skiers. A freecarve rider enjoys the full-length and width a mountain has to offer, continually transitioning from one turn to the next.

  • Freecarve boards
    • Freecarve boards are most often found at the higher price points
    • They are almost always constructed with the same materials as the technical freeride boards, but configured so that the board is more suitable for higher speeds and cleaner carved turns
    • Also, these boards tend to be longer and are usually preferred for a great day of "freshies"

Alpine/Race

Alpine/Race riders are easily picked out of the crowd. They are always seen on groomed trails, laying a trench in the snow with each turn. These riders "use" a snowboards edge like no other rider. Using powerful body movements and gravity as their friend, alpine riders enjoy the sport only when they are connected to the snow.

  • Alpine/Race boards
    • Alpine/Race boards are long, narrow, stiff, and flashy
    • These boards are made for serious downhill boarders
    • Because they are for riding and carving downhill, they are stiffer and narrower than other types of boards
    • Alpine/Race boards are not made for doing tricks

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Rider Characteristics

Age

  • When purchasing snowboard equipment, it is important to consider the rider's age
  • If the rider is still growing, it is to be expected that the purchase be made with growth considerations in mind
  • For the most part, age is not a determining factor in any snowboard equipment purchase (board, boots, and bindings)
  • The effect of age is a factor in the final sizing decisions

Weight

  • Weight is by far, the most important rider characteristic in determining board size
  • A snowboard acts like a leaf spring, in that it has no clue how tall the person standing on it is, but it does know their weight
  • When a heavy rider purchases a board that is too short, the board will have a tendency to "wash out" or perform poorly, especially at higher speeds
  • A lighter person on a longer board will usually have problems controlling their board and initiating turns

Height

  • There is a major misconception in the general public that height is the single most important factor in determining board size. As stated above, weight is the most important factor.
  • Height usually comes into play when the rider's height and weight are not proportional
  • An unusually tall rider that is relatively skinny may opt for a longer board. The leverage they gain from the added height will help offset any loss of control they may encounter.
  • The same holds true for a heavier/shorter rider. They may benefit from a bit shorter of a board, due to the loss of leverage from their height.

Foot Size

  • Snowboard boots are sized the same as regular shoes and sneakers, therefore, your shoe size will be the same as your boot size
  • The fit of a snowboard boot should be snug and your heel needs to stay in place when flexed, so if you are between sizes go for the smaller size
  • For the perfect fitting boot, see Determine Your Snowboard Boot Size before making your purchase decision

Gender

  • As with weight, gender is a critical factor in determining the appropriate equipment for the rider
  • As a rule, a women's physiology differs from a man's in three main ways: foot size, center of gravity, and body mass- all of which effect the way a snowboarder interacts with their equipment
  • Women almost always have a smaller foot and a lower center of gravity
  • Female riders of all abilities can find boards and boots specifically tailored to their physiological differences
  • Women's boards are designed to take into account the riders lower center of gravity, smaller foot size, and lighter weight

Athletic Ability

  • A rider with extensive experience in other skate/board sports (surfing, skateboarding, skiing, in-line skating, etc.) will probably want to invest more in their equipment since they will more than likely "take" to the sport very quickly
  • At the same time, someone with little outdoor sport experience, or certain fears that might limit their aggressiveness, might be best to keep their equipment purchase more conservative to start

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Terrain

Hard Pack and Machine-made Snow

  • Hard pack and machine made snow is usually prevalent among eastern resorts that are required to make snow since mother nature can not be depended on to supply natural snow
  • Your snowboarding equipment should contain more vibration control materials, such as a rubber dampening foil, which will provide for a smoother ride across hard snow

Groomed and Natural Snow

  • Groomed and natural snow can be called powder or freshies
  • This type of snow is usually prevalent among western and Rocky Mountain resorts where natural snowfall can be dependable and deep every year
  • Most riders would benefit from a longer board in a powder snow conditions. The extra length adds additional lift and helps the rider float through the snow like a surfer.

Variable Conditions

  • Anything other than powder and hard packed man made snow can fall into this category
  • Most boards today are designed to excel in variable conditions
  • Do not be tempted to buy a short board if your riding will take you into various conditions
  • A longer board is almost always preferable, unless you are looking for a board strictly for technical freestyle riding or are just learning

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Budget

  • As with the purchase of any sporting goods equipment, budgets are an important consideration. A rider does not have to have the best/most expensive equipment to become a good rider and enjoy the sport, but they MUST have the appropriate equipment.
  • Usually, the boot is the one piece of equipment in which price should not effect the purchase. The purchase of the most comfortable boots that are appropriate for the rider will lead to days, weeks, months, and even years worth of enjoyable riding. There is nothing more distressing than a rider's day being ruined by uncomfortable snowboard boots.
  • With board & bindings, it is usually okay to save a few bucks, either by buying last years model or a brand with less marketing clout

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Graphic Appeal

  • While die-hard riders may scoff at this being a decision factor, let's not kid ourselves
  • Anytime someone spends a good deal of money on something, they need to like what they see
  • Part of the experience of snowboarding is the holistic environment, and board/boot/binding graphics play a roll in that

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