How We Review Snowboards
I’m James Biesty. I started this site a while back to help the average rider figure out what’s best for them. Here is a bit about how we review Snowboards.
Nothing is better than trying out snowboard gear your self but if you can’t, we are here if you can’t. Our perspective of how it rides which isn’t perfect but something for you to get an idea of how it rides. I (James Biesty) review over 100 boards a year and when I do I often compare it to a favorite I own on the same day/days we have it on snow to add consistency to the reviews. I often try to get friends to ride them too and get their feedback as well as mine.
As technology changes (a lot these days) the ratings can change. So don’t be surprised if a board has one rating but the next time you check the review it has a different rating even though the board hasn’t changed. Often times its competitors improve so a board that hasn’t changed can get a lesser rating than what it had before. The snowboard industry isn’t static so I’m constantly changing reviews on current models to match the changes from the industry.
Remember this isn’t an exact science but just a general guideline so you can get an idea of what might work best for you.
|HOW IT RIDES|
|This rating system isn’t really about good or bad but more about what you prefer. It is not an exact science but just a general guideline.|
|On Snow Feel||Loose||Turn Initiation||Slow||Flex||Stiff||Edge Hold||Soft Snow|
|These are more rated from poor to excellent but the ratings are not an exact science. It’s just a general guideline based on our time on the board.|
|Turning Experience/Carving||Excellent||Uneven Terrain||Excellent||Jumps||Excellent||Pipe||Excellent|
You will see 1/2 snowflake ratings too which means they are closer to the better side of their rating.
How well does the board ride in the fun stuff? This is rated mainly on the boards’ ability to float and how much it reduces rear leg burn. So this rating is really important for those that ride in thicker snow as you find in Tahoe, Baker or Whistler but it gets less important if you ride in light fluffy snow as you find in Colorado or Utah. We mainly ride these boards in some of the thickest pow out there so if we say it floats here it floats everywhere.
On Snow Feel
This is one of the most telling ratings of how a board is going to feel underfoot and it determines the general personality of the board between the feet. We help you determine if it’s a board with some consequence if you fuck up or is it super forgiving or somewhere in between. One rating isn’t better than the other but instead, it’s more about personal preference.
- Loose means it’s probably the best when it comes to not catching an edge and make skidded turns is easy but conversely, it’s not easy to one foot or flat base. Great for beginners or riders who like to spin around a lot or spend most of the day in the park etc.
- Semi-Stable means it can feel stable on softer snow but in harder snow, it can start to feel loose between the feet. Easy to make skidded turns too. Generally great for riders of all levels and can often spin out instead of catch an edge.
- Stable feels stable between the feet at all times in all conditions. Almost as easy as semi-stable when it comes to making skidded turns. Just like Semi-Stable it’s often not game over if you mess up and the edges often don’t catch unless you really fuck up. Generally great for riders of all levels.
- Semi-Locked In means it’s stable but can be catchy in certain situations if you aren’t careful so its usually more for more advanced to expert technical riders. A bit challenging to skid a turn if you find your self suddenly off your game and trying to regain your composure.
- Locked In means it feels like the board is on a rail and you have to be a strong technical ride who is always on his game. Not easy for someone who doesn’t know how to turn correctly or charges hard but loses control often. If you don’t know how to turn right or screw up a lot it can lead to hard, quick and often nasty falls.
How fast your board turn from edge to edge if you are turning it properly and not skidding your turns. One isn’t’ necessarily better than the other because different people like boards to turn differently. For example, many riders who like to straight line everything generally a board that has slower turn initiation where people who like darting in and out of trees likes faster turn initiation. This rating is based on proper turning and not skidded turns so some boards that are rated med/fast or fast edge to edge might actually be quite challenging to skid a turn. I’ll try to mention this in the written reviews but also check ability level and if it’s advanced to expert it usually means it’s not easy to skid a turn. Also, check “On Snow Feel” Anything “Locked In” or “Semi Locked In” Means that it’s likely to catch an edge on sloppy skidded turns.
How easily does a board slide around and skid out the snow. This is how many riders turn as they learn so it’s very important for beginners and intermediates. It’s another component with how forgiving the ride is. It’s also great for advanced to expert riders to know how the board is going to treat you if you get off your game. Can you skid out easily or will you slam the edge into the snow with your body to follow? Obviously, you can do this with the easiest of boards if you really mess up but it’s harder to screw up when it skids out easy. We rate this from easy to hard.
This sums up how the board turns. Let’s face it most riders turn a shit ton more than almost everything else we do on the mountain so other than jump and jib riders this is a really big factor. When we talk about this we are addressing how the board turns in all types of ways all over the mountain for the kind of ride it offers. There are all kinds of ways to turn so we try to match how it turns compared to how it rides.
Carving to us is something unique to turning. We see carving as next level turning. It’s laying hard into a turn in an attempt to bring your body almost parallel to the snow. It looks more like a surfer making a bottom turn on a big wave. The rail is buried in the snow and most of the base is visible on the turn. Some see carving as just making good turns and leaving a very thin line behind you with every turn. We don’t see it that way. To us, that is just making good technical short to wide radius turns.
***A lot of people think that edge hold is all that matters when it comes to how a board carves and to us that’s only part of it. What is more important is how the board holds into the carve and how it springs out which is more about the camber, sidecut radius, torsional flex and longitudinal flex of the board as well as the edge hold.
