There is nothing like the feeling of racing down the side of a beautiful snowy mountain. Whether you have tried skiing before or not, the difference between skiing and snowboarding is not trivial. For a start, the most important difference is the fact that you stand on a snowboard the same way you stand on a skateboard. That sideways stance is very compelling to some. It just feels more “actiony,” as some occasionally say. It’s a more sassy and attitude-laden stance that seems to make snowboarding more compelling.
If you’re interested in snowboarding, there’s no need to explain why. We get it. It just seems so danged cool. Here, we’ll cover the basics of getting started in this unique sport so that you’ll know how to get the right gear, stay under budget, and stay reasonably safe out there on the slopes.
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The Importance of High-Quality Snowboarding Gear
We don’t want to belabor the point, because it’s obvious: snowboarding can be dangerous.
Anyone can understand why you want safety gear out there on the slopes. But a common beginner mistake is buying cheap gear that doesn’t last and that won’t protect you from serious collisions. The popular phrase, “buy nice, don’t buy twice,” is appropriate. But more importantly, you want gear that is strong enough to take the brunt of a fall or a crash and actually protect you, and not just look good.
If you’re concerned about price, well- medical bills after a preventable accident will probably be more expensive than all of the high-quality gear that you should have. So keep that in mind when you buy.
When you go snowboarding, the three things you absolutely need are a snowboard, snowboard bindings, and snowboard boots. Without these, it’s impossible to take part in this fun sport.
A snowboard is not just a piece that you stand on—it is a precision-made piece of gear. To choose the right board, you will need to match it to your height, weight, and riding style.
A board of the proper length will go from the floor to your lips when stood on its end. Camber, rocker and the various admixtures of these two characteristics make up the different types of snowboards. Different types of snowboards are needed for different types of snowboarding. You can get a freestyle snowboard, powder snowboard, split board, free ride, or all-mountain board. For a beginner, the most generalized board might be the best choice, this is the all-mountain board. An all-mountain board is the most forgiving, and it covers all of the characteristics that a snowboard should and can have. While not exceeding in any one aspect, an all-mountain board will do everything you need it to do reliably, and at a pace that is good for beginners.
The ideal width of the board allows your boots to slightly overlap the edges of the board on both sides. You don’t want the weight of your feet to extend over the side, just a small part of the sole of your boots. If you need help sizing your snowboard, check out our guide on how to do it yourself or ask an expert for assistance.
Different snowboard shapes perform differently. Some are faster than others, while some offer more control. Once again, an all-mountain board is usually best for a beginning snowboarder.
Other important features include the effective edge, the side-cut radius, base material, and board flexibility. You can choose a more refined board after you get some experience on the slopes. To begin, your best bet is to ask for a beginner’s board—not a budget board, but a high-quality beginner snowboard. Buying a “budget” board can be dangerous as it may break under the weight of the average person.
The bindings bind your boots to the board. This is important if you don’t want to suddenly be without a board while going along at 20mph. Bindings for beginners often feature short and flexible highbacks. That’s the vertical plate that cradles your Achilles tendon. Advanced riders tend to prefer stiffer highbacks.
The more flexible snowboard bindings give you more room to move which makes learning your optimal stance easier. They are also a good choice when your feet and ankles are yet to be well-conditioned to the sport. Conditioning takes time and involves a degree of physical toughness and strength that your feet, ankles, and legs will develop after a few weeks of practice.
If you’re a beginner with snowboarding, make sure you learn how to properly strap into your bindings before hitting the slopes.
Boots for snowboarding are built to perform unlike any other type of boot. You will need to select the right snowboard boots by their flexibility, lacing system, the liners and footpads, and of course for proper fit and comfort. You can even find boots made for different snowboarding styles, such as freeride snowboard boots.
Snowboard boots come in soft, medium, and stiff flex. Soft flex is likely best for beginners. Stiffer boots are meant to support more demanding riding styles but may be uncomfortable for the feet of unconditioned riders.
You can choose between traditional and quick-pull lacing systems. The quick-pull type are easier to use and offers some customization. Traditional systems are tough to use while wearing gloves but may be simpler for beginners.
Liners and footpads
The main consideration for beginners will be the softness versus stiffness of the liner and footpads. In the beginning, when your riding style is more conservative and when your feet, ankles, and legs are not well conditioned to the demands of snowboarding, softer is probably better. More advanced snowboarders need stiffer support for more demanding slopes and riding styles. You will also want to look for boots that are made for your foot width. If you have wide feet, you’ll want to find a pair of snowboard foots for wide feet.
