Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Snowboards of 2021

The Yes Optimistic provided a versatile and fun on edge experience whi...
Photo: isaac laredo
By Isaac Laredo ⋅ Review Editor
Tuesday December 29, 2020
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
To help you find the best snowboard, we've tested over 25 of the most regarded models on the market side by side. Our update compares 16 different contenders and highlights their diverse performance characteristics. Our expert testers have spent countless hours turning, jumping, straight-lining, buttering, and riding powder in the Sierra Nevada to define the distinctions between each model through a series of metrics. Our metrics are based on what impacts your quality of experience the most; such as float in powder. The goal of our work is to help you make the best decision possible to enhance your snowboarding experience.

Top 16 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 16
< Previous | Compare | Next >
 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award    
Price $669.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$679 List$598.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$580 List$499.95 at Backcountry
Overall Score Sort Icon
84
82
81
80
80
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Floaty, precise edging, good construction, playfulUser friendly, turning experience, versatile, playfulResponsive, snappy, maneuverable, durable topsheet, powder performanceManufactured with 100% hydropower, beautiful graphic, playfulLoads of pop, stable, fun turning experience
Cons Switch performanceTopsheet scratches easy, topsheet is slipperyBackseat landings, switch ridingBack half of the heel side edge feels like it can slightly disengage under certain circumstancesAverage powder floatation, pop is less user-friendly
Bottom Line Our first choice that we would recommend to anyone on the hunt for a new rideHas a playful merit to its high-performance abilitiesAgile like a Peregrine FalconBuilt for riding every condition with power and finesseA board that we could happily ride every day
Rating Categories Yes. Optimistic United Shapes Cadet Weston Backcountry... Capita Kazu Kokubo Pro Jones Mountain Twin
Edging (25%)
10.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Float In Powder (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Stability At Speed (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Playfulness (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Pop And Jumping (15%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
Specs Yes. Optimistic United Shapes Cadet Weston Backcountry... Capita Kazu Kokubo Pro Jones Mountain Twin
Riding Style Alternative Freeride Freeride Freeride All Mountain Freestyle All Mountain Freestyle
Shape Directional Directional Directional Directional Directional
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
Construction Type Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich
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


Yes. Optimistic


84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Edging - 25% 10
  • Float in Powder - 20% 9
  • Stability at Speed - 20% 7
  • Playfulness - 20% 8
  • Pop and Jumping - 15% 7
Shape: Directional | Flex: Medium-Stiff
High-quality materials
Super responsive
Floaty
Can be downsized
Maneuverability in VERY bumpy areas
Tail heavy landings

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


Jones Frontier


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Edging - 25% 8
  • Float in Powder - 20% 7
  • Stability at Speed - 20% 9
  • Playfulness - 20% 7
  • Pop and Jumping - 15% 8
Shape: Directional | Flex: Medium-Stiff
Incredible value
Beautiful graphic
Versatile
Nimble
Slips on hardpack

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


Ride Warpig


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Edging - 25% 8
  • Float in Powder - 20% 8
  • Stability at Speed - 20% 7
  • Playfulness - 20% 8
  • Pop and Jumping - 15% 7
Shape: Volume Shifted Directional Freestyle | Flex: Medium
Quiver killer
Playful
Great value
Wide
Nimble
Slips on hardpack
Unappealing graphic
Challenging to maintain heel side edge grip on firm snow

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


82
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Edging - 25% 8
  • Float in Powder - 20% 8
  • Stability at Speed - 20% 8
  • Playfulness - 20% 9
  • Pop and Jumping - 15% 8
Shape:Directional | Flex: Medium
User-Friendly
Playful
Turning experience
Versatile
Top sheet scratches easily
The United Shapes Cadet excelled and maintained a distinct and playful character within every metric. It has a medium flex that has a plush and alluring feel. The mostly camber profile enables this model to drive turns on groomers and maintain stability in the chop. The Cadet is intentionally designed with a small dose of all the features of more category-specific snowboards to derive all the benefits and retain versatility. On personal days, this was one of the first boards we would grab.

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

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
84
$670
Editors' Choice Award
If we could only buy one, this would be it
82
$679
Top Pick Award
High performance embedded with a consistently playful charter
81
$599
Agility meets stability
80
$580
Power meets finesse for performance in all conditions
80
$500
A board fit for those sunny all-mountain laps filled with turns, methods, and straight lines
78
$630
Nimble and fun, it lives up to its name
78
$480
Best Buy Award
Industry-leading value; we're certain of that
78
$850
Bring it on
77
$500
Top Pick Award
The Swiss Army knife of snowboards
77
$600
Simple pleasures is right
76
$560
A robust, all-mountain charger
76
$600
Tighten up your boots and get ready to charge
76
$599
Forgiving high performance
74
$600
Built to go bigger and faster then you originally thought possible
74
$650
Salomon employed creative materials and a one of a kind blended camber profile that performed well but didn't justify its price tag
72
$600
An aggressive and responsive all-mountain board that will make you re-consider that speed check

Slashing and turning on the Explorer.
Slashing and turning on the Explorer.
Photo: Ryland West

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

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

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


Value


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.

Edging


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.

The tester&#039;s heart is taken by the groomers of Squaw Valley.
The tester's heart is taken by the groomers of Squaw Valley.
Photo: Ryland West

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."

The Underbite found on the Yes Optimistic provides additional edge...
The Underbite found on the Yes Optimistic provides additional edge hold as demonstrated on a firm firm day at Squaw Valley.
Photo: isaac laredo

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.

Surf-styled and athletic edging from the Jones Explorer. Photo By:...
Surf-styled and athletic edging from the Jones Explorer. Photo By: Ryland West
Photo: Ryland West

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.

Hard to decide whether to look at Lake Tahoe or focus on the high...
Hard to decide whether to look at Lake Tahoe or focus on the high speed long turns that the Travis Rice Pointy Pro was made for.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

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.

The rockered and blunted nose of the Jones Frontier provides plenty...
The rockered and blunted nose of the Jones Frontier provides plenty of surface area and thus floatation to keep you on top.
Photo: Corey John

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.

Slide to the right, with the Optimistic.
Slide to the right, with the Optimistic.
Photo: Ryland West

Playfulness


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 swifts manuverablity showcased on low margin butters.
The swifts manuverablity showcased on low margin butters.
Photo: Tucker Adams

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.

Surf styled enjoyment provided by the Cadet.
Surf styled enjoyment provided by the Cadet.
Photo: Cooper Davidson

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 United Shapes Cadet isn&#039;t made for large jumps but excels at...
The United Shapes Cadet isn't made for large jumps but excels at putting some flavor on medium size jumps.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Conclusion


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.

Cultivating stoke with the Optimistic.
Cultivating stoke with the Optimistic.
Photo: Ryland West

Isaac Laredo