Snowboarding is a thrilling winter mountain sport, however, in order to fully enjoy it, stay comfortable and minimize injuries while practicing it, you will have to invest a respectable amount of your savings into buying the gear required. If on the other hand, you only snowboard a couple of days per season, you prefer not to cart excess luggage to your snowboarding destination, or want to try different gear before you buy, then renting snowboarding gear is the best option for you. For those determined to start or to keep snowboarding, on a regular basis, we have prepared the following guide with a few general considerations and recommendations, you should keep in mind, before investing on new or replacing your existing gear. Here is what you will need:
a) Snowboard boots f) Goggles or sunglasses
b) Snowboard g) Clothing
c) Snowboard bindings h) Gloves or mittens
d) Socks i) Wrist guards & pads
e) Helmet j) Sun & wind protection
First things first! Snowboard boots should be your first acquisition when assembling your board-boots-binding setup. They are the key connection between your body movement and your board and provide the necessary protection for your feet and ankles from the cold and the pressure created by turns. You want your feet to sit comfortably in them and be well matched to your usual riding style and snow conditions you most frequently encounter. Here are some of the boot variables you should consider before rushing into your local snowboard shop:
Comfort & fit
A good fit, as expected, starts with purchasing the right size boot according to your foot size. No surprises here! They should fit snugly but not to the point of circulation-constricting tightness, so don't be tempted to buy a boot that feels loose or sloppy out of the box. Although it's ok for toes to just barely graze the boot's toecap, also ensure that the fit in the rear of the boot is snug. Be aware, however, that a size 9 in one brand may feel different than another brand's size 9. So never decide on which boots to buy before trying them on, since boots play a key role in your gear setup.
Flex & riding style
Snowboard boots are often presented in a spectrum of flexibility, ranging from soft to stiff. Boot flex is often a personal preference, but flex does align roughly with the type of snowboarding you do. Is your style best described as all-mountain? Freeride? Freestyle? An all-mountain or freeride boarder with a taste for speed, for example, will likely favour more responsive boots, which tend to be stiffer models. Park riders and recreational snowboarders generally prefer something softer and easier to maneuver.
Liners & footbeds
“Liner” refers to the entire inner boot of a snowboard boot. Liners are commonly made from ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), which is a lightweight, moldable polymer that most people associate with foam rubber. As it does in running shoes, EVA provides cushioning, stability and insulation for a snowboarder's feet. Some boots have removable liners that can be extracted from a boot following a day of riding. This allows them to air out and dry faster than nonremovable liners.
The lacing system of the boot is also an important factor to consider. Boots should be laced tightly yet feel comfortable and be free of blister-causing pressure points. Ankles and heels ought to remain securely in place, with minimal heel-lift with no foot shimmying at all (either front to back, or side to side), if possible. Some boots feature a hybrid design that blends 2 of these systems. Each system is fast, handy and secure, and no single system decisively outperforms the others, so your choice is mostly depended on personal preference and budget.
Having sorted out your boots, now it’s the appropriate time to start looking for your board. Before diving into the plethora of options available, please take a minute to answer the following questions. It will certainly make your search a lot easier. Do you like to float through powder or prefer to cruise groomed runs? Do you usually look for off-piste runs or love to ride rails with your friends in the snowboard park? The right snowboard for you is the one designed for the terrain you prefer. Keep in mind that the learning curve on a snowboard is very fast, so if you’re a beginner, you should consider buying for where you want to be and aim for a board that will accommodate your improving skills.
Before you buy, we advise you to take the time in order to learn about the available types, sizes and shapes out there, so you can make a wise investment.
Types of Snowboards
All-mountain. Best for any terrain and conditions. All-mountain snowboards perform anywhere on a mountain—groomed runs, backcountry, even park and pipe. They may be directional (meaning downhill only) or twin-tip (for riding switch, meaning either direction).Most boarders ride all-mountain boards. Because of their versatility, all-mountain boards are good for beginners who are still learning what terrain they like.
Freestyle. Best for a playful ride in and out of the park. Freestyle snowboards are light, short and flexible with twin tips. They are good for riders who want a lively ride anywhere on the mountain, or those who like to push their limits in terrain parks; they’re not so good for stability or cruising fast on hard snow.
