As you are in the search for a new snowboard that can help you reach your next level of progression in your riding, you will need to figure out a few things to make sure that the right decision is made. It is important to first decide what style of board is going to help you reach your goals on the hill; a new riders goals should be to progress from the beginner level to intermediate level of riding as quickly as possible and the experienced rider may be buying a board to add to the ever growing quiver of boards. Once you have a few boards narrowed down to meet your needs, it is now time to choose what size of board is best for you.
To choose the best size of board you will want to make sure that you are making the decision based on the following:
Your weight, your body type and your boot size
Your riding style and level of experience
Your selected board type and the conditions that you will be riding
Start by narrowing down the list of available sizes by your weight. Many manufacturers will have a size chart specific for their snowboards. Some companies will even go as far as having a size chart specific for each snowboard they produce. These charts are a good place to start for narrowing down what size of board to ride, but usually any given weight will fit in two to three different sizes. Also, just because your weight is not listed on a given size does not automatically mean that that board is not right for meeting the needs of that rider.
Now we will focus on our body type. Many people will wrongly focus too much on their height when selecting a board size. A snowboard does not receive input from the height of the rider. Rather the board is pressed into the snow by the weight of the rider. The body type of a given rider better determines the height of the rider in reference to the size of board. The body type is in reference to weight and height combined. If you are short and stocky than you will want a board that is on the smaller size of the sizing chart. This rider will have less leverage to flex the board in proportion the rider’s weight. If you are a tall and skinny rider you will want a board that is towards the longer size. The longer leg will allow the board to be more easily flexed and manipulated.
Snowboard Boot Size
Don’t forget to compare your snowboard boot size to the waist width of the board. As some boots will have a smaller foot print than others it is the size of the foot print of your boot that matters more than the actual size of your foot. This is extremely important for the riders with a boot size 11 and over. You want to make sure that you are doing what you can do avoid toe and heal drag. This will allow you to achieve the same level of performance as the smaller booted rider. A common misconception of wide boards is that a wide board is more sluggish and slower edge to edge. This is all relative to the rider that is standing on the board. For a rider with size 12 boots the board with a 250mm waist is going to be a pretty narrow board. While the same waist width board for a rider with size 9 boots will be a mid wide board. The waist width of the board and the performances achieved from a given waist width should be evaluated relative to the boot size standing on that board.
Riding Style & Experience
The size of a snowboard that will best suit a rider is also determined by the experience of the rider and the style of riding that the board is to be used. A rider with less experience will want a shorter board for everyday resort cruising to make turning and maneuvering easier and a longer board for powder riding to allow for good float while riding at slower speeds. The experienced rider will be able to more easily handle a longer board in all situations as well as be able to ride a shorter powder snowboard in the powder, due to more efficient movements and the ability to maintain speed. The style of riding is therefore very important in considering what size of board will work the best in a given situation. The freestyle rider is usually going to lean to the shorter size of board because it is easier to spin and maneuver. The freestyler that is focused on jibs (boxes and rails) will many times be stoked on a board that is one below the referred board lengths because the board will have an even lower spin weight and more clearance when in tight situations. The rider that is into freeriding the whole mountain will most of the time be on a board that will become to be referred as the riders normal board length. This is in part personal preference and determined by an individuals likes and dislikes of different sizes of board in their past experiences. Riders that like to freeride at higher speeds tend to lean to a board that is a bit longer. The backcountry rider will also tend to lean to a board that is on the longer size to give more float in the powder and variable snow conditions.
Snowboard Type & Conditions
The riding conditions and type of board is our last element in selecting the correct size of board. The rider that will be on groomed terrain and parks will not need as long of board as a rider that will be in soft and natural terrain. The area that you ride the most and it’s most common snow conditions is very important when selecting a size of board. The powder in Utah is different from the powder in the Sierras and your pow board will in tern need to be sized differently; Utah – less water content in the snow and less float = longer pow board, Sierras - more water content in the snow and more float = shorter pow board. A powder board that has more tapered shape will be ridden at times smaller than your normal resort freeride board due to the increased float of the tapered shape. Many freestyle snowboards will have a short blunt nose and a longer effective edge for a given length and need to be sized down in overall length.
Address each one of these aspects of your riding and your body makeup when selecting your next board size and you will be sure to make the correct decision every time. As each board is different, allow yourself time to get comfortable on different equipment. Learn to be adaptable and your overall skills can progress as you move from one type and size of board to another.