Snowboard terminology: A guide for the beginner or the returning amateur

by Fraser

The terminology that surrounds the sport of snowboarding can be pretty inscrutable to the layperson. Combined with the fact that the terminology is intertwined irrevocably with the equipment a snowboarder uses, and evolves over time, an absence of a decade (or more…cough) from the sport can make something like choosing a board pretty intimidating. So let’s take a look at what some of these ubiquitous terms mean, in the hopes that even an enthusiastic thirty-something can get back on the slopes, and not have a bad time.

Let’s discuss basic board types first.

First, you have all-mountain boards. This are the most common board style you’ll find, designed to handle a variety of terrains, and where you should begin. The majority of snowboarders remain on an all-mountain board forever.

Freestyle boards are generally shorter, more flexible, and lighter, designed for more dynamic use, riding rails, jumps and tricks. Frequently reinforced to take a little more abuse than other boards.

Freeride boards are designed for backcountry use, in completely natural, un-groomed snow, and clumpy or deep powder. They’re stiff, and stable for downhill speed, not ideal for tricks or varied terrain.

Powder boards are, as the name implies, focused like a laser on a fast powder experience. With a wide base, and upturned tips, they’re designed to not get bogged down in the deep stuff.

Splitboards are a Frankenstein hybrid between cross-country skis and a snowboard, designed for backcountry use, the idea being that you use the skis to climb in untracked areas, and reunify the halves to carve your way downhill. For dedicated and experienced backcountry enthusiasts only.

A few words about various board-related terms.

A “directional” board is designed to travel in one direction, having a front and rear. “Directional twin” boards can be reversed, but still have one end more suitable to lead. A “true twin” board is equally good for travel with either end facing downhill.

A “wide” board is wider than other boards, because some riders have huge feet, and your heels create drag if they hang over. Ask your dealer if your shoe-size necessitates a wide board.

“Camber” refers to the bend in a particular board. Different cambers are for different styles of ride. “Regular” camber (which looks like a cat’s mouth in profile) is designed for stability and tight control on groomed runs. A “reverse” camber or rocker board (which looks like a smile) is more forgiving for novice riders and in powdery conditions. Truth be told, new cambers are devised for virtually every aspect of board riding, so you could spend a lifetime finding a camber right for you.

Hopefully this brief overview will help the enthusiastic amateur navigate some of the terminology that surrounds this exciting sport. Happy carving!


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Luke October 15, 2023 - 6:58 pm

Great article. Do you still think snowboarding is cooler than skiing?

Fraser October 17, 2023 - 10:51 pm

Thanks! Both are pretty awesome… but of course I’m a little more biased towards snowboarding 😉


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