How well does your board hold its edge in all types of snow conditions? The rating here is from “Icy” to “Soft Snow”. Lesser edge hold is better for jibbing and the rating “Icy” is pretty much self-explanatory. The only thing to look further into on the “Icy” is sometimes boards that excel in ice can also be a little grabby in softer snow. It’s not always the case so make sure you read into the in-depth review on edge hold.
How does the board bend in the center and tip/tail? Is it easy to butter or press?
Does the board ride well at high speeds? Is it damp and stable when you pick up speed or does it chatter or feel squirrely like a skateboard with loose trucks? Also how well does the board hold it’s speed in the flats.
Often times Speed and a stiff flex come at a price and this is why I created this category to help you understand how a board handles less than ideal conditions. Often times speed comes at a price. Think of a super fast board as like a race car. Race cars are usually meant for perfect tracks and have very stiff shocks. If you drive it home from the track it’s a pretty rough ride. You have seen those too fast too furious cars have a shitty time trying to get over a 4-inch speed bump in a parking lot. Some really stiff fast boards can be just like this when it comes to bumpy terrain. They are amazing in perfectly groomed snow and fresh powder but take them into some bumpy snow and it feels like the board is trying to punish you. Some people ride only when its good but many don’t have that luxury. Boards that handle Uneven Terrain well are often like the soft-riding SUV’s or Cross Over’s you see on the road today. Their lifted frame and soft shocks are awesome with parking lot speed bumps or handling a rough road but suck when it’s time to pick up speed or power through a high-speed turn.
Does your board ride well with either the nose or tail forward? Can it turn well and does the tip and tail flex the same on a butter/press.
How well does a board ollie, hit small jumps, medium jumps, and big jumps? Is it easy to spin and even more importantly how does it land?
Can the board handle an extra beating to the base and rails? Will you feel comfortable on rails, boxes and other features in the park?
How comfortable does it feel climbing the pipe walls to get you into the air, and more importantly, how easy is it to come back down? Does it drive well from wall to wall when you are in the flats? Is there sufficient edge hold to feel comfortable in an icy pipe wall.
This is the LEAST important category and barely worth mentioning unless it feels light or feels heavy. I give you my take on how boards feel for their size when I pick them up without bindings and when I ride them up the chair but here are my reasons for not really getting too technical about the weight.
- I compared a few boards from different companies with similar specs that I classified as “feels normal”. I was surprised at how close they all were in weight and only varied by a few ounces. When I compared other feels normal boards that were taller or smaller the weight incrementally increased or decreased.
- Weights from the same board also vary. Wood cores do not all weigh the same. Snowboard companies do their best to make them very close but wood grows and isn’t made. That’s one of the reasons snowboard companies don’t post their weight.
- One other thing to remember going ultralight usually comes at a price. Ultralight boards often don’t have the durability and dampness as boards that are normal or heavy. So if you are looking for a board that might be easy on your knee riding up a chair it could be worse for your knee coming down the mountain because it’s not as damp.
Snowboarding Ability Levels
This is very important on what kind of board you should choose. Advanced to expert boards don’t usually skid their turns well and that’s what beginner, intermediate riders do a lot. Even advanced to expert riders still skid their turns. So if you see any board that’s rated “Advanced-Expert” then it means this board is not going to skid turns well and it’s easier to catch an edge.
A beginner is someone who is obviously new to the sport and is taking it all in. Most beginners are still trying to get the fundamentals down of making heelside turns, toe side turns and stopping on purpose. They skid most or all of their turns. You might know what kind of riding style you want to be from the start or just want to check out everything to see what appeals to you the most. It all starts by learning how to link your turns. Beginner freestyle riders have mastered the above and are now starting to check a thing or two out in the smaller parks.
An intermediate snowboarder is someone who is riding well down most beginner to intermediate runs and is now looking to challenge themselves on steeper runs. They skid their turns a lot so when you look back at your tracks on corduroy you don’t see a thin line the whole way down but they are working on making good turns. They’re also ready to check out the small parks for a trick or two. This rider is working to proficiently ride every run on the mountain, to ride switch, to ride powder, to hit the small jib park, to make small jumps and to ride the 8 feet or less halfpipe. Most people are trying to figure out what riding styles they like and are trying to get better.
An advanced snowboarder is more in tune with what type of rider they are and is developing that style. They’re starting to understand how to make good turns anywhere on the mountain but might still unintentionally make skidded turns. For example, when you look back uphill after a few turns the lines are pretty thin and only have a few skid marks or places where it gets wider. They are having fun on powder days without doing cartwheels or getting stuck in the middle of a run. Advanced Freestylers are now riding switch, know how to ollie, butter, press, can get up and down the pipe wall, can hit most moderate jibs and can land most small to medium jumps. If they are a freestyler, they are learning to go bigger everywhere and are trying new tricks.
They aren’t pros but understand the mechanics of every move in their style of riding. Expert Mountain Snowboarders make razor thin turns, have good form and are in complete control of their boards when it comes to edge to edge transitioning. They only make skidded turns when they want to. They can throw out a hard nipple scratching carve and are competent in any part of the mountain. Freestyle/Park riders are riding switch whenever and wherever it suits them, can get out of the bigger pipes, hitting kickers with a bevy of tricks in their arsenal and jibbing anything they want. An expert has seen it all and can do almost anything in the riding style they choose.
We strongly suggest taking lessons on the mountain when you are a beginner or intermediate rider. However, even when you’re at the advanced or expert level, you can keep learning from a good instructor.