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To help you find the perfect board, we've tested over 25 of the best snowboards side by side. This updated review compares 17 different contenders, highlighting their abilities and characters. Our expert testers have spent countless hours turning, jumping, straight-lining, buttering, and riding powder in the Sierra Nevada mountains to illustrate the distinctions between each model. We then convey our findings through a series of performance metrics. Our metrics are based on what influences your quality of experience the most, like floatation, stability, pop, and edging. The goal of our work is to help enhance your snowboarding experience by providing product recommendations in this specific and user-friendly resource.
Editor's Note: We updated our snowboard review on December 8, 2022, with two new award winners, the K2 Alchemist and the Never Summer Proto Synthesis. We've also checked each board for design and graphics updates for the 2023 season.
The K2 Alchemist takes home top honors. This purpose-built board is designed to provide one of the best freeride experiences available. Its cambered profile, core layup, and general shape come together to deliver a versatile and high-performing freeride board. The camber provides plenty of edge hold and energetic pop when it is loaded. The core uses poplar and bamboo stringers overlayed with a proprietary carbon weave that provides strategic torsional rigidity without influencing the longitudinal flex. This helps create a capable ride that offers more torsional flex in between the bindings, which contributed to fluidity while carving. While its tip-to-tail flex is stiff, it has more character than other boards of this stiffness, making it a more fun ride without sacrificing any performance.
The Alchemist is capable and reliable; it left us with large smiles on our faces. Advanced riders should find similar enjoyment. However, we don't believe this is the perfect board for everyone. Its stiff, freeride-centric design limits its ability to butter and skid turns. It will take an advanced rider with solid board control to truly unlock this board's potential. Lastly, the waist width of this model is a bit narrow. The 157 has a waist width of 250mm, which left our size 8 tester with some toe and heel drag. However, this waist width is only about 2 to 3 mm less than the standard freeride board. Ultimately, the K2 Alchemist is the most well-rounded and high-performing board we tested, well-suited for advanced freeriders looking to charge hard and fast and to push themselves within natural terrain.
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, and its easy turning nature makes the board maneuverable in between bumps. The Frontier has a blunted tip with a rockered nose, which helps provide above-average floatation. All these features give the Frontier a very user-friendly ride that can appeal to advanced-beginner to expert riders and perform in all types of terrain.
Overall, we very much enjoy the Frontier and are happy to recommend it to our friends and family, especially at its great price point. In our testing, we found two main drawbacks to this board. The Frontier has a tendency to slip on a hardpack. The combination of its medium-stiff flex with rocker in the tip and tail allows slips to originate from the tail. To help with edge hold, it has a mellow serrated edge, which acts as a mellow Magne traction to support edge hold in firm snow. It performed better on hardpack than some competitors with traditional edges. Next, our testers felt that this board lacked a distinct feel or character when turning or engaging the core. It's a highly capable and reliable board, but its flex pattern and core were somewhat dull and left us wanting a bit more energy and liveliness. In summary, the Frontier great is for advanced-beginner to expert riders looking for one board that can excel in all conditions and terrain types — at an affordable price.
The Yes. Optimistic takes home the title of Best Carving Snowboard. Its tight sidecut, coupled with a large nose and wider platform, mitigate toe and heel drag, allowing you to rail turns to new depths. Our testers made the tightest radius toe and heel turns they have ever done. The on-edge experience is hard to rival; the Optimistic provides lots of stability, power, and snap through the turn. Fortunately, it is more than a one-trick pony. It's very consistent in other categories; the camber profile makes it stable at high speeds and provides solid pop off of rollers and jumps once you adjust to the small tail and stiffness. The wide waist width and natural setback stance promotes powder floatation and allow you to downsize, which maintains a playful all-mountain ride.
This board is incredibly fun. In our months of testing, we uncovered two distinct drawbacks. First, the Optimistic requires more effort to maneuver and ride in bumpy and inconsistent terrain. Its turn initiation is slower and takes a bit more effort than other models, and this is accentuated in bumpy terrain. Fortunately, this model is meant to be downsized to unlock additional maneuverability, which helps here. Second, the shorter diamond-shaped tail is less forgiving on backseat landings than a traditional all-mountain 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 on groomers, slash around the mountain in the sunshine, and experience superior powder floatation when the resort is calling for 24" overnight.
The United Shapes Cadet excelled and maintained a distinct and playful character within every metric. It has a medium flex with 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 (a.k.a. non-testing) days, this was one of the first boards we would grab.
