Best Snowboards of 2021
|Price||$669.95 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$679 List||$598.95 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$579.95 at Amazon||$499.95 at Amazon|
|Pros||Floaty, precise edging, good construction, playful||User friendly, turning experience, versatile, playful||Responsive, snappy, maneuverable, durable topsheet, powder performance||Manufactured with 100% hydropower, beautiful graphic, playful||Loads of pop, stable, fun turning experience|
|Cons||Switch performance||Topsheet scratches easy, topsheet is slippery||Backseat landings, switch riding||Back half of the heel side edge feels like it can slightly disengage under certain circumstances||Average powder floatation, pop is less user-friendly|
|Bottom Line||If we could only buy one, this would be it||High performance embedded with a consistently playful charter||Agility meets stability||Power meets finesse for performance in all conditions||A board fit for those sunny all-mountain laps filled with turns, methods, and straight lines|
|Rating Categories||Yes. Optimistic||United Shapes Cadet||Weston Backcountry Backwoods||Capita Kazu Kokubo Pro||Jones Mountain Twin|
|Float In Powder (20%)|
|Stability At Speed (20%)|
|Pop And Jumping (15%)|
|Specs||Yes. Optimistic||United Shapes Cadet||Weston Backcountry...||Capita Kazu Kokubo...||Jones Mountain Twin|
|Riding Style||Alternative Freeride||Freeride||Freeride||All Mountain Freestyle||All Mountain Freestyle|
|Camber/Rocker||Hybrid-Rocker/Camber||Camber||Directional Multi-Radial Camber Rocker||Hybrid- Rocker/Camber||CamRock|
|Flex||Stiff||Medium||Medium Stiff||Medium||Medium Stiff|
|Weight||6.2 (lb)||6.22 (lb)||6.63 (lb)||5.4 (lb)||6.1 (lb)|
|Tested Length||151 cm||156 cm||157 cm||157 cm||157 cm|
|Available Lengths||151, 154, 157 cm||144, 152.5, 156, 159, 162 cm||152, 152 wide, 157, 157 wide, 160, 160 wide, 163, 163 wide, 167, 167 wide cm||151, 154, 157, 160 cm||151, 154, 155, 157, 158, 160, 161, 162, 164, 167 cm|
|Core Material||Carbon-wrapped wood||A11x (poplar, bamboo)||Slayer (bamboo, poplar)||Wood||FSC Mountain (dual-density wood, hardwood bamboo stringers)|
|Waist Width||26.6 cm||25.6 cm||25.6 cm||25.5 cm||25.3 cm|
|Radius||6.5 m||7.5 m||7.5/6.8/7.8 m||8.4 m||7.8 m|
|Taper||6 mm||20 mm||18 mm||9 mm||0 mm|
Best Overall All Mountain Snowboard
Give it up ladies and gentlemen, for the Yes Optimistic. Its tight side cut, coupled with a large nose and wider platform, mitigate toe and heel drag, allowing you to rail turns to new depths. It's very consistent in other categories; the camber profile makes it stable at high speeds and can pop you to new heights off of rollers and jumps. The wide waist width and natural setback stance promotes powder floatation and allows you to downsize, which maintains a playful all-mountain ride.
This board is incredibly fun. In our months of testing, we were only able to uncover two distinct areas that you should be aware of. First, the board requires more effort to maneuver and ride in bumpy and inconsistent terrain. Fortunately, this model is meant to be downsized to unlock additional maneuverability, which helps in this area. Second, the shorter diamond-shaped tail is less forgiving on back seat heavy landings as a traditional popsicle shaped board would be. The tail is quite stiff, which gives you a higher chance of recovery. Overall, the Yes Optimistic is best for those who like to rail turns of all shapes on groomers, slash around the mountain in the sunshine, and experience superior powder floatation when the resort is calling for 24" overnight.
Read review: Yes Optimistic
Best Bang for the Buck
After you ride the Jones Frontier, you might think they made a mistake at the register. This board displayed premium performance in all metrics despite its wallet-friendly price. The athletic sidecut and rockered tip and tail allow for a diverse turn radius with easy initiation and exit. Its easy turning nature makes the board maneuverable in-between bumps. The model has a blunted tip with a rockered nose, that helps the board provide above-average floatation.
