From fishtails to split boards, banana boards to mange-traction. The different types of snowboards, their shapes and their technology is endless these days. With many different types of snowboards, different sizes, shapes, brands and countless other new options we have to choose from, knowing where to start can be daunting. We have listed the different types of snowboards, and their benefits, to help you understand what kind of board will suit you best.
Snowboarding is a young sport, it has however been around long enough to branch out into many different categories. The split border tackling big mountains, being completely out in nature – solo, has quite a different experience on his snowboard compared to a street rider, trying the same trick on the same rail for hours on end.
Both are snowboarding, but in very different worlds, therefore requiring very different equipment and types of snowboards. So what types of snowboards are there?
An all-mountain snowboard is exactly what it says on the tin, a board for all over the mountain. If you’re someone that likes to get some powder slashes in the morning, park laps in the afternoon, finishing off cruising some groomers; an all mountain board might be for you.
Equally if you are newer to snowboarding and want to play about with all aspects of snowboarding, an all mountain board is perfect to try it all. Although these boards can tackle “all terrain”, some argue that they excel at none, if you do want to spend more hours doing one category of snowboarding than another, it might be best to hone in on your favored discipline.
Freestyle snowboards come in all shapes and sizes. Someone boosting off of big kickers needs a very different board from someone jibbing rails all day long. People riding jumps and half pipes generally want a more aggressive, slightly bigger board, to give them more stability and control while snowboarding at high speeds.
Rail riders want a softer, more playful board, they want something a little more forgiving. Something that will lock into rails, absorbs impact and reduces the risk of catching thier edge.
Once you delve down the rabbit hole of freestyle, this branches out into many subcategories. The size and the shape may vary between freestyle disciplines however most freestyle boards are twin tip, which means the board rides exactly the same no matter which way round.
Freeride snowboards are for the backcountry, powder hounds, bouncing off pillows and sending it off cliff drops all over the mountain. Freeride snowboards are generally mid range to the higher end on the flex, they need a board that can chew through bumpy terrain and can maintain control at high speeds as they need to throw the board from one edge to the other.
Most free ride boards are generally on the longer side of snowboards and are directional, these are designed to charge the mountain in the riders natural stance. They can of course be ridden switch, however it will be a little more tricky than how a twin tip board handles switch.
Alpine or Carving Snowboards
Carving snowboards, designed to grip the snow and slice through it, are much stiffer and much more aggressive than other boards listed above. They are typically a longer, and narrower snowboard.
This gives more edge grip with the length and having it narrower allows for a quicker/easier change from one edge to the other. Carving boards are stiffer snowboards, this allows the board to perform at high speed, they need to be able to power through any bumps, loose snow or rough terrain.
Traditionally carving boards are used with hard boots, these are like ski boots and will help you hold your edge best while carving. These however are a little limited and won’t work great outside of carving, so if you want to be able to tackle all terrain sticking with a “soft” boot would be advisable, you will however want the stiffer model of a “soft” boots.
Powder snowboarders are a lot more unique than all the other types of snowboards. While other snowboards have different specs, dimensions or technology the basic shape of a traditional snowboard, are all much the same.
Powder boards, however, are designed to float on top of fresh fluffy snow and often have a very unique shape with longer/wider noses and a set back stance, creating a short tail. As well as having the more unique shape of the swallow tail, or pin tail. By having a wider nose with a narrow tail, this allows the front of the snowboard to naturally lift up in powder and keep afloat with ease.
While most boards will work well all over the mountain a powder board will hugely excel in powder, however it will not be as ideal in other aspects of your snowboarding. This is the one board you might want to have as an extra, to only use on precious powder days.
Splitboards (For Backcountry Touring)
Split board snowboards are another type of snowboard that are quite different from a traditional snowboard. A splitboard is essentially a normal snowboard that splits down the middle into two halves.
These two halves then have skins attached (a material to stop them sliding down the hill) to allow the rider to ski up the mountain. Bindings for splitboards detach from the snowboard, then reattached onto the “skis” for touring up the mountain, and turn back into a snowboard for coming down the mountain.
These are for riders that want to explore natural terrain, get off the beaten track and find their own lines. It is a very different world exploring the backcountry versus cruising around prepared trails. If you are heading up to the mountains to explore, make sure you have the appropriate safety gear and the appropriate knowledge.
Mountains can be very dangerous with avalanches, rock slides and crevasses scattered around, taking courses and teaming up with more experienced mountaineers is always advisable.
