Trying to figure out which mountain snowboard is the absolute best? For two months straight we took 12 of the top boards on intensive rides through all kinds of conditions. From deep powder to hardback to corduroy, we rode regular and switch, taking the same lines with each model to compare performance. Every ollie, turn, high-speed straight line, and spin/jib was executed on each board to fairly compare them. Keep reading to find out how each model performed in these metrics: Edging, Floating in Powder, Stability at Speed, Playfulness and Pop/Jumping.
The Best All-Mountain Snowboards of 2018
After testing all winter, the Yes. Optimistic rose up as a new Top Pick winner. It ties for high score with our Editors' Choice. If you can get past the unispiring graphics and weird shape, this board absolutely rips. Its performance had us grinning ear to ear.
Best Overall All Mountain Snowboard
Never Summer Proto Type Two
Ranking closely to its competitors in most categories, but edging them out where it counts, the Never Summer Proto Type Two wins Editors' Choice for Best All-Mountain Snowboard. Its asymmetrical properties, which allow riders efficient edge-to-edge transfer, initiated and held heel turns better than any other contender. Its impressive scoring in other categories, cool shape, and eye-pleasing graphics make it a winner. Very playful but capable when the going gets tough, it floats in powder with its hybrid-camber profile and speed stability. It pops nicely, with medium-stiff flex, and it's lightweight and responsive, thanks to smaller radii sidecuts. Bonus: it's made in the USA.
We had a hard time coming up with many downsides. It's expensive and sells out fast. But admitedly, that is just nitpicking.
Read review: Never Summer Proto Type Two
Best Bang for the Buck
Incredibly nimble and fun in all conditions, the Jones Explorer takes the title of Best Bang for Your Buck. It has the smallest sidecut of the contenders, which helps make it responsive on groomers and hardpack. Had we tested it in bumps, it likely would have triumphed like Jonny Moseley in Nagano '98. If you don't know who Jonny is, click - this. (We know he's a skier, but it's still rad.) The Jones seemed to be almost self-driving, entering and exiting turns with ease and precision. In pow, it felt similar to other contenders; it floated well because of the hybrid-rocker combo and surfy tip and tail. It's light, too, but not the lightest tested.
The Explorer offers better pop than fully rockered boards, and is not quite up there with cambered competitors. It didn't perform exceptionally on really hard snow and was prone to slipping out. The Explorer is a splendid choice for anyone looking to have the best time on the hill, all while saving cash. All in all, it's hard to go wrong with this fantastic board.
Read review: Jones Explorer
Fun and Great for Powder
Don't let the powder board shape fool you, the Yes. Optimistic rips the entire mountain. Its performance blew us away and it tied for the top score with the Editors' Choice. For the rider who wants a stiff, fun and light board, this is a Top Pick. It was the best all-mountain board we tested for riding powder and still managed to tear up the groomers as well.
If you can get past the weird shape, you then have to get past the less than exciting graphics. These are just cosmetic issues that didn't bother us but might be a deal breaker for some. This is also one of the most expensive boards in the test. We feel the price is well worth it.
Read review: Yes. Optimistic
Top Pick for Railing Turns at Speed
Lib Tech Travis Rice Pro Pointy
With a rad shape and first-class graphics, Lib-Tech proves they rarely fail to produce innovative and well-built boards. Although the Lib-Tech Travis Rice Pro is on the stiffer, heavier side (mainly because the size tested was larger than the rest), it was surprisingly fun and playful, making it our Top Pick for Railing Turns at Speed. If it were cambered, it wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable. Although it was larger than other models, it didn't feel it and rode smaller than expected. Once at speed, it dominated sweeping carves like Ayrton Senna in any of his six Monaco Grad Prix Formula One victories. (To get an idea what we're talking about, take a peek at this.) Its Magne-Traction bumps bit into harder snow but released from those turns easily, a product of the rocker. It also performed well in pow, as do most rocker-profiled boards. It popped better than other banana boards, due to its medium-stiff flex.
The only downside we found was that it wasn't as nimble at slower speeds on harder snow and groomers. Stiffer, heavier boards with longer sidecut tend to be less responsive if not pushed to their limits. This model was made to be pushed!
Read review: Lib-Tech Travis Rice Pro
Top Pick for the Weekend Warrior
Really playful, forgiving, responsive and aesthetic, the Arbor Wasteland is our choice for someone new to snowboarding or weekend warriors who want to push it more. This board is capable of handling anything you put in its way, and it's the friendliest of all tested. The combination of reverse camber, twin shape, medium flex and middle-of-the-road sidecut make for a pleasing ride.
Powder riding is difficult to get used to at first, and the reverse camber helps you stay afloat. Some other downsides: it's expensive and has weak pop. Its medium flex makes it poppy and drives it through mashed potatoes and crud. And don't forget the classic wood finish!
