Whether it’s your first snowboard purchase or it’s time to upgrade your kit, buying snowboarding gear can be really intimidating. There are a lot of brands, options and various price levels and it can all be quite a blur at times. We at Windward understand that this can be a scary purchase so we are hear to break it down for you, in normal people language, so you can make the best decision possible.
Regardless of what anyone else says, your boots are the number one most important part of your kit. It doesn’t matter if your snowboard cost you a thousand dollars, if your feet hurt, you’re not going anywhere.
Make sure that you are not in any pain. Pressure points and strange pains might not feel like much now but after a 30 minute run it’s going to be bad news. If you have only been in the boots for a few minutes and you have any strange discomfort, move on to the next pair. The ideal fit for boots is snug like a glove. Boots will pack out over time to make sure not to buy boots that are too big – they will only get bigger as you break them in.
- Try standing on your tippy toes, if your heel is able to lift up out of the heelcup area, there’s a good chance the boots are either too big or you might have a narrow foot and could use some extra support.
- First, try a half size down and see if that does the trick. If that doesn’t work, some brands offer inserts that will help lock your heel in place.
- Every brand fits a little differently so don’t hesitate to try new things.
Stiff or soft boots come down to one thing – personal preference. What works for your friends might not work for you so make sure to make your choice based off of what feels best for you. Stiffer boots are great for extra support under fast conditions while softer boots are more forgiving and flexible. Trying on different styles and brands is the best way to find the perfect fit – don’t give up, your dream boot is out there.
Once you find that perfect boot, heat molding is a great way help speed up the break in process. The inside of the boot is heated up to soften the liner and then the customer wears the boot for about 15 minutes. This process starts to imprint the footbed with your footprint so the boots feel like you’ve worn them in already. Keep in mind this will not add any extra length – if the boot is too small for you heat molding is not the answer. It simply breaks in the boot so your first few days on them feel a little more comfortable.
Since we are on the topic of feet we might as well get into the binding department. The bindings are crucial for a couple of reasons. They hold your feet on to the board – and ideally, shadow your every movement for ultimate response. When your feet move, the board must move with you, and that job is left up to your bindings. Just like anything else, there are a lot of options out there when it comes to bindings. Different styles, various flex ratings and strap options – again, personal preference plays a big part in what will work for you.
Just like your boots and board, a stiffer pair of bindings means more control and better response. Less forgiveness makes for a more rigid ride and in turn responds quicker to your every movement. On the other hand, a more flexible binding is not only comfortable but also more forgiving and offers a playful, flexible feeling ride.
Historically, binding straps really have not changed that much over time. The buckles have gotten better and more padding has been added but the overall design is very similar to its original structure. One change however that has made a difference is the toe cap strap versus the classic ‘over-the-toe’ strap. The toe cap strap reaches around the toe of the boot to really pull you all the way back into your binding so you are locked in to place. When fitted properly, this strap can make a big difference. That being said, make sure you understand how to fit your binding straps to your boots so you can get the best fit possible.
quick entry -vs- traditional bindings
There are several companies out there that offer various types of “quick in and out” bindings. For riders who are constantly in and out of their bindings be it for short runs or quick park laps, a quick entry binding could be a great purchase. Generally, the high back drops down so you can slide your foot in and out quickly and have minimal adjustments on the go. On the other hand, some people prefer adjusting their bindings before each run so they definitely have their pros and cons.
hardware. (Attaching the bindings to the board)
This might seem like an obvious point but make sure that your bindings and your board are compatible. Specialized models like the Burton EST Bindings are made specifically for Burton Channel boards. It never hurts to ask your local shop to check and make sure you gear will all work together before you pull the trigger on your setup.
It’s pretty simple, if you are stomping huge tricks, you probably want some kind of padding in the footbed of your bindings. Look closely at the footbed area and take note of any fancy upgrades like B3 gel pads and big cushy toe ramps. Not everyone is concerned about this kind of padding but if 30 foot kickers are your specialty you will definitely appreciate this feature.
Last but certainly not least – let’s talk snowboards.