Its well-rounded and enjoyable performance leaves limited room for caveats. The main consideration for the Cadet is for riders with larger boot sizes. Those wearing 10.5+ may get toe drag on deeper turns, even when riding the wide offering. From a cosmetic standpoint, the gloss topsheet is very susceptible to scratching. The topsheet is also very slippery — this was the only model we wanted a stomp pad on. The United Shapes Cadet is a perfect fit for intermediate to expert riders looking for an incredibly fun, playful, and unique everyday board that floats, turns, and jumps with the best of them.
Challenging to maintain heelside 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 this board to make sharp and powerful turns with plenty of support. It's easy to skid turns and is surprisingly nimble given its wide waist width, which makes it appropriate to use in the park. The Warpig's setback stance and wider profile unlock the benefits of floating in powder. This is a very good generalist that does a lot of things well but few things the best. It is designed to be a quiver of one for freestyle, powder, and all-mountain riding.
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 heelside turns or park landings. This model also offered limited pop from its flat camber and rockered profile, whether from turning or ollies. The Ride Warpig 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, be it groomers, park, or powder.
From fine-tuning your heelside turn to your first 720, then Never Summer Proto Synthesis is there to expedite your progress every step of the way. This is one of the best all-mountain freestyle boards available. It manages to be incredibly lively, responsive, and stable while maintaining an easy ride and playful character that one might expect from a freestyle-oriented board. A hybrid profile makes it competitively stable on edge while maintaining park board-like playfulness and pop. The medium flexing profile and tight, quick sidecut enable the board to be very user-friendly, which can help expedite your progression.
The Proto Synthesis is one of the best generalists out there, earning strong marks across our test metrics. This model breaks the mold by being a master in edging and playfulness, and its balanced approach provides a top-of-its-class on-mountain experience. Powder is its weakest point, as the twin and cambered nose are not intended to provide superior floatation. The Never Summer Proto Synthesis is best for beginners to the expert all-mountain rider continually looking to improve. This rider likes to ride a little of everything without changing boards but might have a powder-oriented board waiting for those deep days.
We researched over 40 of the top snowboards and then purchased 17 to compare side by side. You read that right. Purchased. We bought these boards to mitigate bias and bring you the most objective review possible. The validity of scientific tests and experiments is driven by the quality and quantity of the 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 testers to collect large amounts of quality qualitative data used in the final product to produce this objective review.
Our snowboard testing is divided across five different metrics:
Edging (25% of overall score weighting)
Float in Powder (25% weighting)
Stability at Speed (20% weighting)
Playfulness (20% weighting)
Pop and Jumping (15% weighting)
Our tester Isaac Laredo has been snowboarding for over a decade. Ever since he started, every waking winter moment was spent doing, thinking, or dreaming about snowboarding. Since moving to Lake Tahoe, he consistently rides over 120 days a season. As a passionate and dedicated rider, he prides himself on being a well-rounded snowboarder, from big mountain riding to the terrain park. He strongly believes that no matter what, snowboarding is a blast, but to take the experience to the next level, the rider must match the board to fit their goals, ability level, and the terrain. His well-rounded background as a scientist, industry geek, and expert rider allows him to bring expertise in experimental design, movement mechanics, and board design/construction to put forth the best review possible.
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.
Two things every snow enthusiast loves: free refills and good value. In our testing, cost didn't always correlate to better performance. Numerous boards were lower in cost and put up impressive and competitive scores. Generally, lower prices and higher performance scores indicate better value. The Jones Frontier, Ride Warpig, and the Jones Mountain Twin followed this model and represent great value. The high-scoring K2 Alchemist is a rather pricey board, but far from unreasonable given the average cost of performance snowboards. In this case, we feel it presents a solid value based on the materials used, performance scores, and quality of this product.
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 the standout 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 bring better edge hold in icy conditions but can be catchy at slower speeds. Magne-Traction boards, such as the Lib Tech T. Rice Pro, have a wavy edge that aims to cut into firmer snow, much like a serrated knife. The T. Rice Pro offers some of the best edge holds on firm snow in the category. The Yes. Optimistic provided incredible edge hold that could cut through ice. It uses an edge disruption called Underbite, which is an indentation on the sidecut rather than a protrusion like Magne-Traction. In addition to edge hold, the indentation added power and precision to the turning experience.
Another factor that adds to the security and stability a board can provide on edge is the board's stiffness. The K2 Alchemist and Arbor Bryan Iguchi Pro Camber are stiff cambered boards that, when driven, would bite into hardpack to provide secure and crisp edging.
Common themes of boards that provided the best overall turning experience were: width, camber with rockered nose, 6-7.6 meter sidecut, medium to stiff flex, and blended cores with poplar and bamboo. The three standouts for the most fun edging experience were the Yes. Optimistic and United Shapes Cadet. These offered great pop and feel throughout the core and supported multiple turning radiuses well.