Read review: Arbor Wasteland
Analysis and Test Results
Imagine taking part in a blind taste test, tasting one percent and whole milk; easy peasy! Now imagine that you're tasting milk ranging from 1.1 percent to 1.9 percent. Your job is to pick the best. That's harder. Each milk is so close in taste that, in the end, they just taste like milk. See what we're getting at? But wait. What if one milk had a touch of chocolate in it? That would make things easier. We're here to help you determine which all-mountain model is YOUR chocolate milk. Your friends' opinions might vary, and other factors might weigh in. But if you know what characteristics are important to you, we'll tell you the board that has them.
Click on the Blue Dots below to see how the award winners stacked up. As you'll see in the bottom right, the Jones Explorer is clearly the best at combing a high score with a low price. But just to the left, the Salomon Super 8 is not far behind and might be the best deal if you can get it on sale. This chart shows that snowboards are mostly a "get what you pay for category" as most of the top scoring boards are also the most expensive.
What Type of Riding Defines You?
If you love carving groomers, we recommend the Burton Flight Attendant. Classic cambered profile, a stiff flex, and shorter sidecut give all that you could ask for. Are you only riding pow? A rockered board with more length and width, along with a gradually rising nose, such as the Lib-Tech Travis Rice Pro, is likely your best bet. Maybe you're a park rat who can't be bothered to hunt down pow or just make turns on corduroy. If that's the case, the Capita Defenders of Awesome is light, playful, and poppy, perfect for the park.
Types of Snowboards
This review only covers all-mountain models, which combine the best qualities of other boards. However, there are many other varieties you might want to explore. If you know that you only ride in specific conditions, such as powder or park, perhaps you should look for a different board. If you have the means, plenty of time to ride, and a big enough garage, why not buy one of each? To read more about the different types of snowboards, view our buying advice.All-Mountain
This is the most versatile, do-anything-anywhere board you can buy. All boards in this review are all-mountain. They are designed to adapt to any snow and riding situation. Whether you're a seasoned shredder or just starting out, an all-mountain board will keep you happy surfing powder, airing in the park, riding the half-pipe, or carving groomers. All mountain boards are relatively non-specific in design. They can be directional or twin tip, and come with different base profiles, flex and edge types. When buying this variety of board, there are actually more things to consider than with a more specific model.
Criteria for Evaluation
Some criteria is paramount when testing all-mountain models. The metrics we tested for were chosen because they are deciding factors when considering your purchase. When our tester was a child, he picked boards based on how cool the graphics looked. If the board had a skull or he had seen it in a video ridden by one of his favorite pros, he'd buy it. It was a long time before he realized that there was more to a rad board than a cool graphic or big name. Maybe that's why it took him so long to get good at riding. Fortunately for you, if you continue reading, you'll be a better rider than he was when he first started. He didn't know s@#$ about nothin', man! But now, 33 shredding years later, he does.
A product's metal edge gives it turning and stopping ability. Without metal edges, carving would become sliding, and there would be less control while riding. In our hunt for the best, we looked for a board that got on edge easily, maintained control, and exited turns easily. We tested how every board performs while moving on edge, transferring from toe edge to the heel edge and vice-versa, analyzing how different edges handle. There are Magne-Traction, or serrated edges, and there are classic, non-serrated edges. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Serrated edges grip better in harder snow and ice but can sometimes feel catchy or hold on to a turn longer than you want. In powder, edge style doesn't make a significant difference.
After thoroughly examining the specs of the models we tested, those with medium-to-stiff or stiff flex held their edges exceedingly well. There were three standouts that scored nine or above out of 10. The Jones Explorer and Burton Flight Attendant, both with the shortest tested sidecuts, scored nines. The Lib-Tech Travis Rice Pro C2, claiming the longest sidecut of the contenders, scored a 10.
However, the other boards with long sidecuts, like the Capita DOA, the Rome Agent, and the Rossignol One LF did not fare as well as the Lib-Tech Travis Rice did, which relates to their flex. The Lib-Tech Rice Pro was the stiffest contender tested and killed it on edge. Both the Lib-Tech Pro and the Jones Explorer have Magne-Traction, which helps keep edges firmly planted in harder snow.
Stability at Speed
This metric was by far the most fun to compute. Feeling in control at speed, whether straight-lining or carving, is incredibly important. If you feel loose or out of control while cruising at maximum speed, you're likely going to wreck, possibly taking someone out while tomahawking down the mountain. Most of the boards tested had differing base profiles. Choosing a base profile is difficult to do without knowing the characteristics of each, but we're here to help. Each board was opened up, shooting it straight and carving on an uncrowded resort run to achieve the best results. Boards with longer sidecuts and cambered profiles performed well at higher speeds, but were tougher to control while going slow. Those with rocker and softer flex were more playful but looser while going full-tilt. Overall, board dimensions play a role in stability, too. The best board has a little bit of everything.
