Monday, 16 June 2008

Since the early 1990s, snowboarding has exploded in popularity. Nowadays the mountains are covered with one-plankers of all ages. We find out about buying the right equipment, and of course, taking lessons, can help you be safe on the slopes.


The Basics

  • Snowboards are designed with several different purposes in mind:

    • Freestyle boards are typically designed for the half-pipe or snowboard park and are good for performing spins, jumps, rail slides and other tricks. They are very lightweight, short, maneuverable, and popular with those who have a skateboarding, in-line skating, or BMX background. These boards can also be versatile across the whole mountain.

    • Freerider boards are designed for riders who want to utilize the entire mountain: park, pipe and slopes. They’re longer and more directional in shape, and are good for beginners too. They come in every price point.

    • Freecarve boards, or “cross-over” boards are popular with skiers who also snowboard. These are also some of the most expensive on the market. They’re longer boards, suitable for higher speeds and cleaner carved turns, and are good on days with fresh powder.

    • Alpine/race boards are intended for riding and carving downhill and as a result are stiffer, narrower and longer than other types. Many also have flashy graphics. Alpine boards are not made for doing tricks.

    • Women-specific snowboards are narrower and designed for smaller feet and frames. They typically have a softer flex to accommodate a lighter rider.

  • Once you’ve decided what style of snowboard you want, it’s time to figure out the specifics.

    • Height: A good rule of thumb is for the board to stand between your chin and your nose when set on its tail. One misconception is that height is the most important factor in determining board size. Not so. Height comes into play when the rider’s height and weight are not proportional. An unusually tall but light rider may opt for a longer board. The leverage gained from added length helps offset any loss of control.

    • Weight is the most important factor in determining board size. A lighter person on a longer board will usually have problems controlling it and making turns. A a heavier boarder on a short board will tend to perform poorly or “wash out”, especially at higher speeds. Heavier riders need a stiffer board, while lighter riders need more soft flex.

    • Width is directly related to your foot size. The board must be wide enough so your heel and toes don’t drag in the snow while making a turn.

    • For the most part, age is not a consideration when buying any snowboard equipment. However, some decisions – like how much to spend on boots – might be effected if the rider is still growing.

    • Gender: Men and women’s physiology differs in foot size, centre of gravity and body mass. All of these factors affect the way a snowboarder interacts with equipment.

      • Women are typically lighter, have smaller feet and a lower centre of gravity. Women’s boards are designed with more flex and are narrower to account for these differences.

  • Today’s boards are splashed with cool colours, designs and graphics that can sway your decision to purchase one board over another. While die-hard boarders might scoff at the idea, let’s not kid ourselves – appearances do count, at least a bit! But try to avoid making graphics the only determining factor in your purchase.

  • A new snowboard can run anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to several hundred. Here are a few tips to help you save:

    • Buy last year’s model since new designs come out every year. The technology might change slightly, but not enough to require a yearly upgrade.

    • Shop in the summer for the best deals of the year.

    • Buy used equipment if you’re just getting into snowboarding or if your budget is tight. Check your local newspaper and bulletin boards at ski shops. And most big cities have a ski swap in the autumn.

    • If buying used, check the sidewalls for cracks and signs of separation, which means the board might not last much longer. Check the base for gouges from riding over rocks and tree stumps. They can be repaired, but make sure you negotiate a price based on the damage.

  • Snow conditions vary depending on where you do most of your riding and this might effect which type of board is best for you.

    • Hard Pack and machine-made snow is prevalent among eastern resorts since Mother Nature can’t always be depended on to make natural snow. Your snowboarding equipment should contain more vibration control materials, such as rubber dampening foil, which will provide for a smoother ride across hard snow.

    • Groomed and natural snow is prevalent among western and Rocky Mountain resorts where natural snowfall is more dependable and deep. Most riders benefit from a longer board in powder snow conditions. The extra length adds additional lift and helps the rider float through the snow like a surfer.

    • Variable conditions includes anything other than powder and hard packed man-made snow. Most boards are designed to excel in variable conditions.

Other Considerations

  • Applying a fresh coat of hot wax to your snowboard’s base after every few rides is ideal for getting you the best ride.

  • Don’t forget to play it safe. Each year, thousands of snowboarders break a collarbone, arm, wrist (just ask Kristina) or suffer serious head injuries. Invest in a good helmet, wrist guards, knee-pads and a few lessons. Board responsibly!


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