Snowboarding is a fantastic hobby, but if you're just starting out, it may seem like people are speaking a different language when talking about the sport. This glossary should help you learn all the basic lingo so you'll be in the know the next time you ride.
Types of Snowboarding
There are several different sub-disciplines within snowboarding that allow for diverse experiences and specialties. The following section will talk about some of the popular styles of riding you can do.
If you want to explore terrain all over the mountain and carve turns, all-mountain riding is for you. An all-mountain rider generally looks for a versatile board that will work in a variety of conditions and terrain so they can tackle any challenge the mountain presents.
Some snowboarders choose to specialize in doing tricks on jumps, rails, and natural features around the mountain. If getting big air and pulling stylish stunts sounds like your type of snowboarding, you may want to look into "park" style equipment to help you on your way to X-Games glory.
For some, the resorts just don't offer sufficient adventure and chairlifts make things too easy. For those people, backcountry snowboarding offers a myriad of terrain outside the resort boundaries to explore. Whether you opt for a splitboard or snowshoes for the ascent, you will need specialized backcountry gear to access the world of out-of-bounds terrain and stay safe beyond the purview of ski patrol and avalanche control.
Here is an outline of the basic equipment you will need to go snowboarding, including snowboards, bindings, and boots.
A snowboard is generally made with wood, dense foam, or composite core, a plastic topsheet layer, steel edges, and a low-friction, plastic-base material called p-tex. Some snowboards will also include reinforcing layers of metal, fiberglass, or carbon fiber around the core to change the performance and behavior of the board.
Snowboard Sidecut and Snowboard Width
A typical snowboard will be wider at the tip and tail and narrower in the middle of the board (called the waist). The sidecut of a snowboard is defined by three numbers indicating the dimensions of the board at the tip, waist, and tail. Some boards will only include the waist dimension as it is generally the most important. Some boards will come in regular and wide variants to accommodate riders of different sized feet. Additionally, boards designed for powder riding tend to be wider to help increase flotation.
Snowboard Stiffness or Snowboard Flex
The stiffness of a snowboard is usually referred to as flex. A snowboarder may choose a soft or stiff snowboard for a variety of reasons, including ease of turning, performance in different snow types, stability at high speeds, and terrain park performance. In general, beginner snowboarders will use a softer flexing board because they are easier to control and more advanced snowboarders will use a stiffer board because they are more stable at high speeds and in variable snow. Many times, a snowboarder who specializes in terrain park riding will use a soft board to help with certain tricks and increase agility. Conversely, some terrain park snowboarders prefer a stiff board for stability when landing big jumps. It really comes down to personal preference.
Snowboard Camber and Rocker Profile
Snowboard camber refers to the springiness of the snowboard. When laid flat on the ground, most snowboards will rise in the middle and only contact the ground at the tip and tail. This helps keep the maximum contact area on the snow at all times to increase control and stability. Many snowboards will also feature early rise in the tip and tail, referred to as rocker. A rockered snowboard will be less likely to catch an edge while turning or performing tricks and will float better and be easier to control in powdery snow. Some snowboards designed to be used exclusively in powder will take the rocker concept to the extreme and feature reverse camber. This means the center of the board contacts the snow and the tips and tails do not when laid flat on the ground. This type of board is not generally going to perform very well on hard snow and would not be recommended for beginners.
Twin Tip vs. Directional Snowboards
Some snowboards are designed with a defined front and rear, called a directional snowboard. Others are symmetrical at either end of the snowboard, these are called twin tip. A directional snowboard will be easier to control with the correct foot forward and can improve the performance of the board. The downside to a directional board is reduced performance when snowboarding with the other foot forward (riding switch). A twin tip board is usually preferred by snowboarders who spend a lot of time riding both ways, like terrain park riders or those who just like the versatility it adds.
There is some variance in the construction methods used to build snowboards. This section will guide you through the pros and cons of each one.
Cap construction is a method in which the topsheet of the snowboard is a single piece of material that wraps around to meet the steel edges of the board. This method costs less in general so it is common on most entry level boards. It also tends to weigh less, so when weight is a major priority like with some terrain park boards, you will also see cap construction being used.
A sandwich construction is unlike cap construction because the top layer of the board and the sides of the board are not wrapped with one continuous piece of plastic. Instead, the sidewalls are made of a separate, thicker piece of plastic. This method tends to make for a stiffer board with less torsional flex. The added rigidity comes at the cost of weight and price of the snowboard.
If a snowboard has elements of both cap and sidewall construction, it is referred to as a hybrid construction. These boards have the weight benefits of a cap board with the torsional stiffness benefits of a stiffer board.
Snowboard bindings attach the board to the rider's feet. They come in a couple varieties: strap-in and step-in. Step-in bindings are quite rare as they tend to lack proper ankle support and require specialized boots. Snowboard bindings are generally composed of a baseplate which can be adjusted to change the angle of the foot in relation to the board, a highback which rises up behind the rider's ankle to offer support and board control, and a ratcheting strap system to securely hold the rider's foot in the binding. Some bindings feature highbacks that pivot out of the way so the snowboarder can slip their foot in and snap the highback into place rather than having to adjust the straps every time.
