There’s an old adage that says snowboarding is hard to learn, but easy to master. Whether you’re learning to ride or becoming a master, it’s important to find the right tool for the job. It’s not as easy as just picking out a board that looks like the right size. There’s more nuances in choosing the board that will enhance the rider’s experience.
Snowboard lengths are based on the snowboarders weight as well as the desired performance outcome. Like their cousins the alpine skis, snowboards are available in several different lengths and widths, which are clearly identified on the board. Years ago, the rule of thumb was that if the board made it up to your Adam’s apple, that was the correct size. But that’s not accurate information anymore. Experts agree that there are more considerations than your height to make before selecting the right snowboard.
“You should first consider what performance characteristics you want from the snowboard, which means that you have to categorize your riding,” says Jeff “JB” Brier, Eldora Mountain Resort Ski & Ride School Director. “Do you spend 80 percent of time on groomed runs and 20 percent in the trees, only if it snows? Or do you seek out steeps, trees and moguls, only venturing on groomed runs to get to and from the places you like? Or do you spend most of your time in the park? What the board will provide in terms of performance is the first place to go to get an idea of the correct width and length.”
The typical snowboard length ranges from 90 cm, which can accommodate a small child, to 178 cm, which can support the weight of a rider well over 200 lbs. Shorter snowboards are easier to maneuver when learning, while longer boards are more stable at higher speeds, as with skis. A lighter rider will find a longer, stiffer board difficult to control. A heavier rider will find a shorter, more flexible board easier to control and chances are will have a better experience.
True, a beginner snowboarder’s height and weight are important when determining the size of the board, but instructors agree that beginners need a board that’s maneuverable, which means a shorter length than what an intermediate or expert might need. It’s better to go wider in width to handle the weight of a beginner snowboarder before going longer because ultimately it’s better to learn on a board that’s easy to maneuver. Remember, the shorter the length, the easier it is to maneuver.
Boards come in three different widths: Regular/standard, mid-wide and wide. The exact measurements vary by company and one brand’s regular width might be close to another brand’s mid-wide width. If you choose the correct width, a general rule of thumb is that your boots will extend just slightly over the edges of the board (about 1 – 2 cm on each edge), but the width also should be determined by desired performance characteristics. For example, wide board can accommodate someone larger in stature, while focusing on a shorter length to make the board easier to handle for a beginner. However, experts who seek stability and like to carve fast might gravitate toward a regular width and a longer length.
“Choosing the width, length and the stiffness of the board can be determined by someone’s size dimensions. For alpine skis, a pair that are wider underfoot, stiff and long will be more stable at speed for someone who is tall and of big stature. There are similarities here with snowboards,” explains Brier. “Ask first what performance do you need. Your weight and size (or lack thereof) will help narrow the range, but your desired board performance will help specify the board’s size.”
There’s one more design feature to consider when choosing the right board. Board manufacturers like Burton have been incorporating “rocker” or reverse camber into their boards, which can dramatically affect the way a board turns. In the past, snowboards used traditional camber in their design so that when placed on the snow, the tips and the tails touched the snow, but not the center. Now, most snowboards have varying amounts of rocker which makes them easier and smoother to turn, even at longer lengths. By choosing a snowboard with reverse camber, you can ride on a longer board in more variable conditions like powder or off-piste, with less turning effort. Rocker also adds maneuverability to all models, including beginner boards because it helps the board roll on edge.
There’s another design element to think about, which will result in specific performance characteristics: the Shape. The shape or profile, determines how the board performs. A directional shape board is often stiffer in the tail, softer and wider in the nos. This adds stability while carving at speed but can also help the board float in powder. A true twin shape is very popular, and means the silhouette shows an equal tip and tail width. True twin shape boards suit beginners, intermediates and people who like riding switch. A directional twin shape is a combination of twin and directional shapes and have a symmetrical shape (similar size tip and tail) and a directional core (softer tip than tail) or a directional shape but symmetrical core, which give performance for around the mountain or in parks, pipes and natural features.
Snowboards come in different categories such as all-mountain, freestyle, freeride, powder and women’s specific. The right type of board depends on what type of terrain and snow conditions you plan to ride in. Remember, when choosing the correct length for a new snowboard, consider first the performance characteristics you want out of the board. Think about the terrain you ride as well as the snow conditions. Consider the amount of rocker you would like in the board, and the board’s shape, which will both affect the performance. Lastly, consider your weight and height. To help you narrow the range, this Snowboard Size Calculator will give you an idea (or range) of what size snowboard to purchase.
SNOWBOARD SIZE CHART
Your height (in inches) x 2.54 x 0.88 = Suggested Board Length
|Range of Board Length |
|115 – 125cm|
|118 – 135cm|
|120 – 135cm|
|125 – 140cm|
|130 – 142cm|
|135 – 145cm|
|140 – 148cm|
|159cm or greater|