If you’re looking for the right board to start out with or want to change things up, you don’t need a snowboard size chart. Why? Because everyone is different and your board will need to complement your own body and riding style. Looking at numbers on a size chart doesn’t actually answer the question, “What height should my snowboard be?” when you don’t know the “why” behind snowboard length. Knowing how to size a snowboard is easy, though, when you consider your skill level, weight, and height, and where on the mountain you like to ride.
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What type of snowboard is best for beginners?
Don’t sweat getting the perfect height snowboard, just think about where you’re at in your snowboarding journey. If you’re at the very beginning, freestyle or all-mountain snowboards are the best snowboards for beginners. You may be asking why skill level has anything to do with finding the right size snowboard. If you’re a beginner, chances are you’re still learning how to turn and stop and you’re probably not riding switch yet. As you’re learning to convert heel pressure and stance into turning and stopping, a board that responds readily to your signals will make it easier.
Freestyle and all-mountain boards aren’t super stiff, so they’re more sensitive to pressure from your feet.
Why does this matter?
When talking about the stiffness of a board, we’re talking about flex (more on this later). If you’re a beginner snowboarder, riding with a stiffer board that takes a bit more pressure to turn can be challenging! Something short and flexible will make your life easier as you figure out how to turn.
What height should my snowboard be?
This also isn’t as crucial as you think. Yes, it’s important, but here’s what you need to know. It’s totally ok to get a freestyle or all-mountain board that isn’t as tall as you. Freestyle boards are meant to be a little shorter than average, and if you’re learning, the goal is to easily move around on the bunny hill. Chin or nose height board length when standing a freestyle or all-mountain board up next to you are ideal heights for beginners when selecting the right size snowboard.
If you’re wanting to start with a board that you can grow into, and you see yourself in the trees or deep pow, a freeride or all-mountain board with a length measuring between your nose and forehead will keep you stable at higher speeds and give you better float.
But as snowboard choice is highly subjective to personal preferences and styles, I recommend trying out a snowboard at a rental shop before purchasing to make sure it’s the right height for you.
The Anatomy of the Rider
Just as snowboard length is something to consider, you should consider rider height. You definitely don’t want to catch an edge, so when deciding how to size a snowboard, look at the snowboard width. If you’re average height and weight for your age, this may not be something you need to consider. If you’re a little taller or heavier, you may need a wider board that provides more stability, especially when going down the mountain at high speeds.
The waist width is the width of your snowboard at its narrowest (between your binding holes) when viewing it from above. Here’s how to get the right waist width in your new board.
Put on your snowboard boots (this is my favorite brand) and slip them into the snowboard bindings. The bindings should be attached to the board in your chosen stance. A centered stance is perfect if you’re a rider who is just learning or likes to do a variety of tricks.
Tried and True Snowboard Bindings
Once your snowboard boots are in the bindings and fastened, take a look at where your toes are.
If the board width is the same as your boots—meaning the edges of your boots meet the edge of your board—this is great, you’re all set.
If this is not the case and your toe extends a little bit beyond the edge of your board, that’s ok. Do your toes hang over the edge by more than 3/4″? Your board is probably too narrow if they do.
Do your heels sit over the edge of the board? That’s ok as long as they don’t hang over by more than 3/4″. This is a safety number that helps to ensure that you don’t catch an edge when making your turns.
What about too little overhang? If your toes don’t meet the edge of the snowboard at all and there’s a sizable gap (more than 1/4″) between your snowboard boot toe and the edge of the board, you may find turning more of a challenge. You need a narrower board.
Why does this matter?
Snowboard width seems like a petty detail, but being mindful of your snowboard’s waist width will ensure you enjoy your day on the mountain without struggling to make your turns or catching an edge.
If your board is too wide for you, meaning that your snowboard boots don’t come to the edge at all, then less pressure is being put on the edge of your board, so turning won’t be as easy.
If your board is too narrow for you, you run the risk of toe and heel drag when turning. This can slow you down or cause you to catch an edge.
Terrain Type/Riding Style
Are you enjoying groomed runs or do you see yourself getting big air in the terrain park? If you’re a beginner, you may not know what kind of snow you like to ride yet. Just mastering the bunny hill is enough for now! That is why freestyle and all-mountain boards are great for beginners. The all-mountain can handle a variety of terrain, making it a great board to grow into. The freestyle is fantastic for learning and can handle other terrains, but if you’re wanting to size a snowboard that does powder or tree-skiing really well, a freestyle board probably isn’t going to be the best fit for you.
If you know that you want to sail through trees or float on powder, you’ll want an all-mountain, freeride, or float board.
