How to Choose a Snowboard for Women

The lineup for the Best Women's All-Mountain Snowboards 2017.
Article By:
Amelia Traynor
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday

When selecting a snowboard, it's important to consider not only which board is the "best," but which board is best for you. There are so many factors that give a snowboard its own personality. Many of us ladies grew up learning to ride on our older brother's hand-me-down boards, then graduated to (what we viewed as) higher performing men's boards. The old "shrink it and pink it" mantra has shed a negative light on some of the incredible tech designed just for the fairer sex. So why is it so important to choose a women-specific snowboard?

The Rome Lo Fi Rocker gears up for a backcountry hike.
The Rome Lo Fi Rocker gears up for a backcountry hike.

Why Women's Snowboards?


Although it may seem like these boards have just been given pretty floral graphics, there's some serious technology and design behind ladies' snowboards.

Due to structural differences in the body, men and women use different movement techniques when performing a single leg squat. Females naturally rotate their pelvis towards the weight bearing limb, while males rotate in the opposite direction. As a result, women are more prone to knee injury and knee pain than men. It's important to have a board designed with your body in mind, so don't settle for a men's board.

Women's boards are generally shorter, narrower, lighter, and more flexible than men's boards. This maneuverability greatly reduces the risk of knee injury as compared to a stiffer, heavier men's snowboard. Women also have a lower center of gravity, so a smaller board is more responsive.

Purchasing a board designed with these elements in mind will allow for smoother, more intuitive, and less injury-prone riding.

The Arbor Swoon Rocker floating on a powder day.
The Arbor Swoon Rocker floating on a powder day.

Why All-Mountain Snowboards?


While we'd all like to live in a world where everyone has a hefty quiver of snowboards to choose from depending on conditions, not everyone can live like the pros. Most riders want one solid board that they feel comfortable taking on a wide variety of conditions. An all-mountain board is designed to perform well in all terrain, whether it's fresh powder or spring park days. Until the days we can afford a quiver of condition specific tools, a great all-mountain board will transform to serve its purpose regardless of terrain.

Types of Snowboards



Freestyle/Park
Freestyle boards are for riders that like to stay in the park — rails, walls, jumps or flat ground. These boards are typically shorter and more flexible, which allows for a playful ride, along with greater control when jibbing or jumping. Park boards usually have a twin or asym twin shape, so you can land tricks switch with the greatest of ease.

All-Mountain
For the best qualities all-in-one, choose an all-mountain board. Designed for seamless transition between variable conditions, an all-mountain board can go from park to powder without blinking an eye. If you like to hop between tree runs, big groomers, and park laps all in one day, this is the style of board for you.

Freeride
Freeride boards are for those that ride powder when it's fresh and carve groomers when it's not. Typically larger in size with a stiff flex, these boards are more aggressive than freestyle boards. Freeride boards have a sharper edge hold than others for carving in hard-pack and cutting through ice.

The Never Summer Aura is stiff  but floats through the deepest snow with ease.
The Never Summer Aura is stiff, but floats through the deepest snow with ease.

Powder
Powder boards are built to surf the earth. Usually directional (longer nose than tail), these boards have a set back stance for a surfy feel, and typically run on the stiffer side. Many powder specific boards have custom powder friendly shapes, like a swallowtail.

Board Composition


What goes into the snowboard during construction? From the base to the core to the topsheet, each piece is carefully crafted before it is assembled and becomes a snowboard.

Base


Snowboard bases are made of P-Tex, a high-density polyethylene plastic. A base will either be sintered or extruded. A sintered base is formed by grinding the base material into powder, heating it, pressing it and slicing it into shape. An extruded base is formed by melting the base material down and cutting it into shape. Sintered bases are more expensive to make, but are more durable, faster, and absorb wax better than extruded bases. Extruded bases are cheaper and need less maintenance, but are also slower and less durable. A base will usually be followed by a number, which refers to the molecular weight of the polyethylene. The higher the number, the higher the quality of the P-Tex (i.e., sintered 2000).

Base graphic on the Gnu Ladies Choice
Base graphic on the Gnu Ladies Choice

Core


What is the center of the board made from? The core of a snowboard might be the most important element, considering all other pieces are constructed around it. While most snowboards these days have a wooden core, a snowboard's core can be composed of a variety of materials, such as foam or aluminum honeycomb. Wooden cores are typically composed of poplar, birch, or obeche wood. Strips of these woods are lined up vertically and laminated in order to create various flex patterns. Some companies will use Kevlar, carbon fiber, or metals to strengthen a board's core.

