Snowboarding Must Knows

Getting Started:
All snowboards are made of the same basic materials; wood, fiberglass, Plastic also know as PTex, and metal edges.  Not all snowboards are the same though.  A number of things influence the performance of a snowboard, including the combination of the above materials, stiffness, length, weight and shape. Below is an overview of several of the most common types of snowboards:

Freestyle: Freestyle boards usually have a "twin-tip" shape, meaning the nose and tail are the same, which makes riding backwards (also known as Switch or Fakie) as easy as riding forwards. They also tend to be a bit softer, with a less-aggressive sidecut (the edges' tapered profile) for gentler turns. Freestyle boards are a great choice if you do a lot of your riding in terrain parks or your main focus is jumping, jibbing and learning new tricks.

Freeride: While freeride boards can definitely be ridden fakie, they usually have a "directional" shape with a distinct tip and tail design meant to mostly be ridden forward. They're a bit stiffer boards, so they can hold a better edge at high speeds and are more supportive in bumpy conditions. Freeride boards are a good bet for people who love to carve, go fast, and ride all over the mountain.

Women's, kids', and wide boards: Height, weight, and foot size are crucial to what kind of board you ride.
Women and kids are generally lighter, with smaller feet and a narrower stance. Board companies have adjusted their specs accordingly and now offer many high-performance models geared towards those specific demographics. Likewise, riders with big feet (size 10 or larger) have a variety of "wide" boards to choose from these days with wider waist widths that won't cause the dreaded toe and heal drag, which can cause you to fall.

A Few Key Pointers

  • As far as board length goes, your board should fall somewhere between your chin and your nose when stood up on its tail and be wide enough so that your feet don't hang over the edge more than a ½ inch.
  • When starting out, your bindings should be set so that your feet are slightly wider than shoulder width apart.  Also, a slight outward angle of both your feet (between 3-15 degrees) generally gives you better leverage and balance. Also, make sure your bindings are centered on the board width-wise and not hanging too far off one edge or the other.
  • Beginners will generally want a softer, more forgiving board to learn on (soft refers to how easy it is to flex the board).
  • When renting a board, discuss your riding experience with the technician and be truthful.
  • Lastly, you'll need to know your stance (regular or goofy). If you don't know, think about trying to slide across the floor in your socks.  If your right foot leads, you are goofy-footed and that foot goes in front. Left lead is regular.  There is no right or wrong here and remember you can always change if you start to find that you’re more comfortable with one foot over the other.

Proper Boot Fitting

Your boots are your primary connection point to your board and are arguably the most important piece of snowboard equipment you own. If your feet are unhappy, then your whole body is unhappy. Riding with foot pain is about as much fun as getting splinters under your fingernails. Luckily, finding a good fit isn't rocket science. Here are a few easy tips to finding a pair of boots that won't give you bone spurs, pressure points, blisters, or any sort of bipedal discomfort.
In general, snowboard boots are made up of an outer shell and inner removable liner. Some initial fit tips for boots include:

  • When trying on boots, wear the socks you'll be wearing up to the hill. Usually a medium-weight wool or other moisture-wicking sock is best.
  • The fit should be snug. Remember, your boots will "pack out" (loosen up) as you break them in, so you want them tight at the beginning-but not painful, of course.
  • Your heel should remain in place when you bend your knee and ankle forward. Heel lift renders the boot much less responsive, making for a sloppy ride.
  • Walk around and make sure there aren't any pressure points or spots that pinch your feet. Common problem areas include on the bridge of the foot, the heel, and around the anklebones

A good boot is nothing without the support of its binding. Make sure your boots are compatible with your binding setup. Most snowboard bindings are made of a baseplate that attaches to the board, a highback (an ergonomic plastic piece that supports the back of your leg), and two straps that run across the bridge of your foot. There should be little-to-no play between your boot and binding once you're strapped in.

Your First Day
Now that you’re all geared up with your board, boots and binding you’re ready to take it out on the hill.  First-time snowboarders should always take a lesson from a qualified instructor. A lesson will help you learn much faster and you probably won't be as sore the next day.

  • Call ahead to the resort to find out about beginner lessons and any special deals that might be available.
  • Don't get frustrated and don’t give up. The first day on a board can be challenging, but stick with it for a few days, keep practicing and you'll soon be riding more challenging runs.  In general most people will be up and making turns on their own after their 3rd day on a board.
  • Just remember the most important tip:  Have Fun!