The different snowboard types make it easier for you to ride in certain terrains. It’s like if you were to use a Sharpie to do calligraphy writing on wedding invitations. It’s going to be really difficult to get the results you want if you’re using the wrong tool. So, if you like to go fast on groomed runs, rise to the challenge of moguls, or get lost in the trees, you’re going to get the best results from the right snowboard.
If you’re comfortable on the hill and are wondering how to size a snowboard for your unique style, continue reading for the nitty gritty of sizing a snowboard for your own personal preference.
Shapes of snowboards—The Nitty Gritty
The shape of a snowboard is that which you see when viewing it from above. Every snowboard has a nose and tail—the leading end is the nose, and the part of the board that is behind you is the tail. There are variations in noses and tails on snowboards which make for different shapes.
In twin shape snowboards, the nose and tail are the same shape. This symmetrical shape ensures that the board will ride the same no matter which direction you go. The board will ride just as well when leading with your left foot as it does when leading with your right. Twin shape boards are great for tricks and all types of terrain since they provide versatility and maneuverability.
In directional shape snowboards, the nose and tail have different shapes, meaning they are asymmetrical. This means the board is designed to go in one direction. Directional boards are great for speed and powder because they provide stability and float (staying on top of powder).
In a directional twin snowboard, the board has a front and back, meaning the nose and tail differ slightly from each other. It’s not so much that you can’t switch which direction you’re going, though. Directional twin boards often have longer noses than tails, so even if the shape of the nose and tail look the same, the length of the nose makes a difference in how the board does in powder or varying terrain.
The main difference between a directional twin and a twin is symmetry. The directional twin can have asymmetry in a number of ways, and not just the nose and tail shapes. If you’re a beginner, try not to get hung up on these details. Choose a board that is versatile for your comfort. A directional twin will be versatile, and as you learn to ride, you’ll discover and appreciate the delightful nuances of your board.
This isn’t a type of shape of snowboard but a feature of the tail. If the tail is narrower than the nose, it has a taper. This is so that the board floats more easily when going through powder or deep snow.
Types of Snowboards—The Nitty Gritty
All-mountain says it all—these are good snowboards for different types of terrain and riding styles. An all-mountain board’s shape is usually directional or directional twin and its flexibility is on the medium to medium-stiff side to keep you stable in deeper snow and shifts in terrain. You can still ride switch on a directional twin shape board, but the nose is going to be longer to help keep it above powder.
With its medium flexibility, an all-mountain board can also be considered a sturdier version of a freestyle board. This makes it great to learn with and use for a few years as it does well in different riding situations.
These boards are often twin shaped, have soft flexibility, and are meant to be a little shorter. As the name states, these boards are meant for freestyle riding in terrain parks where tight, quick turns are the name of the game. These boards will respond to you readily and with a twin shape, riding switch is possible so that you can take it on a trip down the half-pipe.
Freeride snowboards are for backcountry and powder skiing or any runs that are not groomed. They are longer and stiffer for deeper or variable terrain. Freeride snowboards most often come in directional or directional twin shapes to make for stability, carving, and going fast. This will also help you navigate quickly through trees, which is crucial to keep you out of tree wells.
Float boards, AKA powder boards, are in a realm of their own because they’re completely built for powder riding. Float snowboards are directional and wider than most boards, giving you optimum board float in powder. They can feature super short tails that are shaped to aid in turning without adding to surface area. For example, the swallow tail design.
Now that you know the four main types of snowboards, I’ll talk about flex and camber and how they’re two of the main factors that differentiate these snowboards from each other and establish them for specific riding styles.
Flex—The Nitty Gritty
What is flex on a snowboard? This is the easiest to explain. Flex is how flexible a snowboard is. How easily does your board bend? If it responds instantly to your pressure, it most likely has soft flex. Flex is measured from soft to stiff, or sometimes on a scale of 1-10, 10 being stiffest.
Freestyle boards have the softest flex to give the rider the ability to turn and maneuver quickly while doing tricks.
Why does this matter?
Because they respond easily, soft flex snowboards are great for beginners. They’re also great for tricks. When you’re wanting to be light on your feet in the halfpipe or when executing kicks off rails, you want a board that will be soft as butter and super responsive to your pressure. That’s the benefit of this level of flex, but soft flex makes for too wobbly a board when riding at higher speeds or in the backcountry.
All-mountain boards can have soft-medium to medium flex so that they can conquer a variety of terrain without giving in to the stubborn snow or bowing under powder. Medium flex responds readily but isn’t as touchy as soft flex, so you don’t have to worry about your board caving on you when you’re in the middle of a carve. However, this means that you need to exert a little more pressure to get a response from the board.
