Choosing a snowboard can be a daunting process as there are so many variables to consider. There are some boards which are geared more towards beginners compared to expert-level snowboarders as there are key characteristics which differ between them.
I’ll be comparing beginner, intermediate and advanced level snowboards so you can get to grips with the differences and figure out what type of board is best for your current experience and skill level.
Beginner vs Advanced Snowboards
Beginner snowboards are usually softer and have a flex rating of less than 5 which makes them slower, but more forgiving. Advanced-level snowboards are usually stiffer which makes them feel more responsive, and they also usually have more camber which makes them more stable at higher speeds.
|Lower flex rating (more flexible)
|Higher flex rating (stiffer)
|Rocker/ flat-rocker/ zero-camber profiles
|Can be camber/ hybrid-camber profiles
|Usually twin-tip shape/ directional twin
|Can be any shape
Let’s first look at the main factors which vary between snowboards according to ability level:
- Flex Rating
- Camber Profile
The stiffer a snowboard is, the more suitable it is for an expert rider and the less suitable it is for a beginner. More flexible snowboards are easier to turn and more forgiving compared to stiffer boards which suit advanced riders because they offer more edge grip and feel more responsive.
Snowboard stiffness is rated on a flex scale from 1-10.
In general, a beginner shouldn’t go above a flex rating of 5 otherwise they may find it more difficult to learn.
However, just because stiffer boards can only be used by more experienced riders does not mean that experts have to use a stiff board.
Some advanced riders still prefer the feeling of a softer board. You may also prefer a softer board if you are a park/ free-style rider or are lighter as stiffer boards are more suitable for heavier riders.
|Suitability (Rough Guide)
The camber profile of a snowboard refers to the curvature of the board when it is flat. You can get different combinations of “camber” and “rocker” to make up this profile. The camber refers to the convex shape and the rocker refers to the concave shape.
Check out this diagram to demonstrate.
There are several different types of camber profile that snowboards can come in.
- Camber: also known as traditional camber
- Rocker: also known as reverse camber/ banana/ continuous rocker
- Flat: also known as zero camber
- Hybrid Camber: also known as rocker/ camber/ rocker
- Hybrid Rocker: also known as camber/ rocker/ camber
- Backseat Camber: has positive camber under the back foot and zero camber under the front foot
There are also a few other variations for example, flat to rocker. This profile is a flat under the front foot and rocker under the back foot.
For beginners, rocker (reverse camber), flat (zero camber) and flat-to-rocker profiles are all very suitable. They feel a bit slower and are less likely to catch an edge compared to profiles like traditional and hybrid camber.
Catching an edge is when a snowboarder is tripped up by the front edge of the board when it gets caught in the snow. Typically, this happens more with beginners as their technique has not developed yet.
More advanced riders may benefit from a traditional camber and hybrid camber snowboard as these feel more stable at higher speeds and more lively as they have more pop.
|Provides plenty of pop
Good for jumps
Stable at high speed
|More likely to catch an edge
Not suitable for beginners
Less suitable for powder
|Rocker (reverse camber)
|Makes turns easier
Less likely to catch an edge Good for powder
|Feels less stable
Does not hold an edge well Harder to land
|Flat (zero camber)
|Good for beginners
Good for jumps
Good edge hold
Feel less lively
Edges can catch
|Hybrid Camber (rocker/ camber/ rocker)
|Floats well in powder
Good edge hold
|Less stable than camber
Not suitable for beginners
|Hybrid Rocker (camber/ rocker/ camber)
|Hard too catch an edge
|Can feel slightly loose
Not very fast
|Great for powder
|Not as versatile
- Twin Tip: the nose and tail are the same height and length (symmetrical). These boards ride the same even if you switched them the other way.
- Asymmetric Twin Tip: the tips are identical as described above, the difference is that there is a toe and heel side edge (lengthways). This helps you to balance when you’re on your heels.
- Directional Twin: have some tweaks to give it direction. E.g. the tips are slightly different heights/ length or the stance position may be adjusted.
- Directional: different shape and length for the nose and tail.
The best shape for a beginner is a true twin as it is completely symmetrical and helps to keep the rider balanced. Directional twin boards are also good for beginners but do make it a bit harder when switching directions.
Directional snowboards offer the best performance for free-riders who have a lot of experience as they offer more powerful steering. Directional boards are not recommended for beginners as they can feel difficult to control.
The core of the snowboard greatly impacts how it feels and performs. The core is usually made from either foam or wood.
- Foam cores are the least expensive and are often found in entry-level snowboards. They feel soft so are easier for beginners but are not very durable.
- Most snowboards have a wooden core. These provide the best feel and performance and typically feel stiffer compared to foam cores.
In terms of the other materials used to construct the snowboard, you’ll typically see plastic, fiberglass and carbon being used. Fiberglass and carbon are stiffer so tend to be used on more advanced-level boards that are hence more expensive.
Beginner-level snowboards typically have:
- Soft-medium flex (flex rating of less than 5)
- Either rocker (reverse camber), zero camber (flat), or flat-rocker profiles
- A twin-tip or directional twin shape
Having soft-medium flex means that the board will be quite forgiving and easier to learn on compared to a stiffer board. Having a flatter or rocker-style profile reduces the risk of catching an edge and the twin-tip/ directional-twin shapes make is easier for a beginner to balance themselves.
I would generally avoid foam cores unless you are on a tighter budget as some of them tend to be low quality and not very durable. Instead, try and choose a softer wood core such as popular which will correspond to a lower flex rating.
Beginners should consider if it’s actually worth buying a snowboard yet, or if it is better to rent equipment. In most cases, renting is the best option as it allows you to develop your skills without paying for a board outright.
When you have moved towards intermediate-level, you can then choose a higher quality board with a slightly stiffer construction which will aid performance and mean you won’t have to switch your board again for a long time.
Intermediate-level snowboards are difficult to categorise as it really depends on your style and the type of terrain you’re riding on.
Typically at this level you’ll probably want a stiffer board compared to the one you learnt on. This will give you more edge grip and feel more responsive. You don’t have to go for a very high flex rating but you can start to go above 5 once you’ve got to this level of experience.
You can also consider profiles with more camber such as traditional camber or hybrid camber. These feel more stable at high speeds and more lively as they have more “pop”. This is optional though as you can still stick with your current profile if you get on with it.
I’d also recommend getting a wood core snowboard if you are riding at this level as they are much more durable and stable compared to foam core boards.
Advanced-level snowboards often:
- Have a higher flex rating (usually above 5)
- Have a traditional camber or hybrid camber profiles
- Carbon or fiberglass construction
At this level it does really come down to personal preference.
In general, expert riders will benefit from a stiffer board which feels more stable particularly at higher speeds. This is why many of the boards aimed at this experience will be made from carbon or fiberglass as it is stiffer than wood and plastic.
In terms of the camber profile, it really is up to the rider as to which type of profile best suits the terrain and style. More aggressive traditional camber and hybrid camber profiles won’t cause riders at this level any issue, however they aren’t as suitable for powder compared to rocker profiles.
The shape also comes down to preference. Some prefer the classic twin shape, especially for free-style. However, some prefer a directional shape for more aggressive riding.