If you are new to snowboarding, or you’ve been out of the sport for a while and want to get back in, there are so many options available to riders today it’s easy to go bonkers. With different styles, flex patterns, profile shapes and construction materials, just about anyone can get overwhelmed. This is the ultimate mens snowboards guide and after you finish reading it you’ll know how to choose a snowboard for purchase.
The Ultimate Mens Snowboards Guide
How it Feels: Flex Patterns
It’s All About Flex
Most people think about their skill level and go into a snowboard shop looking to buy a “beginner,” “intermediate” or “advanced” level board.
The truth is, snowboards aren’t designed or engineered that way.
Although it’s perfectly fine to go into a shop and tell the shop kid you’re looking for an “intermediate freestyle board,” and they’ll most likely know exactly which boards to recommend to you, but it’s better to understand that snowboards come in different flex patterns.
Different flex patterns suit different riders. Typically, if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to ride a board with a soft flex. Softer flexing boards are more forgiving and therefore considered easier to ride.
Stiffer boards are more responsive and people generally consider them harder to ride, yet more powerful and faster.
How Flex Affects Your Snowboard Riding
When it comes to choosing a snowboard you’ll want to match the board’s flexibility with the type of riding you plan on doing. For example, if you’re out west riding a mountain, you might want a stiffer board that gives you more control in the varying snow conditions. But if you live here in Ontario, you might want something softer flexing if you plan to ride park.
You can look at it another step further, if you’re riding park and spending more time hitting jibs, rails and boxes, you’ll probably want a softer board. If you’re spending more time hitting jumps, you might want something stiffer to offer you more speed and control for take-offs and landings. So it all ready depends on the type of riding you plan on doing.
Snowboard Flex Ratings
You should also know that snowboards come with a flex rating. It’s usually displayed on a sheet in the boards plastic wrap packaging. These are spec sheets and they display a bunch of different information about a particular snowboard model.
Different brands rate the flex of their boards differently. Basically, there is no universal rating among any of the brands. However, the staff at your local snowboard shop should be more than familiar enough with their product to know what to recommend you.
When figuring out how to choose a snowboard it’s totally cool to grab a board in the store and bend it to get a feel for its flexibility. Most guys and girls working in shops will bend the board to show you.
How it Rides: The Different Side Profile of Mens Snowboards
When I first started snowboarding, pretty much all the boards came in camber shape. But times have changed. Now there’s camber, reverse camber (usually called rocker) and a bunch of different hybrid shapes with all the brands calling it something different.
So I’ll keep things simple and start from the basics.
A board with a camber profile, or camber shape, is the traditional shape they’ve been making snowboards since day one. You have contact points that run across the nose and tail of the board. If you place a camber board flat on the ground, you’ll notice the center of the board is curved upwards. When you step on the center of the board it will flex.
When you flex and flatten a camber board while riding, say during a carve turn, you’ll build up pressure and energy into the board. As you exit from a carve, the board will naturally want to snap or pop back into its curved shape. This snap, or pop, is what makes a stiffer board more responsive. Camber boards are great if you want to go fast, carve hard and get a lot of pop out of your ollies.
Rocker boards are pretty much the exact opposite. With the contact point in the very center of the board, the nose and tail curve up away from the ground. This gives the board a looser, more skateboard like feel under your feet. Because of the shape of a rocker board, when you get the board on it’s edge during a carve, the board will naturally drive the rider through the carve. For this reason rocker boards are described as being more mellow and easier to ride. A rocker board is usually recommended for beginner riders because with the nose and tail of the board lifted upward, it is less likely to catch an edge and bail.
However, rocker boards are also great when riding in deep pow conditions. Again, because the nose and tail are lifted upward, the board will naturally want to float in deeper snow.
Besides camber and rocker, snowboards come in many different hybrids. Some boards are flat, or have zero camber, while others have some kind of combination between camber and rocker at different areas along a board’s profile.
Each brand names their hybrid snowboards differently. For example, Burton has Flying V, which is a rocker shape in the center of the board between your feet. Then camber underneath your feet. Then back to rocker towards the nose and tail outside your feet. Nitro Snowboards have what’s called GullWing and LibTech/ GNU have Banana Traction. They’re different names but they are all essentially the same shape.
Check out these brand diagrams and see for yourself. (Just click on the images if you need to see a larger version)
A hybrid shape snowboard is meant to combine the benefits of both camber and rocker into a single board. You’ll get the pop and responsiveness of a camber board while you’re on edge during a carve turn, but you’ll also get the looser, more forgiving riding experience of rocker.
