What is your ability level? There are snowboards designed for every ability level, each addressing specific rider needs. Flex, shape, length, construction, materials, design, and intended use are all important when crafting a snowboard for a particular ability level. Be realistic in assessing your own ability when researching and selecting a new snowboard. Finding the right snowboard for your personal attributes, including your ability will help make your riding experience more enjoyable and help speed your progression.
Riding Style and Favorite Terrain
What type of snowboard should you ride? While you can ride any snowboard on any type of terrain or in any snow condition, there are specialized snowboards for specific terrain, conditions and applications. For example, it's going to be more fun to ride a powder board in powder and a park board in the park. And while it's easy to over analyze the multitude of offerings available today, the following descriptions will give you a good sense of the major board categories.
All-mountain snowboards are designed to work well in all snow conditions and terrain. They are at home on groomers, powder, park runs and almost anything in between. The vast majority of snowboarders choose all-mountain boards for their great versatility. If you’re just getting started or unsure of exactly what you need, an all-mountain snowboard is a great choice.
Freestyle or park snowboards tend to be a bit shorter in length and love terrain parks, rails, jibs, trash cans, tree trunks, riding switch (non-dominant foot forward), wall rides and more. Freestyle boards often feature a true twin shape, and are typically selected by those looking to ride the terrain park. A more versatile variant of a freestyle board is the all-mountain freestyle, which combines the versatility of an all mountain snowboard with the playfulness of a freestyle snowboard.
Freeride snowboards are designed for the rider who spends most of the day off groomed runs and in varied terrain. They typically have a stiffer flex and are ridden in longer sizes than freestyle snowboards. Freeride snowboards often feature a directional shape that is designed to perform optimally in one direction.
Powder snowboards love powder. Often associated with freeride snowboards, powder boards sometimes feature a wider nose and a tapered narrower tail. The binding inserts, which determine the rider's stance, are often set back on a powder snowboard to help the rider float the tip of the board through the deep stuff. Powder snowboards sometimes also feature rocker, a design element where the tip (and tail) rise starts farther back on the board, which also helps the rider maintain tip float through the powder.
Common among freeride and all mountain snowboards, directional boards are designed to be ridden predominately in one direction. They are often stiffer in the tail and softer towards the nose to help maintain stability while carving at high speed. Typically, the binding inserts are set back (set closer to the tail of the snowboard) sometimes up to an inch.
True Twin Shape
Twin shape (also referred to as a true twin) is completely symmetrical with identical tip and tail measurements and flex pattern. Bindings will be mounted in the center on a twin tip snowboard. Often found in freestyle snowboards the twin shape is ideal for terrain parks because of the ability to ride in either direction.
Directional Twin Shape
A combination of twin and directional snowboards, directional twins are a mix of both shapes. A symmetrical shape (similar size tip and tail) combined with a directional core (softer tip than tail) is common, as is the opposite: a directional shape but symmetrical core. Directional twins are most at home on all-mountain and freestyle terrain.
Camber is the traditional profile for snowboards, and still popular among high-level park and pipe riders because it offers maximum energy and pop. A cambered board has a smooth arch underfoot and touches near the tip and tail when unweighted; when the rider’s weight is added, it provides a long, evenly pressured running surface and edge.
A rocker board side profile is the opposite of a camber board, with a smooth downward curvature to it and less edge contact when the board is weighted. Rocker boards float well in powder and pivot more easily underfoot. They also tend to be less “hooky” at both tip and tail and better for landing spin maneuvers when you don’t quite have enough rotation.
A flat profile is just as you’d expect – flat from near the tip of the board to near the tail. This shape splits the difference between camber and rocker, with more forgiving turnability than a fully cambered board and more precise edging capability than a fully rockered one.
These three properties: camber, rocker, and flat are combined in a variety of ways to create an array of rocker profile choices for riders.
Rocker/Camber/Rocker shapes seek to give you both hard-carving edgehold on firm snow from camber underfoot with enhanced turnability and float in powder from the rockered tip and tail. This profile is increasingly popular for freeride boards designed primarily for soft snow.
Rocker/Flat/Rocker is another variation on the rocker theme that seeks to provide a little more hard snow edgehold and pop than full rocker while retaining ease of turning and float. Performance is between a fully rockered board and a flat board.
Camber/Rocker/Camber is a profile that’s specific to snowboards and which works because the rider’s weight flattens the two cambered areas. This design produces a strong, pressured carving zone between the rider’s feet and retains pop and carving precision at the tip and tail.
Other combinations of board profiles include Rocker/Camber Snowboards and Rocker/Camber/Rocker/Camber/Rocker Snowboards. Furthermore, brands are constantly evolving and experimenting with new rocker offerings. Camber dominant profiles have become increasingly popular of late. We have done our best to make sense of all these different combinations, but keep in mind different brands will combine the above profiles in many different ways.
So what is better? The answer is: no one profile beats the other and it really comes down to your personal preferences. Typically, camber offers better edge hold and stability on hard pack and at high speeds while rocker offers more float in the powder and catch-free edges for terrain park riding. The rockered snowboards can be great for beginners because they facilitate easier turn initiation. Advanced riders who like a loose feel may also enjoy riding a rockered board.