As a beginning rider, choosing the right snowboard to rent or buy can greatly improve your enjoyment of snowboarding
Consider these things before buying or renting:
How experienced am I at snowboarding?
If you're reading this guide, there is a big chance that you're not a highly experienced snowboarder. That's not a bad thing. You just have to keep your own experience level in mind when choosing a snowboard. There are two things you'll want to think about when considering your own experience:
- How often have I ridden?
- How often do I want to ride?
How often you've ridden is really determined by how many days total you've spent on the snow. Even if you've only spent 5 days on the slopes over a period of two years, snowboarding is a lot like riding a bike, it uses a lot of muscle memory. You'll be able to progressively get better the more days you spend on the snow.
Most beginning riders should ride a relatively shorter board, but as they progressively get better they can add centimeters to the length of their board. A longer board will perform better at higher speeds, ride faster, ride smoother over a variety of conditions, and will float better in powder.
If you see yourself riding a lot in one season, and becoming a better rider, you might consider buying a longer board, so that you can "grow into it".
Board flexibility can also change depending upon your experience. More experienced riders will typically choose a stiffer board. While some riding styles utilize a shorter and more flexible board, many experienced riders will still choose a stiffer board.
What's my height?
Almost every single rental shop, ski shop, snowboard store, and retail store that sells snowboards recommends that a snowboard come up to your chin, and while that's not necessarily incorrect, it doesn't take into account a few things: Your weight, your muscle mass, and your athletic ability, and even if you're a man or a woman.
A 5'11" tall athletic woman won't ride the same size snowboard as an athletic 5'11" man. Most women will ride a shorter snowboard because of their lower center of gravity, and most men will ride a longer snowboard than a female counterpart because of their larger muscle mass.
I typically recommend that beginning riders choose a board that comes up to the middle of their neck, and add centimeters to their snowboard size if they feel they have a very large muscle mass (+2 centimeters) or that they have a great athletic ability (+1 centimeters, sometimes +2) . A good rule of thumb is to never ride a snowboard that is above your head unless you're specifically looking for one as an expert rider.
What's my weight?
I once rode with a guy who worked nights as a bouncer at a local club, he was exactly the same height as me, but was a bit overweight in terms of overall body fat and also had a large muscle mass. He was also very athletic and played a lot of football on the weekends. He outweighed me by almost 100 lbs. If you feel that you're athletic, and you might look like a linebacker, add a few centimeters to the board length to make up for this. If you feel you're not athletic, subtracting a few centimeters will help you manage the board a bit better.
Not to worry, I've been there. I know how it feels. When I started snowboarding, I was very skinny, I gained weight after college, and went riding this season after I had lost 30lbs. After I lost weight, I managed snowboarding easier and was able to ride longer.
What's my foot size?
If you're scared about the width of the board, the waist, where your feet will go, because of the length of your 12+ feet, don't be. Wider snowboards have been out for years and they're easy to find.
What style of riding do I want to do?
If you want to ride the whole mountain, a longer and stiffer board will work for most days, including powder days, but if you think that you're going to be spending more time in the park (the area with rails and jumps aka kickers, rollers, tabletops, and hits) you'll want to ride a shorter and more flexible board.
When you rent, style of riding typically won't be an issue. But it's something to carefully consider when you buy a board.
A longer board will typically float better on powder so if you live near the mountain that gets a lot of snowfall you might want to consider riding a longer board.
What can I afford?
When you're buying your first board, there are a lot of costs that you might not think about right away. These costs include outerwear, thermals, boots, bindings, goggles, helmet, and extras like a small pocket tool or snowboard wax.
Your first snowboard will last a few years but you might quickly grow out of it. Because of things like the cost of your other gear, rapid improvement, and wear and tear, you might want to buy a higher quality beginner board.
One thing to watch out for though: A higher quality board does not neccesarily mean a stiffer board. I've helped several female riders whose boyfriends or husbands chose a board that was too stiff for them at their current level. Riding a board that is too stiff can really ruin your day on the slopes.
I typically recommend spending no-less than $230, even for a closeout board. I also recommend spending a lot of time in a boot fitting to get good boots. You can skim a bit on bindings, but make sure that they interface with your boots correctly. I never buy binding more than 3 years old because even a cheaper pair of 3 year old bindings will use better technology than a high-end pair of 7 year old bindings.
The best time to buy any winter gear is in the middle of the summer, typically the beginning of July, even before company representatives will visit shops to train them about the new gear coming out.
Hopefully with all these considerations in mind you can more easily rent or buy your next board and setup. You should be able to make your own decisions despite pushy salespeople and their recommendations.
Hope you enjoy riding! See you on the slopes!