Buying a new snowboard is like buying a new car. Okay, maybe there’s a slight cost difference, but the essential elements are the same. You’re shelling out cash for a new ride-a process that can be both exhilarating and scary. Unlike a car, though, there’s no lemon law to protect you from ending up with a bogus board. Keep your ultimate goal in mind-to buy the board that’s right for you. Have you’re ammunition ready when you enter the shop to protect you from slimy sales people. And most importantly, know your stuff in case the sixteen-year-old shop punk doesn’t.

Do you have style?

Will you be stomping 900s in the park or dropping cliffs in Alaska? No matter what your style of riding, you need to choose a board that’ll serve your purpose. Freestyle boards are specifically designed for doing tricks. They have stiffer tails for landing stability, shorter lengths and less swing weight for spinning, and more symmetrical shapes for riding fakie.

Freeride boards have directional shapes and flex patterns. They’re designed for turning in one direction rather than riding backward and spinning-though you can still ride either way. The hole pattern is set back, giving you more nose than tail. This makes freeriding models more versatile in varied snow conditions. Freecarve boards are typically for someone who likes to keep it on the snow. Nowadays they’re not just for hardbooters, but are versatile enough to be used in boardercross or other varied terrain. You know who you are.

P.S. It’s okay to buy two boards, if you have the cash, just in case you like to mix it up.

Size Matters

Stand your board of choice upright, tail touching the floor. Where does the nose of the board reach? You’ll want it to touch between your chin and nose. If you’re a pipe ripper, you’ll want something that reaches to, or just below, your chin. If you’re a larger rider, plan to drop steeps, like to plow pow (don’t we all?) or haul ass, then you want more length-somewhere between your eyes and forehead.

Your skills are also important. How long have you been riding? Do you like speed? Do you want versatility? For example, if you’re just starting out, choose a shorter board, it’ll give you more control.

If The Shoe Fits …

All you Bozo the Clowns out there with size-fifteen stompers-pay attention. When you’re standing on your board, your toes and heels should reach the edges or hang just slightly over. Any more than one-quarter inch of overhang and you’ve got problems. Or, if the opposite happens and your tiny tappers are miles from the edges, you’re definitely on the wrong model. Good energy transfer can only happen if you’re toes and heels are close to the edges. Don’t be afraid to lay the board on the shop floor and stand on it, in your typical stance width and angles, to make sure it’s right.

High Octane

Just remember: when you buy cheap, you get cheap. Typically the performance of a board coincides with the cost. The more expensive, the higher the performance. There are some good boards available at reasonable prices, but don’t be a miser. Crack open that change purse and drop some coin-you’ll thank us later.

It’s also important to check warranties to get the most for your money. Some boards come with lifetime warranties, if it’s a manufacturing flaw such as delamination of topsheet or base, or an insert pull-out. But if it’s damaged from gravel riding, you’re usually on your own.

Do you like it stiff or soft?

You need to choose a flex pattern that’s right for your riding style. Here’s a basic guideline to follow: if you’re jumping, bombing at top speed, or looking for stability, pick a stiffy. If you’re lightweight or a finesse rider who likes to make round C-shaped turns, you’ll want a softer board.

Do you like pretty colors?

Pick one you like so you don’t have to spend more money on spray paint later. Of course, if you change your taste once you get the board home, you cann cover that neon-green topsheet with plenty of Snowboard Life stickers. Send us a letter and maybe we’ll help you out.