Splitboard. Best for climbing in the backcountry. These backcountry-specific boards split in half to create 2 skis and permit climbing on untracked backcountry slopes. You later reconnect the halves and ride downhill. It’s a great design for adventurous backcountry devotees who have the knowledge, skills and confidence to safely explore unpatrolled slopes. You'll also need climbing skins and a split kit, usually sold separately.
The variations (length, width, flexibility and depth of the snowboard) are endless, so speak with experienced snowboard technicians at specialist snowboard retail shops when buying your first board, or if you aren't sure what you need. Don't forget to take your snowboard boots with you when purchasing a snowboard, so that the bindings can be fitted and adjusted for you by the snowboard technician.
If you want to purchase a snowboard, you will probably have rented first until you are familiar with the snowboards that suit you, and to try out different brands. Look out for shop demo days where you can test run new snowboards. Once you have some snowboarding experience, your choice of snowboard will largely depend on your snowboarding style, but also your weight, height, and budget.
Do not underestimate the importance of snowboard bindings, since they are the connecting point between your board and boots, ensuring the transfer of energy and responses to your body’s shifts for precise control. Again, your riding style, ability level, board/boots compatibility and comfort are the factors to take under consideration.
The flex of your snowboard bindings should be appropriate to your ability level and the terrain you ride. It should also match the flex in your boots. Beginners and freestylers tend to choose bindings with short, flexible highbacks (the vertical plate that rests against your Achilles tendon) for a softer, forgiving ride and easy recovery when landing jumps and tricks. Advanced riders and freeriders typically prefer bindings with tall, stiff highbacks for precise control at high speeds, in deep powder and on steep terrain.
Snowboarding socks are thin, made of material that wicks moisture away from your skin and feature some cushion key areas of your foot to help prevent blisters and minor injuries. They extend above your snowboarding boots and if you snowboard often, then technical snowboarding socks are a good investment.
Snowboard helmets are insulated, provide impact protection and reduce the risk of head injury by at least 29%, but only if they fit your head. Once fastened, your helmet should not move around your head when you turn your neck.
Whatever the weather, you'll need some kind of eye protection. Even on overcast days, you'll be exposed to UV light, not only from above, but also reflected from the snow. For snowboarding in mild conditions sunglasses with 100% UV protection are usually adequate. For colder conditions or in snow, wind or rain, goggles offer better eye protection. Select goggles with 100% UV protection for daytime snowboarding and untinted goggles for night skiing, so you can see the bumps and icy patches.
You'll need a minimum of 3 layers of clothing for snowboarding - a base layer such as thermal underwear (top and bottom), an insulating layer such as a wool, fleece, polypropylene or fibre-pile sweater, and a protective layer (top and bottom) that is wind and waterproof. Weather conditions can change quickly and so can your body temperature - one minute you are hot from the exertion of snowboarding, the next minute you are cold in the wind on a chair-lift that has stopped. Even in dry snowboarding conditions, chances are you'll end up with more than your snowboard in the snow - making waterproof gear necessary at all times.
Snowboard gloves or mittens protect your hands during a fall and keep your hands warm. It is advisable to select waterproof gloves or mittens that wick moisture away from your skin. Mittens may take away some dexterity, but they tend to keep hands warmer in cold conditions.
Snowboard wrist guards provide some protection against wrist sprains and fractures and are recommended for all snowboard riders, but particularly beginners and those who like to challenge themselves with new skills and snowboarding conditions. Hip, knee and elbow pads can be worn over your base layer of clothing and reduce the amount of bruising from falls onto hard-packed snow. While learning to balance on a snowboard you are likely to fall, landing on outstretched hands, your hips and bottom and/or your knees.
Apply sunscreen and lip balm before you head outdoors for snowboarding. Keep sunscreen in your pocket to reapply as directed on the tube. Even if the day is not windy, you will be travelling at high speeds in cold weather and a wax based skin protector can help protect against frost bite and wind burn. If you choose not to wear a helmet or hat, wear a cap in mild conditions.
Hopefully, we’ve made your life a lot easier, when it comes to choosing your snowboard gear. There are a lot of variables to take under consideration, so don’t rush, take your time and try as much as possible before investing your money on new equipment. Finally, remember to always take all the necessary precautions when practicing your favourite sport. We’ll see you on the slopes…
You can download a pdf version of our guide by clicking the link below.