Hybrid snowboards are a blend of several different shapes and are becoming increasingly popular within snowboarding. The majority of snowboards were originally camber, then the new technology of reverse camber (aka rocker, aka banana) came in and now they have evolved again to combine both camber and reverse camber.
Both come with advantages to certain aspects of snowboarding, but what is camber and what are its benefits, versus rocker and its benefits? And why would I want a blend of both?
Camber has always been the most common form of snowboard, taking its name from the concave form along the length of the board. When the snowboard is laid flat on the ground, the center of the board will rise up into the air.
This means, when you stand on the board, your weight presses the board flat. Therefore when you’re standing on your board, making the snowboard flat, the board wants to snap back up into its cambered shape. This flex of the board wanting to snap back is where we get our power from, where we get the pop for our ollie, or if used right will help pop you from one edge to the other as you exit your turns.
Camber will give you a lot more control, it will help hold your edge while carving and help you stick to the snow when landing or taking a wobble. If a board is camber, and stiff, this may be a little aggressive and hard to maneuver for lesser experienced snowboarders.
An aggressive camber board is going to be great for slalom, or half pipe and jumps however it will not be as fun and playful for the likes of rail riders or beginners. So what is better for rail riders..?
Rocker/Reverse Camber/ Banana
Rocker snowboards come under several different names however they are all effectively the same thing. Often referred to as reverse camber as it is the opposite to camber, or banana as that is how the shape looks.
When you lay a rocker board on the flat this time the nose and the tail raise up into the air, now when you stand on the snowboard, again the weight of the rider makes the board flat. However with rocker, the board wants to snap back to its banana shape, so the nose and tail want to be raised up in the air.
This is a lot more playful as you are a lot less likely to catch your edge. For this reason, rocker is popular among rail riders, or beginners. It is equally great in powder as the raised nose will float above the fresh fluffy snow.
Although it is more playful and more jibby, it does come with its downside, those raised edges allowing you to butter around the mountain can cause some issues with landing jumps or tricks. You can land quite solid, however the board won’t grip into the snow, with the nose and tail being slightly raised, as well as a camber board would.
This is why hybrid snowboards appeal to so many riders, you can now find the exact shape that works for you. Camber between the binding, with rocker on the nose and tail is popular. This gives you the edge grip and control of camber while making it a little more playful outside of the bindings.
A small amount of snowboards are flat, when laid on the ground, they lie completely flat. The individuality of the boards is what happens at the nose and tail, whether it’s a small amount of camber or rocker.
I personally can’t see much benefit to these. As stated above both camber and rocker come with their own benefits, and possibly small setbacks, a flat board doesn’t bring much to the table.
What Snowboard is Right For You?
This is a question only you know the answer to. If you are new to the sport and still figuring it out, try something a little more all-around, something that will work everywhere, as you gain experience you can start to figure out what you like or dislike.
Some people will have the money to have several boards they can whip out depending on the conditions, some will require a special board for their favored discipline and want a more playful board for their overall snowboarding.
Most of us can’t justify having several boards and will want something that works well in all terrain. Think about what type of snowboarding you enjoy best and what type of snowboard will suit your needs, as you spend more time on your snowboard keep in mind what you are enjoying about your board or what you might like better next time round.
Some shops, or ski resorts will allow you to demo snowboards before buying. Or mountains will have special days when reps come to allow you to try out the latest gear, if you can try out something before buying this is definitely the best way to see what works for your riding style.
Reps will have an abundance of knowledge on the equipment and are generally very happy to geek out and discuss it with potential customers. If this isn’t an option, try out your friend’s snowboards and see if any of them have a snowboard you like.
If you are still not sure, get down to your local snowboard shop and have a chat. Like the reps, these guys will have a lot of knowledge and can help you narrow down your search.
If someone does spend half an hour with you explaining all the ins and outs please support your local shop and purchase through them, don’t just use their time and knowledge to narrow down your search then go find a better deal online.
Their knowledge can be a huge help and should be rewarded. Equally don’t feel you have to buy something you are unsure of just because the salesman keeps telling you it’s the perfect board for you. Do your research and find your perfect match.
At 21, I left Scotland to travel but ended up becoming a snowboard instructor instead. For 4-5 years, I worked internationally in many countries. As my passion for park riding grew, I transitioned into building snowboard parks. I’ve gained sponsors for my snowboarding, won rail jams and small competitions, and contributed to building X Games courses. I’ve also been involved in significant park events like The Stomping Grounds project.