The base of a snowboard binding is the part that attaches directly to the board and can be adjusted to change the angle of how the rider's foot sits on the board. Snowboarding stance setting is entirely up to the preferences of the rider, but a fairly typical stance for a beginner would be 15 degrees from perpendicular for the front foot and exactly perpendicular for the rear foot. Some bindings will also have a toe ramp adjustment in the base. This will allow the snowboarder to customize the length of the binding to increase comfort and control.
The highback of a snowboard binding is the part behind the rider's foot and ankle. The purpose of the high back is to support the snowboarder's foot and leg and offer more control over the snowboard. Some highbacks can be adjusted to increase or decrease the angle to fit the preferences of the rider. Certain snowboard bindings feature reclining high backs which allow the snowboarder to step into the binding and snap the high back into place, removing the need to adjust the straps every time.
The ratcheting straps of a snowboard binding tighten over the snowboard boot to securely fasten the rider's foot in place. Typically, snowboard bindings will have two straps: one on the ankle and another for the toe. Some designs will merge these two straps into one wider strap with two ratchets to increase comfort. Other snowboard bindings will feature a toe cap style strap in the front which better retains the foot in the biding by providing pressure back towards the heel as well as down toward the board.
Snowboard Binding Stiffness
The main factor that affects the performance of a snowboard binding apart from a proper fit is the stiffness. A stiffer binding will allow for more precise control over the board and better stability for more advanced riders. Softer bindings tend to be more comfortable and increase agility for less experienced riders or those who just like a looser feel.
Snowboard boots are more than just a bulky pair of snow boots. They need to fit well in order to afford a snowboarder control over the snowboard. In addition, they need to be warm, dry and comfortable to keep sore or cold feet from keeping you off the mountain.
Some snowboard boots come with a removable liner inside the waterproof outer boot. The benefit of a removable liner is faster drying when you plan to snowboard multiple days in a row. They tend to be bulkier and heavier than single-piece boots, so some snowboarders choose to forego the liner to save weight.
Snowboard Boot Stiffness
The stiffness of a snowboard boot will determine how the boot performs on the mountain. Stiffer boots tend to offer more precise control and are preferred by more aggressive snowboarders. Softer flexing boots tend to be more comfortable and offer added agility so they are usually chosen by newer riders or sometimes by terrain park riders who value the agility over precision control.
Some snowboards use normal shoe laces, while others use some sort of quick-lace system. Various quick lace systems exist but in general, they are all made to make it easier to get your boots nice and tight.
Miscellaneous Snowboard Equipment
Apart from the three main components used by snowboarders, there are other smaller accessories that you may need. Some resorts require you to use a leash to prevent your snowboard from getting away from you and sliding down the mountain. This is usually a springy coil that clips to your boot and your binding. Another accessory that can be helpful to some riders is a stomp pad. These are grippy pads that attach between the bindings that helps a snowboarder balance on the board when one foot is unstrapped. This is helpful when waiting in a lift line, traversing across a flat, etc. This is not required equipment, but in some cases it can make life a lot easier.
Basic Snowboarding Techniques
There is some specific terminology associated with snowboarding techniques that may not be familiar to a new snowboarder.
Side slipping is when you are sliding down a pitch with your board positioned sideways across the mountain with one edge (typically your heel edge) digging into the snow to slow you down. For beginner snowboarders, this is a key skill to learn early as it is the only real effective way to control your speed.
Leafing is another method for getting down the mountain without picking up much speed. While positioned similarly to side slipping, the rider will slide back and forth on the board instead of sliding straight down. The name comes from the resemblance to a falling leaf when you employ this method.
Toe Side Turn
As the name suggests, a toe side turn is a turn made on the toe side edge of the snowboard. This is typically more challenging for beginners than a heel side turn.
Heel Side Turn
The opposite of a toe side turn, a heel side turn is made on the heel side edge of the snowboard. This tends to feel more natural for beginners and is therefore easier to pick up.
A carving turn is made by leaning into a turn and cutting a smooth arc without sliding the board. This technique is the best way to maintain speed through a turn.
Regular vs. Goofy Stance
Regular and goofy refers to which foot you prefer to put forward when standing on a snowboard. If you prefer your left foot forward, that is considered a regular stance. If you prefer your right foot forward, that is considered goofy.
Riding switch is when you ride with your non-dominant foot forward. If you typically ride regular but are snowboarding with your right foot forward, that is considered switch. It is a good idea to practice riding both ways so you can comfortably ride with either foot forward.
Strapping In/Strapping Out
Getting in or out of your bindings is called strapping in/out. You will need to strap out with one foot at the bottom of every run in order get on the chairlift. At the top ,you will need to strap back in. Look for a bench at the top of the lift if you are having trouble strapping in.