Before you buy a board, read our tips on types and sizing to make your downhill fun less of an uphill battle.
Length: Start by finding a board that reaches the height of your face. If you plan to do a lot of park riding and tricks, go shorter (chin height); if you’re planning on carving or racing, go longer (eyebrow height). East Coasters should look at shorter boards to compensate for hard pack and manmade snow. West Coast riders near mountains with dependable, copious snowfall can go for longer boards that will glide right over powder.
Width: Make sure you choose a board with the correct waist width relative to the size of your feet. The goal is to make your toes flush with the edge of the board or a little bit longer. A board that’s too wide will make you lose power in turns, while one that’s too narrow will cause wipeouts from toes dragging over the edge.
Flex: Flex describes how and where the board bends. Longitudinal flex occurs from tip to tail, and torsional flex from edge to edge. Heavier riders in proportion to their height should go for a stiffer board, while lighter riders can look for one with softer flex.
Sidecut radius: Measures the board’s turning ability. Smaller numbers mean the board will be able to make tighter turns. A board with a sidecut radius of 7.5 m will turn faster than one with a sidecut radius of 9 m. Progressive sidecuts have an elliptical shape in the front and a radial (circular) shape in the rear.
If you’re planning a heli-boarding trip in Alaska, these would be the boards to bring. They’re long, wide and really stiff – perfect for advanced, all-mountain riding. With an extreme board, you’ll have no trouble navigating variable back-country conditions from steeps to trees to rocks.
Women’s boards are narrower to fit smaller feet, and are shorter with softer flex. More and more women’s boards are being made every year for a wide range of abilities, so it’s worth considering them even if you’re an experienced rider. If you’re thinking about buying a unisex board, pay special attention to the waist width since most snowboards are made with guys’ proportions in mind. Stand on top of the board in your boots and make sure your toes are flush with the edge, not inches away from it.
Freeride boards are the most popular because of their versatility. These are the go-anywhere, do-anything boards that bridge the gap between freestyle and extreme riding. They’re a good choice for a variety of terrain, from groomed runs to the halfpipe. These have stiffer flex than freestyle boards, which creates more speed and stability. The wide range of prices and styles available makes these a good choice for beginners.