I’ve been noticing that snowboard brands have been consistently adding more hybrid board options to their product lines every year, over the last several years.
Size it Up: Choosing the Right Snowboard Length
When deciding what length of mens snowboards you should get for yourself, it all depends on how much you weigh. Snowboards are designed around a rider’s weight. The more you weigh, the longer the snowboard you should get. The less you weigh, the shorter the snowboard you should get.
Avoid this Myth at All Costs
If anyone ever tries to sell you a snowboard and says that the height of the snowboard should be “between your nose and chin”, they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.
Specs and Decks
Going back to the spec sheets that come on a snowboards plastic wrap packaging, weight ranges will be displayed for the particular board model you are looking at. Take a look at this example of a Burton Custom snowboard. (The board brand is Burton and the board model is called Custom.)
As you can see, the Custom comes in many different lengths and each length has a corresponding weight range.
Let’s say you weigh 155 lbs. That means for this particular snowboard model you can ride on anything from 151cm long to 160cm long.
You might be thinking, “well, gee, that doesn’t help me figure out how to choose a snowboard much. There are 5 snowboards that I could ride based on my weight.”
Snowboard Length Size Chart
Should You Go Longer or Shorter?
In order to know how to choose a snowboard you gotta think about where and how you ride. For example, if you’re riding here in Ontario, you might want a shorter board in your weight range. With a shorter board you’ll find it lighter and easier to transition from edge to edge while riding. This is because with a shorter board your turn radius will be more narrow, which is nice here in Ontario when our hills aren’t very long. You’ll feel like you’re making more turns down the hill in a single run.
Contrast that with a larger board, you’ll find it a bit heavier under your feet, but it will be faster because you will be making longer, wider turns. Riding a larger board in your weight range is ideal for bigger mountain riding. With a larger board you’ll have a longer effective edge on your snowboard which will give you more control and stability at higher speeds.
Just to give you some context, the shortest board I ride is a 152. While the longest board I own is a 157. I’ve personally found that anything longer or shorter than that range is not comfortable for me.
Construction Materials: What Mens Snowboards Are Made Of
When you’re thinking about what mens snowboards you want to purchase, its construction and materials are a large factor in determining the price. Different brands will use different materials to reduce weight, dampen vibrations or increase stiffness in a snowboard.
While each manufacturer will offer up a different method of making mens snowboards, most of them are still going to follow a similar production process. Snowboards are made primarily with wooden cores. Those cores are usually made with different species of wood, such as Poplar or Aspen among others.
It’s rare nowadays for snowboard cores to be made of just one species of wood.
More often I’ve been noticing brands using genetically modified species of wood. This allows different areas of a snowboard’s core to be constructed with both stiffer and softer woods.
Other materials commonly used in a snowboard’s construction are fiberglass, carbon and basalt rock. All these materials are comprised into layers.
A snowboard is typically made up of:
- Base Layer
- Fibreglass Layer
- Wooden Core
- Top Sheet
How Mens Snowboards Are Made
What Goes Into a Snowboard?
Most snowboards start with a core layer of wood and then get built outwards from there. The different layers that come together to makeup a snowboard will determine the weight and flexibility of your board.
Every single snowboard is going to feature a blend of these layers, although the snowboard type will generally be determined by how the board itself is being constructed.
Snowboard bases are a key part of the overall snowboard. Similar to snowboard edges, bases are always in contact with the snow and so the base plays a major role in how the board performs in varying conditions and types of terrain.
There are basically two major types of snowboard bases- extruded and sintered. Both bases are made from high-density polyethylene and it’s better known by its brand name, P-tex.
This P-tex material allows the snowboard base to channel air, snow and water, which gives the snowboard the ability to glide smoothly. Here are some differences between extruded and sintered bases.
This type of base is denser which makes it more durable. It also doesn’t have to be waxed or maintained as frequently. However, extruded bases do not allow you to ride as fast as sintered bases. Extruded bases are often constructed in medium to low priced snowboards.
These bases are much faster. You’ll really be able to rip on a sintered base! That’s because they are more porous than extruded bases. But they require much more waxing and maintenance to get their full performance. Sintered base are used in the construction of medium to high priced snowboards.
Snowboard edges are made of stainless steel, and are held into the board with T-shaped inserts which are built into them.
There are 2 types of edges, full wrap and partial wrap.
Full wrap edges go all the way around the snowboard.
Partial wrap edges are where the edges just run along the sides of the board where they will make contact with the snow. There is no metal edge around the tip and tail of the snowboard.
