Finding the right snowboard for your ability level, especially as a beginner, will have a significant impact on the speed of your progression. If you are learning how to board, the last thing you want is for the equipment to choose to hamper either your learning curve or enjoyment of the sport.
This article has two main pieces:
- What snowboards you should have on your shortlist for consideration
- A tutorial on what to look for in snowboards
The Best Snowboards for Beginners
The Ripcord is a great all-around board from Burton that gets to straight into the mid-level of their boards, bypassing the entry-level that you might quickly outgrow. If you want a snowboard that you can learn on, but that you will find yourself wanting to keep long after you are proficient, the Ripcord is a really good choice.
Fans of the Ripcord rave about the balance as well as the binding mount. It also has a great look, with its most recent vintage being a nice, sleek, solid color (with a few different choices on exactly which color). A great board for the beginner, who does not want to outgrow it too soon.
Unless you’re wanting a fast track to freestyle, this is ideal for learning those turns. The slightly convex base also makes edge catches less likely. $$$. Find here on Amazon.
K2 has been making ski gear we love for years. Their board lineup is as good as their skis, and the Standard is the one we would choose for a beginner.
The Standard will get your all-mountain cruising off to a fine start. It performs well in so many conditions — it will hold its own on the powder days, is strong on moguls, and feels nimble and agile overall. There is just a lot to like.
It puts mastering the basics to the forefront, with a solid and predictable ride that won’t hang up. Once you’ve graduated to the next level, it’ll deliver on that front too. $$. Find here on Amazon.
Here’s another one with a park focus-if you’re hoping to start filling your trick bag as soon as possible, this is a great option. A fun board all-around, it might not have the exact response time you are looking for if you are getting super technical, but for most people in their first few years of boarding, this will be a winner. It has plenty of pop for a beginner.
It is a very smooth board as you are going down the slope, and feels lightweight on the feet. The softness that makes it just a touch less responsive actually makes it a lot more forgiving as you learn your moves.
The new Nitro looks super, and is great if you want a board with a little pizzazz. One of the better looking boards, in our opinion, but then again everyone has different tastes.
The easy flex and hybrid profile make for easy progression, and they lend themselves to freestyle as well. $$$. Find here on Amazon.
Having an agenda is often referred to as a bad thing-but not in this case. Ride’s agenda is a board that could also qualify as an intermediate board, if you think you might bypass the entry-level quickly. It carries a bit higher price tag as well.
While it has enough pop to let you hit some moguls or more difficult runs, overall the Agenda has a softer feel which is why we think it is perfect for the typical beginner. We’re big fans.
The bright red color scheme of years’ past has been retired for s more subtle green-toned board, which many will prefer… although some will miss the louder red and white contrast.
Ride’s entry-level snowboard has a very mellow rocker profile, so its unlikely to hang up but requires less effort than traditional rocker to initiate turns. $$$. Find here on Amazon.
The great thing about the Craft is that Salomon have taken the best bits from a more high-tech board, and made a simpler version. Prices are constantly changing, but the Craft sits toward the top of the range on what we would pay for an entry-level snowboard. With that said, it is a quality board and worth it for those who will make good use of it.
Salomon has focused on pouring the best technology they can into the board without making it expensive. The result is something that will suit a beginner, but will be hard to outgrow. It is truly suited for any terrain out there, a great all-around board. Fans like the width of the board — something that is good if you have bigger feet.
We also like that Salomon offers 4 board lengths, whereas many other brands only offer 2 or 3. $$$$. Find here.
Things To Look For In An Entry-Level Snowboard
When it comes down to it, there are really 7 things to look for in a snowboard, unless you are super-advanced or plan on competing. For most beginners and people at the entry-level, focus on these seven things and you will be able to evaluate 95% of what is important about snowboards.
Note that there are many boards good for beginners that may also be good as full mountain boards and freestyle boards for more experienced riders. That does not make them any less relevant as beginner boards if they have the following factors.
Snowboard Camber Profile
For me, the Camber Profile (in addition to Flex) is the most important factor for beginners. Camber basically is the curvature of the snowboard (when viewed it from the side) from front to back. A high raised camber, for example, means that you have a big arch in the middle of the board.
