Snow Patrol: 10 Best Snowboards For Every Rider

Jul 31, 2019

Category: Gear

For the majority of sane folks out there, winter is more of a nuisance than a time of recreation. Gone are the canceled days home from class and the youthful snowball fights amongst fellow neighborhood hellions too young to understand the repercussions of a slippery roadway. Yes, winter can be a bear and a burden. That is, of course, unless you’re strapped into a new board and ready to butter that freshly fallen powder from atop your local mountain resort.

It’s honestly a bit humorous how quickly “ughs” turn to “yews” in such a brief time span. Maybe it’s the prospect of traveling by foot and/or lift rather than a car for the time being. Or that the adrenaline garnered from an off-piste journey or a day at the park far outweighs the banality of just another day at the office. And we can’t argue with that — for it’s a sheer miracle of adaption that we’re able to take nearly inhospitable conditions and turn hours of exposure into a good time for all. For that, we can thank the gear that’s gotten us this far in winter recreation and the snowboards — constantly evolving in their shape, construction, and form — that work to keep us on edge and at the ready to tackle the next season’s relentless snowfall (fingers crossed on that one). One key to success, however, is choosing the right board based on your individual style and riding preferences. It’s a process that shouldn’t be taken lightly, which is why we suggest some preliminary knowledge be attained prior to making a purchase.

The Basics

Know Your Style

Much like any other outdoor sport under the sun — or even indoors for that matter — devotees possess different styles of participation within the sport. Some would claim this is a direct result of various personalities that therefore have a hand in how we approach the sport (social vs. solitary, competitive vs. laid back, Type A vs. Type B). However, plenty of other factors come into play as well — like mountain conditions, crowds, or personal skill level. At any rate, we can manage to pare-down the “Big 4,” so to speak, that should provide some guidance into the type of board best suited for you.

1. Powder Lover

As one may infer from the inconspicuous title. Powder Lovers are those who crave freshly-fallen snow — knee to waist deep in backcountry fluff and always looking for more. Now, we’re not naive enough to suggest these riders are unique — all snowboarders love fresh powder — but this is a pertinent question to ask yourself as specific boards are catered to powder days on the mountain.

2. Freerider

As a fellow fan of powder themselves, freeriders are the cruisers of the snowboarding world. These are the riders who approach each run as they would with a longboard on the asphalt, with high speeds and smooth carves. Odds are the free rider is a surfer by summer looking to dodge obstacles and make fresh off-piste tracks with a smile on their face come wintertime.

3. All Mountaineer

If you consider yourself a non-discriminatory rider on the mountain then you might just be an all-mountain rider. That is, if the morning takes you off-piste in the backcountry just to circle back in time to hit the park before sunset (pipe and all) then an all-mountaineer is your snowbound identity. These are the chameleons of the mountain, adaptable as hell and constantly having a great time with their voluntary bouts of Attention Deficit Disorder. Tackle this run, hit the park, then the pipe, and do it all over again. Endless energy and a sense of adventure reign supreme here.

4. Freestyler

Sometimes misconstrued as the “hot dog,” the freestyler is simply here to make the most out of both land and sky over the course of their run. Treating the entire mountain as their park, freestylers (much like their all-mountain brethren) opt for boards that can handle it all. The only downfall here is you enter into the “master of none” arena as these boards lack specific characteristics for any one type of style or terrain.

Style Points

Finding The Perfect Board To Match Your Steez

As a logical next step in the buying process, once the desired style is agreed upon it’s time to match that with specific board shapes and purposed terrains. For instance, is this a board built for powder or for the park? And what’s the difference between the two? Also noteworthy here is what serves as the best option for beginners as terrain-specific boards might be a little too advanced for those not seasoned enough to enjoy them in true form.

1. Powder Board

Sometimes associated with freeride snowboards, powder boards often feature a wider nose and tapered narrower tail to prevent drag. Additionally, these boards host binding inserts that are typically set a bit further toward the board’s rear to help keep the rider afloat on top of deep powder. They also feature more rocker to help the rider accomplish that as well.

2. Freeride

While fresh powder does inundate the entire mountain at times, it’s only in the backcountry terrain where it reigns supreme. That’s where the freeride snowboard comes in handy — built specifically for these less-traveled parts of the mountain. These boards typically host a stiffer flex and clock in a bit longer than the more agile freestyle boards. They’re also shaped in a specific manner to perform optimally in one direction (not switch) — otherwise known as “directional.”

