Everything you need to know to begin your career as a snowboarder!
Snowboarding is a fun winter sport and hobby that anyone can learn. There are several different options and types of equipment to choose from to perfectly fit each rider’s preferences. People who are new to the sport of snowboarding can get very overwhelmed trying to figure out what the right equipment is for them.
I have been a snowboarding instructor for two seasons and have been snowboarding for about 10 years. I teach kids to ride every weekend at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, N.Y., and always do some riding myself when I’m not teaching. I love to get new people involved in snowboarding and spread the joy of the sport. Here is a quick guide to how to choose the equipment that will best fit you and your desired style of riding.
Choosing a board: There are many aspects to consider when choosing the perfect snowboard for yourself.
The length of your snowboard will vary depending on your height, weight and style of riding. For mostly all-mountain riding, a longer board would be recommended for speed and stability. If you have a size 11 foot or larger, you may want to consider buying a mid-wide or wide snowboard, so your heels and toes don’t touch the ground while riding. People who will spend most of their time in the terrain park and using the mountain as their playground should get a freestyle board. A general rule to follow for all riders is that the length of the board should stand somewhere between the bottom of your chin and the tip of your nose.
Choosing the camber: Camber is the shape and contour on the bottom of the snowboard and is a major contribution to things like stability, flexibility, impact, control and more.
Another big thing to consider when choosing a board is the type of camber. There are four main camber types: traditional camber, rocker camber, zero camber and hybrid camber.
Traditional camber looks like a frowning face; when laid on a flat surface, the middle of the board is not touching the ground. This style keeps the edge in contact with the snow at all times. Traditional camber snowboards tend to be more aggressive, poppy and give you more precise control on the edge.
Rocker camber looks like a smiley face; when laid on a flat surface, the tip and tail of the board are not touching the ground. This stops the edges of the board from catching when you’re riding flat-based on the snow. It also makes it very easy to lift up the ends of the board to do nose and tail presses while on boxes and rails. I would not recommend this type for aggressive, all-mountain riding because it will cause your board to slip out from under you more frequently on hard carves and turns.
Zero camber has no contour to the board at all and provides complete contact to the snow. This board is featured a lot in park boards, which are meant for hitting jumps and rails. This style helps you lock onto rails because the entire base is in contact with the feature, making it easier to balance.
Hybrid camber comes in two styles. The first, rocker-camber, provides rocker (convex) in-between the feet and camber (concave) directly beneath the feet. The second, camber-rocker, provides just the opposite. This style of snowboard attempts to combine the benefits of traditional and rocker camber styles. Hybrid camber allows you to take advantage of the aggressive control of camber, while providing you with the catch-free playfulness of rocker.
Choosing a pair of boots: Snowboard boots are primarily available in three styles: traditional-lacing, quick-lacing and boa-lacing.
Traditional-lacing mimics the lacing of a normal pair of boots and offers the most customizable fit to your foot. This is the lacing style that most experienced riders prefer — including myself — because it provides a secure fit that is almost guaranteed to last throughout the day.
Speed-lacing boots are similar to traditional lacing boots but can be tightened more quickly and easily. To tighten the laces, you simply pull up on one or two tabs located on the side of the boot. After you pull to the desired fit, simply pull back to lock them into place, and tuck the tab back onto the side of the boot.
Boa-lacing is the easiest way to lace up your boots and is my recommendation for children and beginners. This style typically features two dials for tightening. One dial, located on the front of the boot, is used for upper-zone adjustment around your ankle and lower calf. The other dial, located on the side of the boot, is used for lower-zone adjustment around the foot. This style gives you great personalization but is more prone to become loose as you ride.
Choosing a pair of bindings: The bindings are the piece of equipment that keep your boots attached to your snowboard. Bindings come in three major styles: traditional/strap-in bindings, rear-entry bindings and step-in bindings.
Traditional/strap-in bindings are the most common. These feature one strap over the ankle and another over the toe. These can easily be adjusted to your boot as necessary, making them extremely versatile and a good fit for all riders.
Rear-entry bindings — also called speed entry bindings — feature a high-hinged back that drops down like a drawbridge. This allows you to simply step into the binding rather than strapping in your boots every time you ride down the hill. Rear-entry bindings, however, tend to give you less variation than traditional bindings. This type is a good consideration for beginner riders who want to do casual all-mountain riding.
Step-in bindings are the easiest way to lock your boots into your snowboard. These bindings are usually paired with their own type of boot and enable you to lock into your board without any straps. All you have to do to get into step-in bindings is simply step in. The metal part on the boot then securely locks you to your board.
Choosing a snowboard stance: The stance is the angle that your bindings are turned on the face of the board. There are three primary stances that riders use: forward stance, duck stance and standard stance.
Forward stance features both feet angled toward the front tip of your board. This is viable for all mountain riders but is primarily used for racing on the trails.
Standard stance features your front foot angled toward the front tip of the board but your back foot pointed straight at the side of the board. This is my recommended stance for beginners and casual, all-mountain riders.
Duck stance features your front foot angled toward the front tip of the board and your back foot angled toward the tail. This is generally the best choice for freestyle riders who are frequently switching between riding regular (left foot forward) and goofy (right foot forward) because it always provides you with a front foot.
With so many choices out there, it can be difficult to decide what equipment to purchase your first time, even if you did just read a comprehensive guide. One thing that I didn’t mention in this guide, however, is that the board doesn’t make the rider. When it comes down to it, your equipment is all preference; you just have to try out several different kinds of boards, boots and bindings and determine what works best for you.