This is because the camber profile affects two very important things for beginners, which are:
- A feeling of stability underfoot; and
- Ease of turn initiation
When you are starting out you want to feel as stable as possible to aid balance. You also want the most difficult thing for beginners (linking turns) to be made easier by the specs of the board. The best camber profiles for both stability and turn initiation, in my opinion, are Flat to Rocker and Hybrid Camber.
Stability is key. Learning how to balance on a board can be a process in itself; the last thing you want is to be “fighting with the board” to stay stable.
When it comes to stability, you need to pay attention to something called the camber profile. A Hybrid Camber Profile has camber underfoot which will feel very stable and a Flat to Rocker profile has a flat section underfoot which will also feel very stable. This will help you gain confidence on the board and be able to focus more on your turns.
So why are completely flat profiles or traditional camber profiles not an option? Simple, turning ability. We cover that next.
As a beginner, you want turning to be as easy as possible to build confidence. If you are forever catching an edge, your confidence will take a long time to build up and your progression will be slow.
A traditional camber profile has camber not only underfoot but also towards the tip and tail. This camber towards the tip and tail will make it easier to catch an edge-not good for a beginner. Similarly, a completely flat board will have flat towards tip and tail-also great for catching an edge!
The Hybrid Camber profile has rocker sections towards the tip and tail to go with the Camber underfoot. This allows for a more catch-free ride. The Flat to Rocker profile, as the name suggests, also has rocker towards the tip and tail.
Which Camber Profiles to Avoid
In my opinion, in addition to the Traditional Camber and Continuous Flat profiles, the Continuous Rocker profile is also not the best for beginners, even though traditionally this was recommended for beginners-but that was before hybrid cambers emerged.
The Continuous Rocker has been often recommended to beginners (but I think that was maybe before the hybrid profiles really took hold). This profile rocker underfoot which will feel “loose”-not ideal for beginners-and there are no camber or flat sections to add stability. It will be catch free for sure but will likely feel too loose to be good for beginners.
The Hybrid Rocker profile is hit and miss for beginners. Because it has camber sections it has some decent stability-but it does not have rocker beneath the feet which can sometimes, depending on the length and the degree of rocker, give a looser feel-but nowhere near as loose as a continuous rocker profile.
Some Hybrid Rocker Profiles will and some won’t have rocker again out towards the tips to assist with a more catch-free ride. The rocker between the feet can help with this though- so I’d say that the Hybrid Rocker in general is the 3rd best camber profile for beginners.
Equally as important as the Camber Profile is the Flex of the board. This is a bit easier to understand.
The best flex for a beginner is medium-to-soft (3 or 4 out of 10).
The reason for this is that a flex that is on the softer side is easier to maneuver and manipulate. If the board is stiff it will be tough to move around and you are going to have a hard time controlling it-it will take you for a ride instead of you riding it!
Stiff flex may give you more stability at higher speeds on steep slopes-but these are not things that you will be involved in early on.
A stiffer snowboard is also physically more difficult to turn. This means it takes a lot more energy and will wear your muscles out quicker. But more importantly for beginners, if you have to put in a lot of effort to turn the board it will be much more difficult to turn with good technique. You are likely to use your back leg as a rudder and to twist your upper body to help initiate the turn-2 things that are not good habits to get into and will lead to poor technique.
I recommend a medium-soft flex as opposed to soft flex (1 or 2 out of 10) because if the flex is too soft then it will compromise too much on edge-hold.
It also gives the best option in terms of the right balance between being easy to maneuver and allowing you to grow into the board a wee bit as you tackle steeper slopes and ride at greater speeds. If a board has a flex rating out of 10 (as a lot of them do) I would go for something around 3 or 4 for the beginner.
Stance and Shape
The best stance for a beginner is a centered stance. This is because a centered stance is easier to get your balance on because you are centered on the board. So look for a snowboard that has a centered stance.
The best shape for a beginner snowboard is a true twin shape. A true twin shape is perfectly symmetrical-like having a centered stance makes it easier to find and keep your balance. Much like a park ski (for those of you who are skiers first), a true twin board would be completely symmetrical if you were to fold it in half.
Base Of The Snowboard — Extruded vs. Sintered
There are broadly two types of bases for snowboards-extruded and sintered bases. Both have their pros and cons.
When it comes to a beginner board, an extruded base is preferred. This is for a few reasons.
- An extruded base is slower-a fast accelerating base is not the best idea for a beginner!
