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How to Choose the Right Snowboard

Hint: Pay No Attention to the Pretty Designs

By

Male snowboarder, wearing blue and holding snowboard in his hand, looking out onto the white landscape of mountains and pine forest in Austria.
Mike Harrington / Taxi
Buying a new snowboard is fun and exciting, but it's also a big investment. When faced with several hundred bright, shiny new snowboards in the shop, choosing the right board can seem almost impossible. Burton Snowboards alone produces 47 different snowboards between their men's and women's lines. However, with a little research, it's not difficult to narrow down your choices to a handful of boards, making your decision that much easier.

How to Choose the Right Snowboard:

Define Yourself as a Snowboarder

To narrow down your choices so you can choose the right snowboard, think about what type of riding you do the most. If you're into freestyle snowboarding, you'll want to look at different boards than if you're an All Mountain rider.

Check Out the New Catalogs

Snowboard companies start delivering their new brochures and catalogs to shops in August, just a few weeks before the new gear actually arrives. Stop by your local snowboard shop and pick up a few brochures - this will give you a head-start as you go about narrowing down your choices. Pick out a bunch of boards from the catalogs, but don't put too much faith in what they say, because after all, they were written by the marketing departments. Trust - you can never be too careful!

Research, Research, Research

Snowboarding magazines like Transworld Snowboarding, Snowboarder Magazine and others typically publish an annual buyers guide before the season starts (usually in September or October). These guides offer a wealth of information on nearly every snowboard model being sold for the upcoming season. Companies send new product to the magazines towards the end of the previous season for testing, so you can be sure the opinions and information contained within the annual buyers guides is legit. Take that list of boards you picked out from the company brochures, and read up on 'em as much as possible.

Hit Up Your Local Snowboard Shop

Pick their brains. Seriously. It might sound gross, but the guys and gals at your favorite shop probably know more about this year's line of boards than anyone outside of the companies themselves. Head on in, let 'em know the important things - how long you've been riding, the type of riding you mostly do, how much you're looking to spend, and the boards you've been reading up on. See what they say. Note what they say. Buy NOTHING that first day.

DEMO, demo, demo

This is the most important step. All the research, knowledge and recommendations in the world don't mean a thing until you've actually ridden the board. Don't believe me? A few years ago, the industry was falling all over themselves in praise of the Burton Custom, an admittedly venerable board. I took a demo model out for a few runs and came back unimpressed. The next day, I tried out a different Burton Board (an Un Inc.) and absolutely loved it. Had I listened to "everyone," I'd have been one unhappy rider.
  • Resort Demo Days: Resorts usually hold demo days in the beginning of the season (December is prime-time for product demo's). Call up your favorite resort, or ask around at the local shop to find out when, where, and who will be at the various product demo's in your area, then get out and ride, ride, ride! By the time you get to this point, you should have your choice narrowed down to two or three boards - take each of them out and let 'er rip.

  • Shop Demo Programs: Most snowboard shops will let you try out a demo model of the board you're interested in for a small fee, which they'll usually put towards the purchase price of the board if you decide to buy. Just like with resort demo days, bring in your list of two or three boards and try each of them out.

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