We’ve mentioned the importance of selecting high quality gear. With any motion sport comes a degree of risk. Snowboarding is no exception. You need gear that will protect you in the event of a collision at high speed. Inferior gear will offer inferior protection and is not worth the money you might save on it. Avoid being a snowboard injury statistic, and get high-quality safety gear before hitting the slopes.
There are a lot of snowboard helmets on the market. Many are inexpensive, and some are not worth the time it takes to put them on. You need a helmet that will protect your skull from impact. But you also need one that will feature a visor or that accommodates goggles well.
You also want a helmet that has enough room for your head as well as any cold weather gear that you may be wearing. Keep in mind, if you buy a helmet that leaves room for a beanie or stocking, it will need to be worn with that gear inside it for proper fit. That means you might need more than one helmet, to serve your comfort needs in weather conditions.
Finally, you need a helmet that will do its job. For best results, choose a helmet with a Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. This is a design that helps protect your brain from torsion and concussive impacts in addition to protecting your skull.
Knee pads help protect your knees from chance encounters with hard objects. The best snowboard knee pads will not come loose and fall down during normal use when fastened securely. Before you buy a pair, you should try them on over your snowboarding pants and do some dips and knee extensions to test that you can fasten them securely. You may have to experiment with different fastening styles to get them to fit and stay up properly. This is normal and is not necessarily a sign that a particular pair of kneepads are low quality.
With both snowboarding and skiing, some of the most common impact areas are the hips, the buttocks, and the thighs. Coming down against a hard object with your hip can be just as painful as striking your knee against the same object. Impact shorts will help protect you, and they can even help keep you warm if you go down in the snow.
Other Helpful Gear
While these items aren’t 100% necessary, they make your life a lot easier when taking care of your board or while you’re out on the slopes. If you have the room in your budget, you should definitely try to pick up some of these.
Anything you think you may want out there on the slopes will require you to carry it somehow. While a regular backpack might do the job, a snowboard backpack is designed to endure the cold and snowy weather. Some snowboard backpacks are also hardened to protect the contents of the pack as well as your back from possible falls.
If you want to take care of your board properly, you need to have a snowboard vise. Vises come in 2-3 piece sets, and they hold your board steady in place while you tune it or apply wax. Without a vise, you’ll have to set your snowboard down on a table or the floor, which allows the board to wobble around. You also won’t be able to easily put the board at specific angles to make it easier to manage your board.
Snowboard Wax Kit
As we mentioned, a snowboard is not just a plank of wood. It is a precision sporting instrument. To slide down the slopes easily, your snowboard needs to be smooth and slick. With a good snowboard wax kit, you’ll be able to keep your snowboard in good condition and make sure it’s ready to do its job when you plop it down in the snow.
We mentioned the vise you will use to attach the board securely to a car rack. Well, you can also buy racks that are specially designed to hold a snowboard. These are great if a snowboard or two is the only thing you want to carry on your car rack.
Unlike a skateboard, a snowboard can only be used when you are on the top of a snowy mountain. That means most snowboarders will want to display their snowboards when they are not in use and ride skateboards for the rest of the year. To do this with style, you will need a proper snowboard wall rack.
As mentioned above, you might want to carry your snowboard outside your car—especially after you’ve used it. The best snowboard roof racks will hold your snowboard securely as well as anything else you can fit up there. Most roof racks can hold both snowboards and skis, so you’ll be able to pack a variety of gear with just one rack.
Another great option is the hitch-mounted snowboard rack. These are racks that attach to the back of your vehicle. They feature horizontal bars, retaining extensions, and a grid at the bottom to catch anything that might fall off your gear that you don’t want to lose. Just makes ure you buy one that’s specially designed for snowboards instead of trying to repurpose one made for bikes or other things.
Good snowboard boots can be a bit pricey, so you probably want to make sure that they don’t develop mold that can damage the boot or fungus that can damage your skin. All the snow that gets in them will turn to water. Mix that water with sweat and dander, and then return to a warmer climate and you’re got a recipe for mold and mildew. Protect your investment, and your feet by getting a snowboard boot dryer. This will help to make sure your boots don’t develop an unbecoming odor. They can also help to ensure that when you’re ready to hit the slopes, on the morning of day-two of your snowboarding weekend, you won’t have to stick your feet into unpleasantly warm, wet boots.
Conclusion: Practice & Safety
When you’re starting out in any motion sport, safety is critical. As your skill increases, you may be tempted to take unnecessary risks. When this happens, remember the time you took and the investment you made in learning the sport. Make a mental discipline of staying inside the safety margin of your abilities. If you take the time to choose the right gear, get a high quality a snowboard that you can be proud of, and invest the time to learn responsibly and safely, you will be able to take pride in the dedication and time that you invested in learning this sport.
We hope you grow to love the sport of snowboarding as we have, and do what it takes to train effectively and responsibly.