Soft vs. Stiff Snowboards

In addition to the board’s shape and intended use, all snowboards feature some level of “flex” in their composition. Typically outlined as a flex rating (or longitudinal flex) in the board’s specs and stiffness vs. softness in conversational terms, this characteristic has a huge impact on how the board rides. Let’s break this down a bit further:

Stiff Boards: Typically, riders looking for increased edge grip at high speeds — those who charge big powder lines and groomers— will opt for a stiffer board. That’s because they’re oftentimes larger and can absorb heavy landings without buckling under your feet. However, these aren’t necessarily ideal for the park and/or low-speed tricks.

Soft Boards: On the contrary, softer boards host a higher flex rating and will bend without worry — ideal for pressing rails, low-speed tricks and loading the tail. Because of this, they are naturally more forgiving to rider error as the edges aren’t as responsive.

Flex can also vary in different places along the board. An example of this would be a board with a stiffer tail for edge snap yet a soft (i.e. greater flex) nose to float atop powdery conditions. And in some cases, boards feature what’s known as “twin flex” in which both the nose and the tail host the same flex rating — ideal for park boards.

3. All Mountain

The ideal setup for novice snowboarders, all-mountain boards are designed specifically for conquering the whole mountain. Performing on groomers, in the park, and atop powder, these boards are quiver-reducers in their own right. They’re versatile, easily adaptable, and ideal for beginners.

4. Freestyle

As you may have guessed, freestyle boards are built with terrain parks, rails, jibs, and switch stances in mind. Meaning, they’re shorter in length and host a true twin shape for those reasons. A well-known variant of this board is the all-mountain freestyle that, as you might already assume, offers the cherished versatility of the all-mountain shape with the length and playful nature of the freestyle board.

5. Splitboard

And then there’s the splitboard. Built specifically for the backcountry rider, these nuanced snowboards are designed to separate into two separate halves for touring or travel uphill in between runs. Unlike all other options out there, they also require special bindings along with advanced knowledge of backcountry terrain and climbing skins for riders to take full advantage of the freedom splitboards have to offer.

Bataleon Party Wave

As a premier freerider, the Party Wave is one fan favorite for those who like to get a bit weird in the backcountry. Bateleon recommends sizing this about 5cm-10cm shorter than your standard all-mountain sled thanks to its wider shape. Each board also houses a modest flex rating, a directional tapered outline for higher speeds, a Super Slick X base for a fast-paced, maintenance-free experience, and ABS sidewalls that’ll offer one of the best flex-to-strength ratios in the industry. Can’t go wrong here, especially while traversing untouched off-piste powder.

Best Freerider

Flex Rating: Medium
Rocker Type: Camber
Ability Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Purchase: $400

Ride Twinpig

Positioned as the lighter and more playful version of the WarPig, the Ride TwinPig is everything you could possibly want from a park-friendly stick combined with the durability of an all-mountain board. Each board hosts an asymmetrical twin shape and a soft flex for the freestyle-oriented bunch out there while extra thick Cleave Edges help keep the Twinpig in tip-top shape for years on end. Additional features include a full-length Aspen core, a Hybrid Rocker profile, and an extruded base for longevity and consistency. Honestly, what’s not to like here?

Best for Durability

Flex Rating: Soft
Rocker Type: Rocker/Camber/Rocker
Ability Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Purchase: $410

GNU Head Space

Following in the footsteps of Forest Bailey is never a bad look. Luckily, we have his the signature jib-focused asymmetric twin to keep you up to speed and confident in the park for hours on end. Also along those lines, each Head Space hosts a core chock-full of different woods for an overall softer flex heelside — thus allowing for seamless turn initiation and overall quicker response. Additionally, each USA-made board hosts the likes of durable UHMW sidewalls, Magne-Traction for superior edge hold, and a mild rocker between bindings. Have at it folks, this here is the real deal for park rats and noodlers.

Best Park Board

Flex Rating: Medium
Rocker Type: Camber/Rocker/Camber
Ability Level: Advanced-Expert

Purchase: $450

Korua Shapes Otto

Any freestyle board can boast a softer flex and playful shape. What they don’t have in common with the Otto from Korua Shapes is the brand’s classic float camber and radius, enhanced pop and a lack of taper and smaller setback for eased switch landings. The Otto also hosts a Poplar Light core, a P-TEX 2000 Sintered base, and a seamless camber to rocker transition at the nose and tail for an enhanced lift in deep powder, improved float when you need it most, and reliable response and stability when landing aerial maneuvers.