The same three that scored the highest in edging also scored top of class in stability. The Burton Flight Attendant topped this category with a perfect score, while the Jones Explorer and Lib-Tech Travis Rice Pro C2 scored nines. Of these three, the Burton Flight Attendant is the only fully cambered model.
Both the Jones Explorer and the Lib-Tech Travis Rice have hybrid-rocker/camber base profiles, which hurt them ever-so-slightly, and their Magne-Traction can sometimes make the ride more "catchy."
Float in Powder
How hard do you want to work while riding the best snow of your life? You simply don't, so choose a board that works for you. Cambered boards resist float by nature. Their downturned shape makes them want to dive, regardless of upturned tips. How many surfboards do you see with tip and tail that point toward the coral? None. You will work harder to keep your nose up in pow with a cambered board over a rockered board. But that rockered board won't have the same pop off flat ground and jumps.
To test this metric, the models were pushed to max speed, jumping and backwards riding in the deepest snow we could find. The boards with a combination of rocker and camber did the best all around.
If it's your first day in deep powder, YOU WILL HAVE A DIFFICULT TIME! But don't let that turn you off from trying. Learning to ride powder is tough, but it is fun! Boards with rocker profiles help with powder float, and these four topped the charts: the Never Summer Proto Type Two, Rossignol One LF, Arbor Wasteland, and the Lib Tech Travis Rice Pro. It's not just that they all have some sort of rocker; their widths helped them surface better than narrower rockered models, like the Burton Custom Flying V.
What is your primary goal on a board? Are you going to get all "racers ready!" and bash gates on a slalom course? Are you looking for the gnarliest couloirs in Svalbard? How about stomping that triple-cork 1440 while the world watches you on ESPN 8? You may want to do all this, but our guess is that you're simply looking to have a fun day with your friends. Only you can decide what constitutes fun, but we can help you get started. To test this metric, we made the tightest turns possible through the range of sidecuts. We popped off of side hits spinning little 360's, buttered and pressed our way through the park, and wandered through trees. Big, heavy, and stiff boards were not nearly as fun as smaller, lighter ones.
In most cases, the "playful" metric seems to go hand-in-hand with a lightweight, poppy, twin-tip shape. Twin-tip boards are known to be more freestyle, and to most, freestyle means playful. They're quick and easy to turn, with decent pop. Of the four top-scoring boards in Playfulness, one was directional, the Rossignol One Mag-Tek, and all others were twin. Despite its non-centered stance, it was a blast to ride.
The Capita Defenders of Awesome was light and nimble given its larger sidecut. The Burton's Custom Flying-V was a blast because of how rockered and soft it was; it was a bit weighty, but this wasn't noticeable while riding. The Arbor Wasteland was also nimble and light, scoring a nine out of 10.
Pop and Jumping
It would be rad to ollie over that SLOW sign at the bottom of the run, wouldn't it? Yeah. Then you can go tell your friends how rad it was and pop a beer. How do you know what model has what it takes to pop you that high? In testing pop, we ollied, hit park jumps with varying kick, and flexed the competitors in the parking lot. Then, after snagging my nose on the sign, shoulder checking the hardpack, having the patroller take my ticket, and sulking as I walked to my car, I looked down and realized I was using the wrong board for the job.
Snap, crack, spring, thwack, burst, bounce…however you say it, pop is what you get when you crouch low then leap upwards off your tail to clear an object, whether it's a shrub, handrail, or 75 feet of air. Boards that are cambered have greater pop than those with rocker. A cambered board acts more like a spring, resisting your downward force, then blasting up once that tension is released. A rockered board doesn't have the same fight or push-back of a cambered board. So you would think only cambered boards would pop well. Not true.
Flex and weight play a role in this. Contrary to the camber rule, the Never Summer Proto Type Two, with its hybrid-rocker/camber profile and a softer flex pattern, popped well. It's not a traditionally banana'd board, but has a combination of camber under your feet and rocker in the middle. If you're looking for the best pop, both the Burton Flight Attendant and Rome Agent killed it with camber and stiffness, with spring-like camber. The Burton Flight Attendant is heavier than the Rome Agent, and that extra weight is harder to pick up when popping.
All of the opinions and hypothesis we've determined throughout our testing are, ultimately, subjective. We have provided you with our understanding and knowledge of how these all-mountain boards reacted while testing and how we came to our decisions. If you're still unsure about which direction to head, read our buying advice for additional purchasing assistance. Read the full review. Look at the numbers closely. Check to see what your account balance is and make a choice. You won't be disappointed. Even if you pick the poorest scoring board we've tested, you will still enjoy it. You know why? Snowboarding is fun.
— Chris Edmands
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.