Best Snowboards of 2020
Best Overall All Mountain Snowboard
Give it up ladies and gentlemen, for the Best All Mountain Snowboard, 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.
Aside from the board's less then appealing graphics, the only downside our testing uncovered is it can be slightly challenging to maneuver between inconsistent and bumpy terrain; this can be accentuated if the board is oversized. 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 Explorer, you might think they made a mistake at the register. This board displayed premium performance in all metrics, wallet-and friendly prices. The athletic sidecut and rockered tip and tail allow for a diverse turn radius with easy initiation and exit, and its ease of use allows it to be maneuverable in-between bumps. With its blunted tip with a rockered nose, it provides above-average floatation.
The Explorer performs better on hardpack than some competitors with traditional edges, and it features a mellow serrated edge to assist in edge grip on firm surfaces. The rockered nose and tail, coupled with the stiffness of the board, create an opportunity to slip on hardpack. The Explorer is for someone looking for an everyday board that can excel in all conditions and terrain types - at an affordable price.
Read review: Jones Explorer
Best for Rapid Progression
Never Summer Proto Type Two
From fine-tuning your heelside turn to your first 720, the Never Summer Proto Type Two can be there to expedite your progress every step of the way. A hybrid profile allows this model to be competitively stable on edge while maintaining park board-like playfulness and pop. The medium flexing profile and tight, asymmetrical sidecut enable the board to be very user-friendly, which can help expedite your progression.
The Proto is one of the best generalists out there. It receives strong marks in every category, and as the saying goes, "Jack of all trades and master of none." This model breaks the mold by being a master in edging and playfulness, and the well-roundness of it provides top of its class on-mountain experience. The Jack is found in its powder performance, as the twin and cambered nose are not intended to provide superior floatation but an all-around great time. The Never Summer Proto Type Two is best for the lower-level intermediate to expert all-mountain rider who is continually looking to improve. This rider likes to ride a little of everything without having to change boards but might have a powder-oriented board waiting for those deep days.
Read review: Never Summer Proto Type Two
Best for the 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 yet supportive character and tight sidecut allow for this board to easily roll and hold a strong edge while remaining nimble enough for use in the park. The setback stance and wider profile of the Warpig unlock the attributes of powder floatation and stability at speed. The Warpig is meticulously designed to be a quiver of one for freestyle and powder alike.
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. The graphics and shape also aren't the most aesthetically pleasing. However, graphics don't affect the ride of the board, so weigh that according to your level of importance. It performs well in all metrics and is 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
Best for Quality of Experience
United Shapes Cadet
Its well-rounded performance leaves limited room for caveats. The main consideration for the Cadet is for riders with a larger boot size. Those wearing 10.5+ may get toe drag on deeper turns, even when riding the wide offering. Cosmetically, the 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 is 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 this review.
We researched the top models and then purchased the best to compare side by side. You read that right. Purchased. We purchased the boards to mitigate any bias and to 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 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, which was used in the final product to produce an objective review.
Related: How We Tested Snowboards
Analysis and Test Results
We provide an overview of the best options on the market, with our recommendations to help you find exactly what you're looking for. After spending days slaying the slopes and exhaustively testing each product hands-on, we rate each based on five important performance metrics, including edging, float, stability at speed, playfulness, and pop. The best boards offer excellent performance among the metrics, but niche boards typically excel in one or a few of the performance options tested.
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 indicates a better value. The Jones Explorer , Ride Warpig, and the Nitro Fury were high performing and lower-cost models. The Explorer 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. In contrast, testing of the Salomon Sick Stick indicated a less than premium performance with a premium price.
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 is 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 got on edge easily, maintained good edge hold, and finished turns with ease and power. We tested every board in hardpack and pristine groomers; we also dunked heelside turns and surfed toe side turns to find our stand out models. Critical sub-components of edging include edge hold, stability, ease of initiation, and turning experience.
Manufacturers have utilized different edge styles, such as Magne Traction, to obtain a better edge hold. Magne Traction aims to obtain a better edge hold in icy conditions but feels catchy at slow 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.
Some of the most stable rides are wider, and shorter snowboards (termed volume shifted snowboards) have been gaining traction. The volume shifted snowboards such as the Weston Backwoods, K2 Simple Pleasures, or Yes Optimistic provide stability and mitigate toe and heel drag due to the added width. These boards are generally downsized to achieve additional playfulness. The added width will help you hold an edge and people from the lift will say "that was beautiful."
Common themes of boards that provide the best overall turning experience are width, camber, and a medium to stiff flex. The three standouts for the most fun edging experience are the Yes Optimistic, Nitro Fury, and United Shapes Cadet. The Optimistic is a top performer for its ability to execute powerful, tight radius turns, and exit the turns with ease. The asymmetrical heel edge of the Fury provides extra edge grip for those inherently challenging heelside turns, and the United Shapes Cadet has a plush flex that offers a playful, yet driven experience. The Jones Explorer surprised us with its athletic ability and ease of turning, despite its stiffness. The Arbor Bryan Iguchi Pro Camber or Lib Tech Travis Rice Pro Pointy have longer sidecuts and long radius turning ability.
Stability at Speed
A snowboard is a foundation for your riding security. Riding security means the rider feels in control at high speeds, whether that be straight-lining or carving edge to edge. If your board feels squirrely at high speeds, you're likely to fall; that is no fun, except for the people on the lift. To help you avoid this situation, we test each board by straight-lining, carving at high speeds, with a little wrecking thrown in for good measure. Primarily the board's camber profile, flex rating, and side cut determine its performance in regards to 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, they can feel loose when opened up. These two designs are at the polar opposites of the spectrum. Like the story of Goldilocks, most are looking for something in the middle; just right.
Some models that performed well in the edging category also did exceptionally well in the stability at speed metric. The Jones Explorer, Lib Tech T-Rice Pro Pointy, and Arbor Bryan Iguchi Pro Camber perform well in this metric, which is attributed to their stiff flex pattern and camber dominant profiles. Their rides lack nose chatter, and their sidecuts are conducive to long radius turns. The Snoplanks Model A shares these design attributes but utilizes a bamboo core, which gets stiffer as it flexes. This board is happy to charge through whatever was in the way with the utmost security. The Capita Kazu Pro is another strong competitor due to its chatter-free ride, good dampness, and directional flex. This board surprised us with its playfulness, which can often be a tradeoff for high stability.
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.
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. 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.
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 or Proto Type Two 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, and 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 Never Summer Proto Type Two, Venture Pargon, and Salomon Sickstick provide versatile and fun riding that can be taken anywhere. In fact, after riding them, one tester couldn't stop talking about the first two for days after. Additionally, the short radius turns, butters, and the forgiving ride create a fun experience for the rider. A strong competitor in this metric is 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 that has rocker in between the bindings and camber from tip to tail. The board can have a playful slashing style or a driven arcing turns approach to the mountain. We appreciate the versatility of this board.
The United Shapes Cadet has a playful approach to every metric. This is derived from its flex, which is plush and alluring in its feel. The board is incredibly versatile and maintains 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, and the Arbor Bryan Iguchi Pro Camber. This is due to the exponential energy return that is provided from a camber profile. That being said, it is more work to generate pop from camber because it requires additional loading. Hybrid models with rocker in the middle, such as the Never Summer Proto Type Two, provide solid pop due to the camber tip and tail (with less loading requirements). Hybrid models are traditionally more user-friendly in the sufficient pop realm, 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 tests 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 communicating to you the character, benefits, and drawbacks of each board. Remember that question earlier in the article, "Why do you snowboard?". Think about it. There is a board in this review to support that objective to its fullest. 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