We wanted to note the tendency of the Frontier to slip on a hardpack. The combination of its medium-stiff flex with rocker in the tip allows slips to originate from the tail. To help with edge hold, the Frontier has a mellow serrated edge, which acts as a mellow Magne traction to support edge hold in firm snow. This model performed better on hardpack than some competitors with traditional edges. The Frontier is for someone looking for an everyday board that can excel in all conditions and terrain types — at an affordable price.
Read review: Jones Frontier
Best Quiver Killer
Google the Ride Warpig. Most likely, you will see media of it ripping the mountain in different conditions, jibbing, or jumping. The playful character and tight sidecut allow for this board to easily roll on edge and be supportive throughout powerful turns. Its easy to edge character allows it to be nimble enough for use in the park. The setback stance and wider profile of the Warpig unlock the benefits of floating in powder and stable at speed. The Warpig is meticulously designed to be a quiver of one for freestyle and powder.
There are some tradeoffs here. The rockered tip and tail that help provide flotation and increase the playfulness of the board can make it challenging to grip on hardpack. Our review team noticed this the most on firm heel side turns or park landings. It performed well in all metrics and was a blast to ride; this board is for someone who loves riding everything every day on one board, whether it be groomers, park, or powder.
Read review: Ride Warpig
Playful and Plush
United Shapes Cadet
Its well-rounded performance leaves limited room for caveats. The main consideration for the Cadet is for riders with larger boot size. Those wearing 10.5+ may get toe drag on deeper turns, even when riding the wide offering. From a cosmetic standpoint, the gloss top sheet is very susceptible to scratching.
Read review: United Shapes Cadet
Why You Should Trust Us
Our Tester Isaac Laredo has been snowboarding for the past 11 years. Ever since he started, every waking winter moment was spent doing, thinking, or dreaming about snowboarding. Since moving to Lake Tahoe, he has consistently ridden over 120 days a season and hopes to continue to increase that number. He brings expertise in board design and construction to our review.
We researched the top 40 models and then purchased 17 to compare side by side. You read that right. Purchased. We purchased the boards to mitigate any bias and bring you the most objective review possible. The validity of scientific tests and experiments is driven by honesty and the quality and quantity of your data. We feel honesty is critical in our industry to help you sort through the marketing claims and make the best decision possible. We dove straight into testing, which took place in Lake Tahoe. Tahoe is a ski destination that has earned its place for its world-class snow, scenery, and terrain. The access and terrain allowed our tester to collect large amounts of quality qualitative data used in the final product to produce an objective review.
Related: How We Tested Snowboards
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, and 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 board 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.
Related: Buying Advice for Snowboards
Two things every snow-enthusiast loves: free refills and a good value. The lower the price and the higher the performance score indicates the better value. The Jones Frontier and Ride Warpig, and the Nitro were high performing and lower-cost models. The Frontier and the Fury were able to nestle out the Warpig by a few performance points. If you were able to get the Warpig on sale, it could become a better value.
Have you ever been on the lift and seen someone laying down a crisp edge in fresh cord and thought, "That was beautiful?". Fortunately, over the last ten years, snowboard design has progressed to accentuate the carving experience. Carving can be one of the most enjoyable parts of snowboarding, particularly since it can be done anywhere on the mountain.
In the quest for the best edging board, we looked for a model that rolled on edge easily, maintained good edge hold, and finished turns with ease and power. We tested every board in hardpack and pristine groomers to dunk heelside turns, and surf toe side turns to find our stand out models. Critical sub-components of edging include edge hold on firm snow, stability, ease of turn initiation, ease of edge disengagement, and the overall turning experience.
Manufacturers have utilized different edge styles in an attempt to obtain better edge hold; Magne-Traction is an example of this. Magne-Traction aims to obtain better edge hold in icy conditions but can be catchy at slower speeds. Magne-Traction boards, such as the Lib Tech Travis Rice Pro Pointy, have a wavy edge that aims to cut into firmer snow, much like a serrated knife. The Travis Rice Pointy Pro offers some of the best edge hold on firm snow in the category.
Some of the most stable rides were wider and shorter snowboards termed volume shifted snowboards. Volume shifted snowboards have been gaining traction over the past few seasons for there surf styled approach, playfulness, and comparative stability. Models such as the Weston Backwoods, K2 Simple Pleasures, or Yes Optimistic provide plenty of stability and mitigate toe and heel drag because of the added width. These boards are generally downsized to achieve additional playfulness and maneuverability. The added width will help you hold an edge, and people from the lift will say, "that was beautiful."
