I’ll never forget the stark difference between riding my first board (an ’07 Burton Raven) compared to the first rentals I got. Even the so called high performance boards feel childish compared to a brand spanking new one.
Why buy your own snowboard?
1. Rentals suck!
2. Renting costs add up quickly! The average cost of a snowboard package (snowboard + boots + bindings) is roughly $500 and the average cost of high performance rentals (board + boots + bindings) is roughly $40. Do the math yourself.
3. Different riding/snowboarding styles means different snowboard requirements. Unfortunately, rentals shops usually only carry one style, which forces you to go with whatever they have.
How do you choose your first snowboard? A number of factors will affect which snowboard you’ll end up buying:
1. What’s your style?
- Freestyle: Freestyle boards are built for parks and are aimed to riders who want to do tricks, pipes, rails and parks.
- Freeride/All mountain: These boards are the most commonly used boards and are intended for all-purpose mountain riding. They are stiffer than freestyle boards and their shape makes them somewhat difficult to ride backwards. But this is the most ideal board for someone just started out.
- Freecarve/Alpine (not for beginners): These boards are designed to go fast. They are generally longer/stiffer, much narrower and don’t look like your average snowboard. Designed for high speeds and quick turns, Alpine boards are not recommended as anyone’s first board.
Chances are if you’re just starting out, you’re going to want a freeride/all mountain board. For more information on the differences between freeride and freestyle, click here.
2. Stability/flexibility: There are 2 main shapes that you’ll need to keep in mind.
- Camber snowboards, when laid flat down, will have an upward facing arc/bend in the center. It’s designed this way so you don’t catch an edge (it’s when the side of your board digs into the snow forcing you to fall over) and provides more stability. This shape is also the most common type of snowboards out there
- Reverse camber is the opposite and it’s when the middle of your board is designed to be flat while the board ends curve upwards (Lib Tech snowboards are known for this). Reverse camber boards are far more flexible than camber boards.
3. Board size: Depends more on the type of riding you’ll be doing and less on your height.
- Freestyle board: you’ll want something that reaches somewhere between the base of your neck and just below your chin.
- Freeride/All mountain board: you’ll want the board to reach anywhere above your chin and below your nose. This will give you enough flexibility while maintaining the stability you need for all mountain riding.
- Freecarve/Alpine board: you’ll want something that’s long (above the nose) to ensure maximum stability at high speeds.
4. Board feel: The stiffer a board, the more stable it is, but the tougher it is on your legs. While flexible boards are easier on the legs, they are more likely to wipe out at higher speeds.
- As a beginner, your best bet is a board that provides a good balance between stiffness and flexibility. So while you’re shredding the mountain, you can still go in for jumps and some rails.
- Freestyle boards are usually more flexible, because speed is not necessary and you’ll want that for days at the park.
Other things to look out for that affect the feel of your board:
- Twin Board: This is a 100% percent symmetrical snowboard. The nose and tail are the same shape, the stance and flex are centered, and the board rides the same regular and switch. Best for: The park, jibs and jumping. Twin boards help to keep you balanced so if your goal is to spin and master the tricks, get a twin board.
- Directional: This board typically has a slightly longer nose than tail. Directional boards are designed to be ridden in one direction, not to say that they cannot be ridden switch (I ride my Burton T6 switch all the time!). The steering and pop power are controlled by the tail, enabling easy turns through the powder and mucho control at high speeds. Best For: Powder turns and high speeds.
- Directional Twin: These boards combine elements of both the directional and twin boards. They may have a directional shape or core, and a twin flex pattern (or vice versa).
5. Board brand: This is where it gets vague and somewhat confusing. There are a ton of brands out there that do a very good job of designing boards. My recommendation is you go to a local snowboarding store, tell a store rep what kind of board you want (given the information on this page), browse around, and check for prices.
My personal favorites are:
- Burton (my first 2 boards were a Burton Raven and a T6)
- Rome (my 3rd board was a WWW Rocker)
- Bataleon (I’ve heard good stuff from friends and other riders)
- Lib Tech (creators of the reverse camber snowboards)
Some advice: You can save a ton of money by buying a last year’s model. I’ve done that with all my boards, and honestly the differences between this years and last years are usually aesthetic. If you want more snowboarding tricks and tips, click here.
What to do now? Take this information and walk into your local snowboard store and shop around. Find a good deal, because you’ll be changing the board in a season or two once you get the hang of riding. You should certainly consider buying a last year’s model.