Why does this matter?
Medium flex snowboards are great for beginners, intermediate riders, and those who want to do a little bit of everything. Medium flex snowboards aren’t quite as easy to learn on as soft flex boards, but they make a great board to grow into if you don’t mind a bit of an initial challenge. Medium flex helps you execute turns while keeping the board stable against ungroomed or deep snow. They’re responsive without being too responsive and stiff without being too stiff. This goldilocks level of flex allows you to ride the whole mountain—from the bunny hill to trees—effortlessly.
Snowboards with this level of flex are going to be harder for beginners to learn on. Freeride snowboards are a type of board that’s going to have a stiffer flex rating, from medium to very stiff. This is because these boards are designed for the backcountry or ungroomed runs and therefore they need to be able to stand up to the untamed snow they encounter.
Why does this matter?
Stiffer flex is going to keep you stable when going fast and when carving. They’re not going to catch an edge easily at high speeds and they’ll keep you afloat in powder or in deep snow. My favorite way to ride down a mountain is fast with lots of carves on slightly challenging terrain, so this amount of flex is ideal for me.
Camber—The Nitty Gritty
What is snowboard camber? Camber is the curve that runs along the length of a snowboard. You can see it when you lay the snowboard flat and look at its side profile. Some boards don’t have a curvy profile and just lie flat—these are called flat or flat camber boards. You’ll sometimes hear the side profile of a board referred to as its camber, no matter the type of curve it has, and sometimes camber refers to the traditional type of curve seen in most boards.
Traditional camber is also called camber. This is a great camber option for beginners. A camber snowboard has a curve to it all along its length, starting from the middle and ending right before the tail and nose. This style of camber, when viewing the snowboard from the side, looks like a frown.
Why does this matter?
Lifting up and turning is easy with a traditional camber snowboard. Think stability and carving—traditional camber is going to ensure that you don’t waver when you carve—it will lean into the edge with you and stay on it. Traditional camber snowboards aren’t designed specifically for powder riding because the curve is positioned in the middle of the board. This means the rider has to expend more effort to lean back on the board to keep the nose up so that the powder doesn’t pull the board down.
Camber is very versatile and will treat you well in a variety of terrain. The board is pressed down by the weight of the rider until the rider initiates a turn or jump, and that’s when the rider gets some assistance from the “pop” of the camber. Because the board pops up when the rider releases pressure, jumps are fun to do with this type of board profile.
Also known as a rocker, this snowboard camber is the exact opposite of a traditional camber snowboard. Instead of looking like a frown from the side, this type of camber looks like a smile. The middle of the board is lower than the nose and tail.
Why does this matter?
Because the nose and tail are higher than the middle of the board and there’s no curve in the center of the board to give it pop when the rider releases pressure, these boards land easily and can float more easily in powder. They’re great for tricks in the terrain park and for powder but are more likely to catch an edge when going fast or doing deep carving. For this reason, rocker camber may not be the easiest to learn on.
…and everything else in between. These curvy boards are for more experienced riders because of their nuances. Hybrid rocker, flat to rocker, and camber combination are examples of snowboards that have curves of more than one type.
Boards with a hybrid camber have more than one type of curve in its profile (take a look at the photo above). Some snowboards have camber (the smile-shape) between the feet with rocker camber (the frown shape) on the outside edges.
These boards lose their clean smile or frown shapes and instead look more like squiggly mountain ranges or S’s. Choose a camber style based on your riding style, but as a beginner, try not to get lost in the subtleties of all the hybrid camber boards available on the market. With so many variations of camber out there, you’ll get dizzy looking at all the options. But it’s still fun to play around with the different combinations of camber on a snowboard because of how they affect the ride.
- Great book for intermediate snowboarders written by an Olympic gold medalist: Mastering Snowboarding by Hannah Teter
- Great book for beginners: Snowboarding Skills by Cindy Kleh
- Great book for anyone wanting to tear up the terrain park: The Art of Snowboarding by Jim Smith
This is what you need to know when figuring out how to size a snowboard for your individual skill level, riding style, and anatomy. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to choose a snowboard size when there is a myriad of options.
While experienced riders know what to look for, the jargon can be too much for someone who is just starting out. I remember feeling overwhelmed by it. So know that options are great, and once you get comfortable on the hill, you’ll love customizing your perfect board! But until then, I hope this quick overview fills you with the confidence to make the right decision when choosing your first or second snowboard.
I also recommend that once you’ve decided on a couple of options, check out your local snowboard shops that provide rentals and rent a board or two so that you end up with the perfect board.
Not sure if you want to commit to learning how to snowboard yet? Check out our article on skiing vs. Snowboarding.