Common themes of boards that provided the best overall turning experience were: width, camber, and a medium to stiff flex. The three standouts for the most fun and capable edging experience were the Yes Optimistic, Nitro Fury, and United Shapes Cadet.
The Optimistic was a top performer for its ability to execute powerful, tight radius turns with an easy exit. The asymmetrical heel edge of the Fury provided extra edge grip for those inherently challenging heelside turns, and the United Shapes Cadet had a plush flex that provided a playful yet driven turning experience. The Jones Frontier surprised us with its stiffer flex that was impressively athletic and easy to turn. If these characteristics are not your chocolate milk, the Arbor Bryan Iguchi Pro Camber or Lib Tech Travis Rice Pro Pointy have longer sidecuts, and robust camber, which excel at longer radius turns and provide serious edge hold.
Stability at Speed
Your snowboard is the foundation for your riding security. Riding security means the rider feels in control at high speeds, whether straight-lining or carving edge to edge. If your board feels squirrely at high speeds, you're likely to fall, and that is no fun — except for the people on the lift. To help you avoid this situation, we tested each board by straight-lining, carving at high speeds, and some good ole fashion wrecking. Primarily the board's camber profile, flex rating, and side cut determine its performance regarding high-speed stability.
Boards with longer sidecuts, stiffer flexes, and cambered profiles generally perform better at high speeds. In contrast, they are often less playful and can be more challenging to ride when going slow. Boards with rocker profiles (due to the raised contact points), and softer flexing boards excel at slow to medium speeds and provide a playful ride. However, these same attributes compromise the board's stability when blasting through chunder or straight-lining. These two designs are at the polar opposites of the spectrum. Like the story of Goldilocks, most snowboarders are looking for something in the middle; that's just right.
Some models that performed well in the edging category also did exceptionally well in the stability at speed metric. The Jones Frontier, Lib Tech T-Rice Pro Pointy, and Arbor Bryan Iguchi Pro Camber score highly in this category. This can be attributed to their stiff flex pattern and camber dominant profiles. Their rides lacked nose chatter, and their sidecuts were conducive to long radius turns. The Snoplanks Model A shares these design attributes but utilized a bamboo core, which gets stiffer as it flexes. This board was happy to charge through whatever was in the way with the utmost security. The Capita Kazu Pro was another strong competitor, with a high score attributed to its damp and chatter-free ride, accompanied by a directional flex. This board still scored high in playfulness despite its high score in this category, which can often be a tradeoff.
Float in Powder
Few things can top fresh powder turns with effortless floatation. In contrast, few things are more frustrating than nose-diving and continuously tomahawking. The rider experiencing effortless floatation is happily shredding powder from 9-4, while the freshly tomahawked rider can be exhausted, frustrated, and potentially injured. When riding powder, the design of the board can work either for or against you. The question is, how hard do you want to work?
Fully cambered boards have a downturned (frown face) profile and contact points. While they are stronger carvers, they tend to dive into the snow, which makes you work significantly harder than rocker profiles. The uplifted (smiley face) profile of a rocker model is looser when carving but works to keep the tip of your board up so you can focus on your turn rather than anticipating your next tomahawk.
To test this metric, we rode as much powder as the winter allowed. Through turning, jumping, and tomahawking, we were able to assess each model's powder prowess.
Keep your nose and your head up! Even Travis Rice had a hard time on his first-ever deep powder day. The learning curve is steep, but powder riding provides arguably the best onboard experience. After you have selected a model that does some of the heavy lifting for you, the next step is to ride powder. Soon you will unlock the euphoric feeling that individuals dedicate their lives to. The testing process and prior experience have shown that hybrid profiles such as the mostly cambered profile with a rocker tip of the Burton Deep Thinker mitigate the trade-offs in edging and flotation.
These three will help get you there. The Yes Optimistic, Ride Warpig, and Burton Deep Thinker share a tapered profile (nose is wider than tail), rocker in the tip, and a setback stance. These are design characteristics that allow the board to work for you rather than against you. The Ride Warpig and Yes Optimistic have wider waist widths, which increase surface area, providing more float. The added width allows the board to be downsized in length. Boards with cambered tips and tails such as the T-Rice Pointy provide less float and require more speed to keep afloat than the models described above.
