An introduction to different types of snowboards
Most of us know that snowboards are not all the same but what are the differences? What different specialisms do different snowboards have? And how do you tell them apart? These are the questions we hope to answer with this article. We hope we can help you find the ideal board whether you’ll take on your next ski holiday in La Plagne going off-piste, or if you’re staying in a chalet in La Rosiere and want to carve fast around the pistes. It can be daunting looking at all those shapes and features, it can be tempting just to pick the one you like the look of but that’s how you end up with the wrong snowboard.
Before we look at boards, do you you need an introduction to snowboard bindings? It’s a good idea to know what binding options there are before choosing your snowboard. If you’re looking for skis, you’re in the wrong place, try our introduction to different types of skis.
So lets take a look at some different types of snowboards
Powder boardsImage from Original Sin Snowboards
Arguably the coolest looking snowboards, powder boards are real specialists. It’s a great board to demonstrate ‘directional’ snowboards, these are boards that are designed to be used only in one direction. You wouldn’t want to ride switch on the vast majority of powder boards.
A powder board is not great on the piste or in the park but it’s ideal in powder. As such you don’t see that many around but they’re common in off piste videos.
- A short tail often with a fishtail helps the board ride up on top of the powder by letting the back sink more easily.
- The broad nose helps you ride up on the snow and surf that pow.
- The nose is pointed to spill the powder efficiently from the board, it slows you down less.
Freeride boards Image from Jones Snowboards
Not to be confused with Freestyle, Freeride is all about carving fast both on the piste and off it. They’re directional boards optimised for travel in one direction, you’ll do better in switch than on a powder board but the performance will be very different and your stance will be all wrong.
- Stiff – They’re of stiff construction to give stability and control at higher speeds.
- Setback stance – Freeride boards usually mount the bindings further back than centre for a mixture of speed carving and handling powder.
- Tapered nose – Directional boards can shape the nose to suit being a nose, as such freeride boards are tapered for ideal turning and powder handling. Freeride boards are great at covering terrain at speed but they’re not for freestyle park boarding and are unforgiving to beginners. So another specialist snowboard to do a specific job.
Freestyle/Park boards Image from Arbor Snowboards
These boards are for for grinding rails, hitting kickers and jibbing riding in either direction. They’re a family of freestyle boards with different leanings toward boards for jumps, the half pipe, jibbing or a mix of all the above.
- Flexible – Freestyle boards are available with varying degrees of flex from soft to medium soft. If you hit big kickers you want it a bit stiffer than if you jib and pop your way through small obstacles.
- Central stance – You’ll always be mounted centrally in a freestyle board. It’s ideal for balance in both directions and in freestyle, that matters
- Camber – You’ll find a mixture of flat, rocker and hybrid bases that combine these characteristics.
- Length – Typically freestyle boards are ridden shorter than normal making the board more manoeuvrable during tricks.
- Bi-directional – Riding in switch is totally normal in freestyle and the board shapes reflect that.
All-mountain snowboards Image from Salomon
The snowboard jack of all trades, an all-mountain board does a bit of everything. The perfect all-mountain board has struck the balance between stiffness and traditional camber that suits speed carving and freeride style boarding and the flexibility and forgiving (Rocker style) camber that suits freestyle boarding. You can’t have a board that’s perfect at both, compromises must be made, as such all-mountain boards are a diverse family of subtly different designs that strike this compromise differently. You’ll see this in the different hybrid camber systems on the various all-mountain boards.
All-mountain boards are the ultimate generalists, the vanilla of snowboarding. All-mountain is also available in 2 other exciting flavours, all-mountain freestyle and all-mountain aggressive, let’s take a closer look at those.
- Normally bi-diectional, you can ride in switch
- Hybrid camber – A range of hybrid camber profiles dominate all-mountain boards, different camber variations put emphasis on freestyle or free ride characteristics.
- Average Flex – all-mountain boards are moderately stiff but the nature of the construction gives them different characteristics.
All-mountain freestyle boards Image from K2
So you want to do all sorts of boarding but with a leaning toward freestyle? Then an all-mountain freestyle board is for you. If a standard all-mountain board is in the middle between freeride and freestyle boarding, an all-mountain freestyle board has clearly taken sides.
What you get is a board that’ll do quite well in the park and quite well around the mountain. It’s great for a part time trickster or a rider that likes to cover ground but compromise only a little on the freestyle tricks on the way.
- Bi-directional – freestyle includes plenty of switch riding so these boards ride well both ways.
- Central mounting stance – Ideal for balancing on rails and landing in switch.
- Hybrid camber – Most all-mountain freestyle boards have a hybrid camber but with a learning toward the ‘rocker’ camber style.
- Medium flex – They aren’t too stiff so you can get some flex and pop in the park but not super flexible so you can’t carve the piste.
All-mountain aggressive boards Image from Burton
All-mountain aggressive boards are the other side of the coin. There are all-mountain boards that lean toward speed and control i.e freeride. They’ll not do so well in the park but will perform great when tearing around the mountain terrain.
If you want a generalist but prize speed over freestyle, this may be the board type for you.
- Quite stiff – To carve along an edge cleanly you need edges that hold to a path. Stiffness helps you do that at higher speeds and really move your weight around.
- Stance – They tend to set your stance back from centre to different degrees.
- Some are directional – Some of these boards taper more at the front than at the back and are primarily directional. Others retain bi-directional characteristics.
- Sintered base – A sintered base is formed with small pores that allow wax to form a better layer i.e they are faster than standard ‘extruded’ bases.
Racing boards Image from Kessler
There are snowboards out there simply specialised to deliver on-piste speed. When you see competition snowboard slalom racing or boarder cross, they’ll be on a specialist racing board. These are highly specialised tools, you want have much success taking one of these to the park and beginners would find them difficult to ride. However to quote racing board maker Kessler “this will beat anything to the bottom of the mountain”.
Racing boards are literally for racing, if you’re looking to generally have a race around a ski resort on holiday a Freeride or all-mountain Aggressive board might be for you. If you are looking to get into competition racing, these boards are your destination.
- Stiff – Racing boards are particularly still to enable clean carving on the edges.
- Directional – Racing boards are specialised for one way travel.
- Hybrid camber – Racing boards have complex camber systems favouriting traditional camber but with subtle features to improve performance and versatility.
- Long – They are 10 – 20cm longer than all-mountain boards.
- Narrow profile – The tail and nose are less flared than most boards, it’s all about carving edges.
Found the right board?
We hope we’ve helped you find the right snowboard for you. Check out this article if you’re looking for information on snowboard binding systems and if you’re thinking about skis, check out our introduction to different types of skis. If you want somewhere to take your new snowboard for a spin, checked out our catered chalets.