Best Freestyle

Flex Rating: Medium
Rocker Type: Rocker/Camber
Ability Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Purchase: $455

K2 Cool Bean

For some snowboarders, the mountain is just an incredibly large stationary wave. One where riders feel free to cut and carve as they please across its wide-open frozen face. That’s where K2 Snowboards comes into play with their Cool Bean model that’s positioned for that very purpose. Here, this surf-inspired ride hosts a stubby swallowtail for carving in deep powder as well as a surf-like feel, a tight turning radius for enhanced agility, a light core built from sustainably harvested trees, and a large rockered nose to float easily over the fresh stuff.

Best Carving Board

Flex Rating: Medium
Rocker Type: Rocker/Flat/Rocker
Ability Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Purchase: $470

Burton Deep Thinker

Complete with a healthy mix of rocker and camber for heightened float and response, this backcountry freestyle board holds up with serious prowess for those who treat the entire mountain like one big park. Each Deep Thinker stands up for these ideals via a formidable combination of a Dualzone EGD for enhanced edge control, a lightweight yet seriously strong FSC-certified wood core, Pro Tips tapered tip and tail to help you navigate nimbly over and around obstacles, and a Sintered WFO base that’s both ultra fast and durable as hell.

Best Backcountry Freestyle

Flex Rating: Stiff
Rocker Type: Rocker/Camber
Ability Level: Advanced-Expert

Purchase: $580

Weston Japow

As a quick primer, the first snowboard was actually referred to as a “snurfer” and featured a bindingness surfboard-shape with a swallowtail at the rear. It’s also those very origins that inspired the surf-themed Weston Japow — a beauty of a powder board that can slice through freshly-fallen snow like a knife through butter. Don’t discount its potential on groomer lines either, for its ability to carve seamlessly across various terrain should only motivate you to scoop up one of these retro-tailed beauties.

Best Powder Board

Flex Rating: Medium
Rocker Type: Rocker-Camber-Flat (Swallow-Tail)
Ability Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Purchase: $600

Lib Tech T. Rice Orca

Complete with a wider profile, setback stance, and directional shape, this all-mountain beauty is one reliable board for any and all snowbound conditions. Just take it from Travis Rice himself, as this is his signature model. Here, each Orca is primed for powder surfing and mountain carving thanks to a mid-stiff flex while the added width allows for all the stability of a longer board in conjunction with the agility of a park board; they don’t call it an all-mountain board for nothing. Additionally, sustainably-harvested wood offers a light and snappy core, Birch internal sidewalls offer up a durable ride overall, and each Lib Tech board is built right here in the USA.

Best All Mountain

Flex Rating: Stiff
Rocker Type: Camber/Rocker/Camber
Ability Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Purchase: $600

GNU Mullair G3

Typically, when the likes of Swiss big mountain junkie Nicolas Muller endorses and rides a particular board we pay attention. Such is the case with the GNU Mulliar G3 — built specifically for deep powder runs, pillow drops, and all-around freestyle freedom. The camber-dominant profile also offers riders locked-in edge hold on those high-speed runs while its Sintered base is incredibly fast and maintenance-free. Additionally, a sustainably-harvested wood core provides a snappy yet light experience and the G3’s triax/biax wrap enhances overall durability for season upon season of use.

Best Big Mountain

Flex Rating: Stiff
Rocker Type: Camber
Ability Level: Advanced-Expert

Purchase: $600

Jones Hovercraft Splitboard

Don’t let the clean lines and seamless design fool you, splitboarding takes practice and seasoned knowledge of backcountry environments. That’s because, well, they’re built specifically for that purpose — the Jones Hovercraft included. Here, we have a directionally-shaped splitboard for high speeds and float, a heightened nose rocker for deep powder runs, medium to stiff flex, a full poplar wood core/bamboo topsheet for a smooth ride, and — of course — Karakoram clips that’ll keep both halves conjoined until separation is once again necessary.

Best Off-Piste

Flex Rating: Medium-Stiff
Rocker Type: Directional Rocker
Ability Level: Advanced-Expert

Purchase: $850

The Ultimate Guide To Learning How To Snowboard

Need some additional advice to get started? Not to worry, for we’ve covered all the basics — including the gear — in this detailed beginner’s guide to learning how to snowboard.

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