There has been a long standing debate in snowboarding about which edge construction is better. Most snowboard companies have wrapped edges meaning they go continuously along the edge of the snowboard and tips and tails.
But the brands Lib-Tech and Gnu (both made in the same factory) don’t put metal edges on the tip and tails of their boards.
The argument for full wrap edges is that it creates a uniform strength around the entire board.
The argument for partial wrap edges is that they are lighter and easier to repair if your edges ever do get damaged.
This is the area that runs alongside the edge of your snowboard. There are three different types, all of which offer different traits. The different construction types available would be:
ABS Sidewall (Sandwich) – In this construction, every layer of your mens snowboards will be laid flat. An ABS sidewall will be inserted into the side to ensure that the core is protected. This is a very common sidewall construction.
Cap – Both the fiberglass and top sheet layers are wrapped over the core to seal the edge. The board will be a bit lighter as there are less materials being used. Also this will give your snowboard a little more “pop”. With that being said, this sidewall construction has become rare see.
Half-Cap – This is considered to be a mix of the first two options. The fiberglass layer comes down to wrap around the core of your snowboard, but the top sheet will always come down a bit and join with the sidewall. It offers the perfect balance of light and snappy, which is found on more expensive snowboard.
There are plenty of different materials that can be used for the core of your mens snowboards. Every option provides you a different snowboarding experience.
The cores are usually made out of laminated hardwood such as poplar, beech, aspen, bamboo or birch. Each of these types of wood vary in stiffness but they are all relatively easy to genetically modify and grow sustainably to keep up with production demands.
While wood is the most popular choice, that doesn’t mean that it’s the only core material to work with. Here are some other core materials:
- Carbon-stiff and responsive
- Kevlar-even stiff and more durable
- Aluminum Honeycomb-super lightweight and high end
- Foam-cheap and low end
Your core will use many strips of laminated hardwood that run through the entire length of the board. These strips are usually a mixture of different woods species. Sometimes additional materials will be used. These various materials affect the flexibility and torsional rigidity of snowboards. A snowboard’s flex generally refers to bending a snowboard from nose to tail. While torsional rigidity refers to bending a snowboard from edge to edge.
The Fibreglass Layer
These layers protect and seal the core while adding strength. A wood core itself wouldn’t be stiff enough to warrant using as a snowboard. It also prevents the snowboard from deforming or warping its shape. Fibreglass layers are applied in one of two ways:
Bi-axial Wraps – This is where the fibreglass strands are woven together at a ninety-degree angle. This makes the fibreglass lightweight and reliable.
Tri-axial Wraps – The strands are woven at both 45 and 0 degrees respectively, and then again at the minus 45 degree mark. This layer is lightweight and reliable as well, but has additional torsional rigidity.
Resin, which is a gooey-like adhesive, is used to glue the fibreglass layers to the top and bottom of the snowboard’s core.
The Top Sheet
This is the layer with the graphics on it. The top sheet can be made of many different materials, including the likes of nylon, wood, plastic, fibreglass, as well as composites, which is a fancy way of saying ‘multiple types of plastic in one’. Graphics are applied to your snowboard in one of two different ways:
Sublimation – In this process, the graphic design is first printed on special paper using special inks. Then a ton of heat and pressure are applied to the print to infused the graphics into the plastics materials that will make up the top sheet. The graphics will be a portion of the top sheet and blend in seamlessly.
Encapsulation – This process has the graphics being printed onto a piece of paper or cloth (or anything that can be used to transfer it, essentially) and then put under a clear top sheet or lacquer finish. The graphic will be underneath a protective layer, but a few scratches are all it takes for your graphics to become damaged. When a top sheet starts to crack and peel, it’s called delamination.
Snowboard Shop: How to Buy Mens Snowboards
Hands down the best way to buy a snowboard is to go to your local snowboard shop. And I’ll tell you why.
Obviously, almost all the snowboard gear you could ever want can be purchased online. There are already plenty of reputable and reliable e-commerce stores to order from. But the in-person buying experience you get when you go to a snowboard shop can’t be beat.
One of my favourite snowboard shops in the Greater Toronto Area is Corbett’s in Oakville. The selection of products there is plentiful. I recommend investing the time to develop a relationship with the staff and shop owners.
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- The Ultimate Mens Snowboard Gloves Guide
- The Ultimate Mens Snowboard Jacket Guide
- The Ultimate Mens Snowboard Pants Guide
- The Ultimate Mens Snowboard Socks Guide
- The Ultimate Mens Snowboard Base Layer Guide