Shapes, sizes, weight restrictions, confusing tech – if shopping for snowboards makes your brain want to explode, you are not alone. Snowboarding has come a long way and so have the boards themselves. The good news is, boards are much lighter and better performing than 10 years ago. The bad news is, purchasing a board has gotten way more confusing.
If you can understand some basic key points about shapes, sizes and flex then you can make an educated decision about what board will be best for you. We are going to do our best to make these categories easy to understand and speak in a language that makes sense to the average snowboarding Joe (or Jane) so you can get out there and start shopping for boards.
choosing the right board size
Standing the board up in front of you and seeing if it hits between your shoulders and your nose is the WRONG way to measure the proper size snowboard. We know this is what many people have probably told you but watching the weight recommendations of your board is much more important. For example, let’s say your buddy is 6’3 and weighs 160 lbs. Total stick figure, right? If ended up on a snowboard that was the right ‘height’ for him, he would be on something upwards of a 170cm board. That’s the wrong size board for this guy. Or let’s say you have a rider that is 5’5 and weighs 150 lbs. That rider could measure up to a board that is around a 147 – again, wrong size for that rider. Get where we are going with this? Every board will have a recommended weight range, check where you fall in that category and work from there. If you are too heavy for the board it will rider super slow. If the board is too much for you, it will be extra hard to control and maneuver.
This part of the breakdown is pretty simple. If you have a bigger foot – you may want to look into a mid-wide or wide board. The good news is, there are way more options for big footed riders now compared to several years ago. When you cross into that size 12, 13 and up, a wider board will help reduce toe and heel drag and in turn give you a more stable, smooth ride. The exception to this rule is if you recently purchased boots that have what some brands call “footprint shrinkage.” This feature in boots slightly rounds up the toe and heel (think of how a running shoe is shaped) so the actual contact points of the boot onto the board are reduced. This isn’t going to turn a size 14 into a size 10, but it will help.
Until a few years ago, camber was all that most of us knew when it came to shapes of snowboards. Good ‘ol trusty camber with its great response, edge control and stability will never go away. There is now, however, some really cool other options out there that just might be the right shape for you.
Old faithful, the Godfather of snowboard shapes – every snowboarder should own at least one true camber board. Camber will always offer the most edge contact points and in turn give the most precise and rigid ride that you can get. There are definitely some more flexible camber boards out there but the nature of the shape will still give you the ability to really dig into your turns and have maximum edge hold. Due to the shape of camber boards they generally have a snappy feel and are great for both park and super fast steeps. Check out what the pros are riding in big comps like the X-Games and you will notice the majority of them are camber. So to review – camber will give you the most edge hold, control and allow for a very precise ride.
Camber’s semi-annoying little brother. Rocker stormed the market a few years back and was a fresh breath of life in the snowboard industry. The exact opposite of it’s predecessor, camber, the rocker shape was tested by both park riders and powder pros and everyone seemed to love this new shape. Super flexible thru the middle of board, rockers allows for easy presses, locking in on rails and a buttery soft feel. Park riders can enjoy rocker for it’s playful ride and powder junkies use it to help keep their nose up out of the snow. Another group that can enjoy the rocker shape is beginners. Since the nose and tail are turned up on a rocker board, it makes it a little easier to not catch an edge – something every beginner can appreciate. So to recap – rocker offers a playful, fun ride for park heads, forgiving flex for beginners and pow-float ride for the backcountry crew.
rocker / camber hybrids
The best of both worlds? It sure seems that way. Some would argue that this shape has existed for some time but only in recent years really became a force to be reckon with. Blending the benefits of both shapes, these hybrid boards give you flex where you want it and edge hold where you need it. Softer thru the middle of the board and camber under your feet, you get a soft flexing board that can still handle really well under fast conditions. Make sure to take notice that there are many variations of this hybrid shape. Most boards will have a little diagram listed showing you where the rocker and camber sit on that particular model and the benefits of why the board is built that way. The idea behind each variation is the same but will ride a little differently so be sure you understand the shape that you are looking into.