- An extruded base is easier to maintain-you don’t need to wax extruded bases very often, if at all.
- An extruded base costs less to manufacture-this lowers the overall cost of the board. They will almost always be cheaper to purchase.
Snowboard Manufacturer’s Label
Typically manufacturers will give an indication of what the particular board is made for. This, in my opinion, isn’t as big a consideration as Camber Profile and Flex, but certainly what the manufacturers think their board would be good for shouldn’t be ignored.
For this one, simply try to find out (on reviews or on the manufacturers website) what the boardis considered to be.
Boards will usually have a range of ability levels on them. Usually it will be one of the following:
- Intermediate to Advanced
- Intermediate to Expert; or
- Advanced to Expert
This brings me to my next point…
Avoid The Temptation To Get A Board To “Grow Into”
While it might be tempting to get a board that you can “grow into” like an “intermediate to expert” or to discard all boards except ones that go up to advanced or expert, this is not the wisest move. I’d rather see you get a board that you can learn on, and gain confidence on, than be wrestling with a board that is really meant for someone else.
If the board is above your ability level you will stunt your progression. It is far better to later sell your beginner board and buy a more advanced board once you progress than trying to learn on a board that is not suited to beginners.
I would go with a beginner to intermediate, beginner to advanced or beginner to expert, i.e. as long as it at least has beginner in it (and has the Camber Profile and Flex Rating as mentioned above). I haven’t included the “beginner” here because you may want your first board to at least progress you to an intermediate level.
But trust me, you will be in the beginner and intermediate phases (which cover a wider range of things than you might think) for at least a few season, especially if you only spend a few days a year on the mountain.
For this reason you won’t need to upgrade too soon. So if you are tempted to get a more advanced board because you don’t want to have to buy a new one too soon, don’t worry about it because a beginner to intermediate board will serve you well for a long time and will lead to much faster progression.
If you pick up snowboarding really quickly, or do a large number of days in your first season, and need to upgrade sooner, that is not a problem either. The newer the board is when you sell it, the more you will get for it-so either way you will get your money’s worth…which leads me to the last thing to consider.
What is a Reasonable Price for a Snowboard?
As a beginner you may not be entirely certain how long your snowboarding “career” will last and you may not want to spend a fortune on a board if you don’t think it will get that much use. We are all trying to save money on snowboarding.
Fortunately beginner boards are generally on the cheaper side. Probably mostly because the manufacturers know that beginners are less willing to invest larger sums of money.
From my experience you should be able to pick up a good quality board in the $300 to $400 price range brand new (and often a bit less than $300)-or cheaper second hand of course (keeping in mind that older board’s will have a lower resale value).
To Sum up, remember these things and you can’t go wrong with picking a snowboard that will be great for a beginner and assist in speedy progression.
Snowboarding can be tricky to get the hang of-and it can be tempting to look for shortcuts. Will a flash-as-all-heck snowboard speed up your learning?
No. No it will not.
When you’re starting out, the last thing you want is an ultra-tech stick. Usually they’re too stiff and too unforgiving, and the weight saving is not something that you’re likely to appreciate just yet.
Buying a new snowboard can sometimes feel like a headache, especially when there’s so much to choose from. It’s hard enough for the experienced mountain man, but for the beginner it can be a minefield. Fortunately, I am here to help, with plenty on show for every standard of rider.
From the entry-level to the expert, and from the park to the pow, all bases are covered here.
If you don’t know the first thing about what you’re looking for, I have identified what kind of rider will get on with each deck.
Once you’ve narrowed down your requirements, the real fun can begin. What lies before you is my list of top decks from the world’s leading brands, catering for every rider style. I’ve had my hands on all of them at some point in my life, and my plain spoken verdicts are here to help you figure out what’s what. Short of actually taking them for a spin yourself, you’d be hard-pushed to find more useful info.
Get stuck in, and before you know it you’ll have your brand spanking new stick for the 2019/20 season.
The boards listed below represent the best options for newbies-they all get the job done, and will take an age to grow out of. Most are also just as kind to your wallet as they are to your knees and bottom.
Paul Miller is the Founder of Family Skier. He is an advanced skier and has extensive experience with family travel and ski schools. An accomplished skier, he has skied in 15 states and provinces and 6 countries. In addition to FamilySkier, his writing can be found on many ski-related websites, and as curriculum for many ski clubs in North America.