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A Guide to Choosing Your First Snowboard

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When picking out your first snowboard, you want to strike a balance between a board that is accommodating to beginners but allows enough command of the snow to develop your skills. The wide variety of snowboards on the market offer many different technologies, materials, and styles. When confronted with a vast price range and endless designs, choosing your first snowboard can be intimidating.

Most experts recommend beginning with a freeride or all-mountain snowboard. These are two distinct designs. If you know a little bit about your style and the terrain you will ride on, you may be able to make an educated decision about which of these beginning models is right for you.

Freeride snowboards are longer and stiffer than all-mountain, making them ideal for steep slopes and high speeds. Freerides have good versatility when it comes to terrain, riding well over both powdery and packed snow. Freerides are the most stable and accessible to beginners, though not the most versatile.

All-mountain boards are more flexible and better suited to softer snow and freestyle. The design is a hybrid between freerides and freestyle boards. These are considered the most versatile of boards. If you want to try out a wider variety of techniques, begin with an all-mountain board. As you advance in your riding and experiment with different boarding styles, you will have a better idea of your needs when you advance to a high-end board.

These two general models can have a tremendous amount of variety in details. The two most important details are the shape (is the board symmetrical or with a leading-end?) and base (how does the bottom curve?) design. Many experts recommend rocker bottoms for beginners and a twin-tailed symmetrical profile. On a twin-tailed board, either end can lead.

Experts commonly recommend beginners choose a board with a rocker base. Rocker bases curve outward towards the snow. Rocker bases are best in powdery snow. They are softer and more easily maneuvered by novice riders. More advanced and speed-oriented riders may upgrade to a camber base, the reverse of a rocker base. Cambers ride well over packed snow at high speeds. Cambers make for powerful rides, but are extremely responsive and can be difficult for beginners to maneuver.

Boards come in many sizes. As a beginner, you want to choose a board proportional to your frame and weight. For this reason, boards are gender-specific. Women with a boot-size 9 or higher can easily use standard men’s boards. However, smaller framed women are advised to choose a women-specific board. Snowboards for women tend to be narrower and more flexible, allowing them to get similar riding results with a smaller body frame.

You probably picked up on an important detail just now: boot size. Your boot size will determine your board size and class, so you should refrain from purchasing a board until you can try it with your boots. As a beginner, your boots do not need to be specialized. The main goal is to get a good fit, something snug but not painful. You need a boot to accommodate your feet and legs, and it better be comfortable for both. Try on boots in a shop where an expert salesperson can advise you on “stances” you can try to determine if the boot is comfortable or a recipe for pain.

Your first board doesn’t need to be the most advanced, but the quality is essential. It’s best to start with a snowboard that will facilitate you as a beginner, but allow for enough command of the snow surface that you won’t need to upgrade as your skill increases. When you do upgrade, you may find it worthwhile to keep your first board as a quality backup, or as an extra to lend to friends eager to try out the sport.

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