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Beginners Guide to Snowboard Equipment

Items required for begin snowboarding: Boots, Bindings, Board and a Leash. A snowboard tool kit is also a very nice item to have. In addition proper clothing for warmth and comfort, and protection. For injury prevention and your own safety, wrist guards and a helmet are highly recommended.

There are Four categories of boot/binding systems:

1. Soft System
2. Step-In system
3. Combo system

4. Hard Systems

Soft System:
Traditional soft boots and bindings rely on the binding straps and the binding highback for retaining the boot and providing control of the board. This is generally the most flexible of the 3 systems.

Because the binding is providing the support, the boot has a softer sole and can roll slightly from side to side within the binding. As it has the most margin for error, it is also the least responsive of the three systems.

Many freestyle riders prefer the soft system because there's a better chance of recovering landings. Soft boots are also comfortable for hiking and walking around in.

Disadvantage for beginners is that the soft system binding typically uses straps which for most require you to sit in the snow to put on and secure tightly. This means a cold wet bottom and effort to stand up. One soft system that is easy to attach is the “Flow Binding System” with its rear entry for the boot and snap up high back for locking the boot into place. It is the convenience of a step in without the special boot.

Step-In System:
Easy way of getting in and out of the binding.

The sole of the boot is stiffened and attached to the binding with some kind of latching. This stops the boot rolling in the binding, providing good response, but also less margin of error than you get with a soft system. Generally, the stiffer sole also means quicker edge-to-edge response than the traditional soft type.

For its convenience, it is a top choice for rentals and beginners and intermediates.

The disadvantage with most step-in systems is the boot. The boot is usually stiffer making walking less comfortable if you plan to hike in them. They typically have a metal component on the bottom of the boot that may damage floors or ice up and must remove the ice build-up before attaching onto the binding. Because of the metal on the bottom of the boot care must be taken when walking on hard floors.

Combo System:

There are two bindings that I know of at this time that allows nearly step in convenience using soft boots.  Flow binding allows the wearer of a soft boot to rear entry into their binding and you just pull up on the high back and lock it in.  Another binding that also allows for rear entry is a new model K2 binding for this year 2004/2005 season.  The K2 has the traditional straps so you can fine adjust the tension on the boot after you put the foot in. 

Hard System:
The hard system is the opposite of the soft system in that it relies entirely on the structure of the boot to control the board. Hard boots have a stiff, plastic shell with buckles or ratchet bails.

They are the most precise of the 3 different systems.
They are generally, used by carvers and racers, who want the most instant, precise control over the boards possible.

The hard system offers superior control for speed, offer greater ankle support, are extremely durable and make getting in and out of bindings easy

Within the hard system, there are both traditional toe-clips and step-ins systems. Generally, a step-in is slightly stiffer than toe-clips, because step-ins use an interlocking latch mechanism to secure the boot to the binding. The latch allows minimal movement of the boot within the binding, while toe-clips allow the boot a degree of roll within the binding.


The leash is a short cord that straps your front foot or boot or leg to the front binding. The leash should always be attached to your leg or foot when you are riding your snowboard. When you are carrying your snowboard, you should loop the leash around your wrist so the board will not get away. Typically the lease is attached to your front foot.

Choosing a board:

As a beginner the board best suited is one that is most forgiving. These are usually also the ones that cost the least. Going by low price point is typically a good indicator that the board is for beginners. What is most important is that the board is appropriate to your weight, height, ability and type of riding.

Here are some key points to look for in a board to help you narrow down the selection.