What is your primary goal on a board? Are your ears and eyes waiting for the race gates to drop to bash gates on a slalom course? Are you looking for the gnarliest line at your local resort? 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 typically looking to have a fun day with your friends. Only you can decide what constitutes fun, and we can help you find the board to match that.
To test this metric, we made the tightest turns possible through the range of sidecuts. We popped off of side hits, buttered, and pressed our way around the mountain, wandering through trees. During testing, we found that big, stiff, and longer sidecut boards were not nearly as fun or versatile as smaller, softer, and shorter sidecut models.
The most playful boards have medium flex patterns, tight side cuts, and are generally twin tip. The attributes are synonymous with freestyle riding. Freestyle riding is defined by playing on jumps, rails, and snow features. Certain boards in this review exhibit some or all these characteristics and are categorized as all-mountain freestyle. This discipline of boards performed exceptionally well in this category.
The medium flex and tight sidecut of the Venture Paragon and Salomon Sickstick provided versatile and fun riding that could be taken anywhere. Additionally, the short radius turns, butters, and the forgiving ride create a fun experience for the rider. A strong competitor in this metric was the Ride Warpig, also known for its versatile ride and fluid flex pattern. We have seen this board ridden in powder, park, and boardercross races, and our testing confirms that these are all appropriate applications of this model.
The Never Summer Swift has a hybrid profile with rocker in between the bindings and camber from tip to tail. The board can have a playful slashing style or a more carving based approach to the mountain. Its split personality made this board stand out for playfulness and overall fun. It can rip when you want to rip and play when you want to play.
The United Shapes Cadet had a playful approach to every metric. This was derived from its flex, which feels plush and alluring when engaged. The board was incredibly versatile and maintained a high overall standard.
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 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, and flexed the competitors in the parking lot. Then, after snagging the nose on the sign, shoulder checking the hardpack, having the patroller take my ticket, and sulking as we walked to my car, we looked down and realized we were using the wrong board for the job.
The best performing models in this metric feature predominately cambered profiles such as the Nitro MTN, Capita Kazu Pro, Jones Mountain Twin, and the Snoplanks Model A. This is due to the exponential energy return that is provided from a camber profile. The Jones Mountain Twin with its mostly camber profile, continually sent us to the moon. Its slightly above medium flexing profile was surprisingly easy to harvest the pop. We enjoyed this model for every type of flight, from side hits to 40-foot jumps. If you like to catch a flight around the mountain and in the park landing regular or switch, then a board like the Jones Mountain Twin or Snoplanks Model A would be a good choice.
The Snoplanks Model A and its bamboo core is a stand out model for the sheer quantity of pop. Bamboo has a progressive flex the more you load the board, the stiffer it gets, which allows for a magnification of forces. Our testing team felt the benefits of this material difference right away as a little preloading went a long vertical way. Simply put, this model has a lot of pop readily available and exponentially more when you work for it.
It is more work to generate pop from camber because it requires additional loading. Hybrid models with rocker in the middle provide solid pop due to the camber tip and tail (with less loading requirements). Hybrid models are traditionally more user-friendly to harvest pop, especially if you're starting out. The Salomon Sickstick uses three different camber profiles (rocker, camber and, flat) to provide pop and stability, and security.
What goes up must come down. This metric also tested landing security. When you are not able to put down a clean landing on the balls of the feet, the board should prove a margin for you to recover, rather than the alternative of looping out and sliding down the landing ending your sweet jump line.
Generally, boards with cambered tips and tails (which feature stiffer profiles and a user-friendly ride) help provide a larger margin for landing. Twin boards like the Lib Tech Travis Rice Pro Pointy will provide a larger margin for back seat landings than set-back boards with smaller tails, such as the Yes Optimistic.
The goal of this review is to match you to the perfect board. We hypothesized and tested each model, then communicated to you the character, benefits, and drawbacks of each board. Identify the metrics that resonate with you the most and find the models which thrived there. Then go to each review to understand their character to find the board for you. There is a board in this review to support that objective to its fullest. Personally, we snowboard because it is fun, and it allows us to live in that moment of stoke. Whichever board you choose, you'll be happy because they all provide a high-quality experience to cultivate that stoke. Happy Turns.
— Isaac Laredo