Being able to go full tilt on a board helps with deep carves; a wider waist width is essential. Volume-shifted snowboards are shorter and wider to help manage drag and have been gaining traction over the past few seasons for their surf-styled approach, playfulness, and comparative stability. Models such as the Ride Warpig and Yes. Optimistic provide increased security and mitigate toe and heel drag because of their added width. These boards are generally downsized to achieve additional playfulness and maneuverability. The added width will help you hold an edge, and people watching from the chairlift will say, "that was beautiful." Overall, this creates a more fun turning platform so you can focus more on your technique and worry less about booting out, which also increases your security. The Yes. Optimistic provides the most powerful turns and offers the most stable of these three, while the Ride Warpig offers the most versatile experience.
The Optimistic was a top performer for its ability to execute powerful, tight-radius turns with an easy exit. The K2 Alchemist is a very capable edging model with a lively, energetic core and a softer torsional flex between the bindings that allowed for excellent mid-turn control. 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 have longer sidecuts and robust camber profiles, 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 sidecut 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 flexes 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 opposite ends 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, K2 Alchemist, 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. The sidecuts of the Arbor and Lib Tech were conducive to long radius turns. The K2 and Jones both had a little nose chatter but didn't relay much chatter back to the rider. The Snoplanks Model A shares these design attributes but utilizes 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, chatter-free ride and directional flex. This board still scored high in playfulness despite its high stability at speed score, which can often be a tradeoff.
Damping refers to a board's ability to absorb micro chatter from slight inconsistencies in the snow surface. This becomes increasingly important with speed. Dampening increases a board's stability at speed. The Never Summer Proto Synthesis and Never Summer Swift are some of the dampest boards in the review. Their damping properties and cambered tip and tail make them surprisingly stable.
We also look at a board's ability to stay on its line while blasting through choppy snow. Boards with stiff camber profiles and narrower waist widths performed better, such as the Nitro Mountain, K2 Alchemist, Snowplanks Model A, and Jones Frontier. These are all highly maneuverable cambered boards. Each resisted being bumped off of their line, and when it happened, their maneuverability helped get them back on course.
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 (frowny 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 arguably provides 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 tradeoffs in edging and flotation.
These five will help get you there. The Yes. Optimistic, Ride Warpig, Burton Deep Thinker, Weston Backwoods, and Never Summer Swift share a tapered profile (where the nose is wider than the tail), rocker, 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. The Weston Backwoods has a long gradual rockered nose to help keep it afloat, coupled with a rounded tail on a setback stance. This provides pretty easy flotation and quick bobbing-like turns when in the trees. The Never Summer Swift shares many of these attributes. A notable difference is that the rocker is in the middle of the board, which provides user-friendly flotation and a turning experience that happens from the middle of the board, reducing fatigue. 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 we guess that you're typically just 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 a decent amount of tail. 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, Never Summer Proto Synthesis, 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, the 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 Swift can have a playful slashing style or a more carving-based approach to the mountain. Its split personality made it stand out for playfulness and overall fun. It can rip when you want to rip and play when you want to play. The Never Summer Proto Synthesis is another hybrid profile with rocker in the middle and is on par with the Swift. It can carve and charge when you want it to, yet it remains one of the most user-friendly, versatile, and fun boards on the market.
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. Its playful nature made it one of our favorite boards to ride around the mountain.
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 Arbor Bryan Iguchi Pro, K2 Alchemist,Capita Kazu Pro, Jones Mountain Twin, and the Snoplanks Model A. This is due to the exponential energy return that a camber profile provides. 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 flight around the mountain and in the park landing regular or switch, then a board like the Jones Mountain Twin or Snoplanks Model A is a good choice.
The Snoplanks Model A and its bamboo core is a standout 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.
Advanced riders will find exceptional pop from the stiffest cambered boards found here, like the Arbor Bryan Iguchi Pro and K2 Alchemist. These models are stiff when flexing from tip to tail. There is a lot of opportunity for "pro pop," but it is harder to harvest. The Alchemist uses lots of carbon and some bamboo to maximize the pop from the board. If a rider can tap into these benefits with their strength and good technique, then there is exceptional pop. Its stiff and progressive nature has a lot of pop to offer certain riders. Thankfully with both of these models, a little bit goes a long way.
If pop from a stiff cambered profile is harder for a rider to use, then it does them no good. Hybrid models with rocker in the middle provide solid pop due to the cambered 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. Both the Never Summer Swift and Proto Synthesis also offer good and easy-to-harvest pop.
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 backseat landings than setback boards with smaller tails like the Yes. Optimistic. Other standout models for landing security were the Never Summer Proto Synthesis, K2 Alchemist, and the Jones Frontier.
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 each objective to its fullest. Here at OutdoorGearLab, we snowboard because it's fun and 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.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.