1. Styles of Riding: Snowboards come in different styles of riding. Choose the type that suits your style.
A. Technical freestyle: Boards have twin tips - the nose and tail are an identical, blunt shape suitable for riding forward or backward, jumping, and doing complicated spins.
B. Freestyle: Boards usually have a directional shape (a distinct nose and tail), with a stiffer tail and a longer tip for better flotation in shopped-up snow. On a freestyle board you can go anywhere and do anything- ride forward or fakie, on powder or hard pack, and in the air-on the snow.
C. Freeride (also called All-Mountain): these boards because they can be used anywhere on the mountain in any snow condition-are flexible for easy maneuverability, and usually have a directional shape. For many beginners this versatile board is good to learn on and especially if you want to ride on any terrain and you spend most of your time on the snow, not doing jumps and tricks in the air.
D. Freecarving/Alpine: Boards are stiff and narrow. With a curved nose and a squared of symmetrical tail. Built to hold an edge at high speed. This is a board for riders who want to go really fast and lay down inch-deep tracks on hard packed or groomed snow. They are stable at high speeds, but, are not used for doing tricks of for all-around riding. They are used with hard boots and plate bindings, which are not recommended for beginners because of the increased difficulties of balancing, turning, skating, and using lifts.

The first 3 types of riding style Technical freestyle, Freestyle, and Freeride we find basically 3 Shapes of boards

3 basic shapes in board design:

Directional Boards: very popular choice for all mountain/powder riding abilities. These boards have a longer nose for powder, generally have a stiffer tail than a nose and, usually, the stance is set back from the center of the board. Generally, these boards are your all-mountain boards made for the freeriders.

Twin Tip Boards seem to be the freestyler's choice. These boards work exactly the same either way you ride them for true park and pipe performance.

The Directional Twin Board combines the shape of a twin with the flex pattern of the directional. This board is an all around board made for the freestyler. As a beginner this maybe your best choice.

2. Waist width.
If the board is too thin, your feet will drag when you turn causing you to fall.
If the board is too wide, you lose responsiveness
The toe and heel of your boot should be flush with the edges of your snowboard, to give you the most leverage and allow for easy turning.

Narrow boards Regular boards Wide boards
Foot size (men) 8 or less 8.5 to 10.5 10.5 or larger
Waists (cm) 25 or less (cm) 25 - 26 cm 26 or wider cm

3. Length:
Snowboard lengths are measured in centimeters (cm). The length of your board will depend on your height, weight, riding style, and ability.

Board length Height Weight Ability
124 to 140 cm 3' to 4' 40 to 70 lbs. Beginner to Intermediate
140 to 150 cm 4' to 5' 8" 60 to 90 lbs. Beginner to Intermediate
150 to 160 cm 4' 2" to 6' 70 to 185 lbs. Beginner to Intermediate
160 to 165 cm 5' 4" to 6' 7" 100+ lbs. Beginner to Intermediate
165 to 175 cm 5' 6" + 120+ lbs. Beginner to Intermediate

Boards typically should be at least chin height, and no wider at the waist than the length of your foot. I suggest keep your first board below your upper lip.

Check the specifications of the particular board. Usually each board will have a riders weight range recommendation. If your weight is below the lower end of the recommended weight range then the board will ride stiffer than what it is intended for making turning more difficult. If your weight is above the upper end of the range it will ride softer than what it is intended for not allowing you to hold an edge very well.

Consult a knowledgeable snowboard-shop employee to help you choose a board.

4. Flex
There are two different flexes to every snowboard.
Longitudinal flex (the way it flexes the long way from tip to tail) and
Torsional flex (the way it flexes across the board)

For lighter person, a stiff board will feel unresponsive and will be harder to pilot through choppy snow. Longitudinal flex has a lot to do with a rider's individual weight. A lighter person the board may feel like a plank while the same board may feel like a rubber band to a heavier person. Purpose plays some part in flex selection. Mountain riding is better on a stiffer board, while a softer stick works well in the park.

Torsional flex is how stiff a board is side to side or toe to heel. Torsionally, soft boards seem to get in and out of turns easier. Basically, a stiffer torsional flex will work better on groomed snow, railing turns, while soft will absorb chopped snow better.

Tool Kit
It is useful to carry a small wrench and a screwdriver to adjust your bindings. Other nice things can be; board wax (there are different types of wax for different snow conditions), extra leash

Now that you have your equipment do not forget about developing the skills needed to put them to good use. Take lessons, preferably before you go to the mountains at SnoZone Endless Slope Ski and Snowboard School.