Snowboard Basics

Snowboard Basics

If you are buying your first snowboard, or just want to find out more, check out our guide to snowboards basics.

Basics Board Types

Jibs/Rails: Short in length with a soft longitudinal and torsional flex. Jib boards are designed to be ridden in the park on small kickers and technical rails or off the hill at your local street spots.

Freestyle: 4-5cm longer than a jib board with a snappier flex and more responsive edge to edge. Freestyle snowboards are at home riding jumps of any size, pipe, rails and usually versatile enough to be ridden around the whole mountain and on backcountry kickers.

All-mountain: Typically 3-4cm longer than a freestyle specific snowboard, most all mountain boards have a slightly mellower sidecut than freestyle snowboards, a directional shape and flex. All-mountain boards are designed to be ridden on the whole mountain from getting creative in the park to freeriding in the deep powder blasting down perfectly groomed pistes.

Freeride: If you’re only interested in carving at Mach 10 down groomers and waist deep powder or straight-lining monster couloirs, a freeride board is just the ticket. Freeride boards have a longer effective edge for increased edge hold, specific shapes for float in deep snow and plenty of damping. Longer lengths also offer increased stability at high speed.

Board Length

Buying the correct length of board is essential. Different styles of riding demand different lengths of board; for example jib specific boards should be short for manoeuvrability and Freeride boards should be long for stability under foot and better float in deep snow.

(Jib/Rails, Freetyle, All-Mountain, Freeride)

Use these images as a guide to the recommended board length for each riding style but be aware that other factors such as weight and strength can also influence the length of board you’ll need. To use this guide correctly always ensure that the tail of the board is flat against the floor and when considering a length for a certain riding style the board you’re measuring is specific to that riding style; a 168cm jib board won’t be a great Freeride board!

Board Width

The width of board that you buy will depend on the size of your feet but factors like binding angle and riser pads can alter this. A standard board width is generally designed for feet as big as a US size 9.5 (UK 9 and Europe 43). If your feet are between US size 9.5 and 11 (UK 10.5 and Europe 45) you should look at a mid-wide board. Finally, if your feet are bigger than a US 11 you should look at buying a wide board.

If you’re not sure what waist width is suitable for your foot size, the best option is to take a boot and the same foot binding to your local shop. Place the boot in the binding, tighten the ratchets and put the two of them over the relevant inserts at the angles you use (If you’re new to snowboarding I’d suggest +15 degrees on the front binding and -10 degrees on the rear binding). Ideally your toes and heel should have around 1cm of overhang. More than 2cm of overhang and you’ll need a wider boards, if you’re boot is short of the boards edge you’ll need a narrower board.

Perfect board width

The waist is too narrow

The waist is too wide


Traditional or Reverse Camber?

Two years ago this question didn’t exist, because 99% of snowboards on the market had conventional camber. For 2009/10 things have changed significantly, and talk in the industry is of reverse camber snowboards making up to 70% of board sales over the season. So what are the differences between traditional camber and reverse camber, and why is everybody going mad for reverse camber? The first thing to note is that you don’t just have to choose between Traditional and Reverse camber, you also have to choose between a number of camber / rocker hybrids, zero camber and a variety of rocker variations. Below is a list of camber / rocker variations and their distinguishable ride characteristics:

Traditional Camber: Predictable and plentiful grip through carves and loads of energy and acceleration in and out of carves. Tons of high speed pop off kickers and great edge hold up pipe walls. Cambered boards compensate well for tail heavy landings on groomed and powder snow. Cambered boards tend to catch edges more readily than reverse camber boards and don’t offer the buttery feel associated with reverse camber boards.

Powder Camber: Powder Camber is now a permanent feature on many freeride and big mountain boards. Powder camber keeps the nose floating in deeper snow and makes sure you won’t catch the board’s nose in crusty windblown conditions. Retaining the camber through the rest of the board means edge hold isn’t sacrificed and restricting the rocker or elliptical profile to the nose keeps the board stable at high speed and the tail lively for heavy landings and for slashing wind-lips.

Zero Camber: Provides the broken in feel that you get with a board you’ve ridden for a number of seasons with the pop and responsiveness of a brand new snowboard. More versatile than traditional cambered boards in variable snow conditions and great on rails where the loss of camber helps to create an oozy feel and maximises board-rail contact.

Reverse Camber or Rocker: Saying Reverse camber boards provide a loose skateboard-like feel is a bit of a cliché, but it’s the best way to describe the ride. You can really relax riding reverse camber snowboards; straight lining just doesn’t feel as twitchy as on cambered boards. To say reverse cambered boards don’t carve well and grip poorly isn’t really true, they carve ok it’s just you don’t get the lively feel you get from a cambered board. The real advantages of reverse camber boards are evident in the park. If you spin frontside spins off your heels like me, you’ll love the buttery pop out of transitions, and in softer spring conditions reverse camber boards don’t tend to dig to hard into the kicker when you’re running on a toeside edge into a backside spin. Butters and park jibs are effortless and landings are so forgiving, if you fail to get your spins round, reverse camber boards seem to help you butter through ‘til your aligned for the run out. Rails and Boxes are great on reverse camber boards, its so easy to exaggerate and tweak out presses and rockered boards have loads of slow speed pop for getting onto street rails. Providing you choose a stiffer shallower rocker like the Lib Tech Travis Rice you’ll find the board will handle pipe without any issues. Have you ever ridden powder switch? Trust me when I say, it’s a lot, lot easier on a reverse camber board!

Camber / Rocker Hybrids: The most visible development in snowboard construction in 2009 has been the huge boom in the number of camber / rocker hybrids on the market. Currently there are two main hybrids:

a) Rockered tip and tail with camber between the bindings: Cambering the board between the bindings improves edge grip in variable snow conditions especially on ice and increases edge to edge response. Rockering the tip and tail offers more forgiving landings, improved float in powder and more predictable tracking through tight transitions. Current varieties include the Rossignol Amptek, Nidecker Camrock (used in YES. snowboards) and Signal Wavetech.

b) Cambered tip and tail and rockered between the bindings: Cambering the tip and tail improves the boards pop and ability to absorb tail heavy landings. Like all reverse camber varieties, this method raises the start of the effective edge off the snow meaning the twitchiness some people get with cambered boards is eradicated. Rockering the majority of the snowboard helps float in powder. Current varieties include Mervin C2 Banana, Never Summer RC Technology and Nitro Gull Wing Technology.