Edge


Metal edges run the length of either side of the snowboard, allowing you to cut into snow when riding. Not all boards' edges run along the entire perimeter of the board, but full-coverage edges can protect your board's nose and tail from damage. Edge technology such as Gnu's Magnetraction or Burton's FrostBite creates a knife-like serration along the edge, allowing a more seamless carve through icy conditions.

Sidewall on the Arbor Swoon
Sidewall on the Arbor Swoon

Sidewall


The sidewall is the area along the metal edge of the snowboard, and it has three basic constructions: ABS sidewall, cap, or a hybrid of the two. ABS is a heavy, dense material that is used to make boards more durable, more torsionally stiff, and have better edge grip. If a cap construction pops or breaks, moisture can leak into the core and cause serious damage.

All the boards we tested have ABS sidewall, which is typical on high-performance snowboards.

Topsheet


The topsheet of a snowboard not only displays the graphics, but also protects the inside of your board from the elements. Topsheets are typically made from nylon, wood, fiberglass, plastic or composites.

The topsheet of the Arbor Swoon is made with premium natural bamboo.
The topsheet of the Arbor Swoon is made with premium natural bamboo.

Inserts


Inserts are the threaded stainless steel holes in a snowboard that allow you to attach bindings. Most snowboards have a standard 2x4 or 4x4 insert pattern, which references the vertical and horizontal measurements between holes in centimeters. These inserts allow you to customize your stance by moving along the rows of holes to your desired width.

Standard 2x4 binding inserts on the Arbor Swoon.
Standard 2x4 binding inserts on the Arbor Swoon.

Burton has patented their Channel technology, a new form of inserts that attaches bindings along a slit in the middle of the board. While this tech means you've got to get special Channel-friendly EST bindings, it provides virtually endless stance options, and allows a quicker transition if you decide to adjust your stance.

Burton Channel inserts as seen on the men's Burton Flying V.
Burton Channel inserts as seen on the men's Burton Flying V.

All-Mountain Options



Sizing


While many riders initially think that height influences board size — your snowboard doesn't care how tall you are. It's actually a riders weight that determines the correct size. Weight has an enormous impact on a rider's ability to flex and turn the board. More weight means more control of the board beneath your feet.

Most companies offer a variety of sizes for each board. While each company has a sizing chart with a recommended weight range, these charts leave some room for personal preference. A smaller board will be easier to maneuver, while a longer board gives more stability and floats better in powder.

Flex


Each snowboard has its own flex pattern. Park boards are typically very soft, for easy jibbing and clean rotations. Powder or speed boards are usually on the stiffer side. If like a soft ride or prefer the park, you'll want something more flexible and forgiving. A longer, stiffer board will provide more support in powder and at high speeds.

Bigger riders will traditionally prefer the stability and weight of a stiffer board.

Camber


Camber refers to the way a board lays flat on a surface. Traditional camber (aka regular or positive camber) has a long arch underfoot, and touches down near the tip and tail. This provides long, even pressured contact with the snow when weighted. A camber profile offers a lively, stable ride that is popular among park riders for its responsive, springy feel.

A rocker profile, or reverse camber, touches down between the bindings, and has an upturned tip and tail. This means less edge contact when the board is weighted, allowing it to pivot easily underfoot. This profile is excellent in powder or jibs, and good for rotations.

Most boards nowadays are a hybrid camber, or a mix between rocker and camber. These profiles are each built to suit specific performance attributes.

Shape


Do you like to ride switch? Deep powder? Both? Some boards are designed to handle certain styles of riding more easily. It's important to decide if you want a twin tip, asymmetrical or something directional.

True-twin snowboards have an identical tip and tail, which makes switch riding feel similar to riding regular. Directional boards have a longer nose than tail, creating a surfboard feel underfoot when cruising through powder. These boards go more easily in one direction than the other. A directional twin has a symmetrical nose and tail, but is set back to make riding in powder more intuitive.

Amelia Traynor
About the Author
After graduating with a degree in Marketing from the University of Vermont, Amelia Traynor made the pilgrimage to Tahoe. She spends her summers hiking, camping, and waiting for snow — and spends her winters in the powder. From resort riding to backcountry, she's left the mellow mountains of the East Coast in the dust. She is also a contributing writer for Snowbrains, a snowsports industry blog.

 
 

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