For first time buyers, here is a checklist of snowboard gear you need, plus tips:
1. Jacket and pants: look for waterproofing, indicated by mm, and breath-ability, indicated by gm, or g). The higher the number, the better. I usually stick with a jacket and pants that have 10,000mm and up. If you ride in a drier climate, like Colorado, you can get away with 5,000mm waterproofing. The higher the breath-ability of the fabric, the more you’ll be able to ventilate your body and not overheat; very important if you’re riding in warmer temperatures.
If you buy matching jackets and pants, there is usually a coordinating snap system where you can connect the powder skirt (lining inside jacket) to the pants, which will further keep out snow and cold. This is optional; since I usually don’t like to match, I buy pieces separately.
2. Layers: Even though it’s cold outside, as you hit the trails, you’ll get hot, so you’ll want to dress in layers where you can shed pieces. For the base layer, I recommend a thermal top or breathable, waterproof first-layer, followed by a hoody or fleece top, then your jacket. Under my pants, I wear thermal bottoms.
3. Boots*: If I were to pick the most important purchase that you want to get right, that would be your boots. Don’t order something off the internet because you liked the colors; if it doesn’t fit comfortably or conform to your feet, you will suffer later! I HIGHLY recommend trying them on in a store to make sure they fit right and feel comfortable. Not to mention, there will be knowledgeable staff on hand to help.
The boot needs to fit snugly. Not too loose that your heels come up; your heel needs to stay in place when flexed. Not so tight that your circulation gets cut off and you feel crippled by the end of the day. The fit is really important as it affects your comfort level and performance on the slopes. The best time to shop for boots is in the afternoon, evening, or after physical activity, when your feet is at its largest.
Buying a boot also depends on your riding style (freeride: all-mountain riding vs. freestyle: park + tricks). There is also alpine snowboarding (freecarve), but I will focus on the other two riding styles, which are more popular. Generally, a freerider with a taste for speed will favor a stiffer boot, while a park rider will prefer a softer boot, which makes it easier to maneuver. I personally prefer a soft to medium boot with some flex.
For the ladies, I would recommend women’s specific boots, as they are narrower and better molded for ladies’ feet. One of my favorite brands for comfort and quality is Northwave.
There’s three types of lacing systems: traditional laces, quick-pull laces, and boa system (cable dial). Each has their pluses and minuses, but if you want to find out more about lacing systems, as well as more info. on buying boots, a good site to check out is rei.com.
4. Goggles: When you shop for goggles, find something that fits well and has anti-fogging features. The goggles should be a snug fit; no gaps, but at the same time, not too tight with pressure points. Double lenses are the best; they create a thermal barrier and won’t fog up on you. Also, for women, there are women’s specific goggles, which will provide a snugger fit for narrower faces.
I won’t go into lens colors here, but for information on choosing lens color, as well as a good goggle resource, go to opticsplanet.net.
5. Knit cap and/or snowboard helmet: Keeps your head warm and protected; the helmet is highly recommended for beginners or stunt enthusiasts! ‘Nuff said on that.
6. Socks: If you’re just starting out and want to make do with regular socks, make sure they are breathable. But I would recommend a pair of snowboard-specific socks. No need to wear several pairs (sloppy!) or get thick, bulky socks; these days the boots have proper insulation.
7. Gloves or mittens: Make sure they’re waterproof! Some gloves come with a removable lining, which I like. Also, you can get pipe gloves, which are sleeker; good for spring and for board-grabbing tricks.
8. Body Armor: This is optional, but good for beginners or the daring! Among some items available are butt pads, wrist guards, rib guard. Prevents or guards against injury.
1. Snowboard: I’m focusing more on outerwear, so I won’t get too technical about boards here, except to say, don’t pick a board because of its cool graphics! You want to get something that’s tailored for the type of riding you plan to do (freeride: all-mountain riding vs. freestyle: park + tricks). Also something that’s compatible length and widthwise with your height, weight and feet size. Generally the height of the board should stand between your chin and nose.
For the nitty gritty on buying a board, here’s two great resources:
2. Bindings: To strap your feet onto your board! Buy your boots first, then you can determine what kind of bindings will go with the boot. There are three types of bindings, strap bindings, step-in bindings and flow bindings. I prefer strap bindings; it gives you more flexibility and maneuverability. While step-in bindings make getting on and off the board easier, there’s fewer choices, and with cheaper models, less board control. Flow-in Bindings are a hybrid of the two; the advantage of strap bindings with the ease of a step-in. But I’ve heard that Flow-ins are more difficult to adjust than strap-ons.
The highback is the plate at the end of the binding supporting your heel and calves. Freestylers generally stick with smaller more flexible highbacks for extra maneuverability. Freeriders go for higher, stiffer highbacks for extra control.
3. Leash: This is attached to your front binding, which is then attached to the laces of your front boot or calf. As extra insurance, so your board doesn’t come off your foot and go tumbling down the mountain!
4. Stomp pad: This is optional, but good to have as a grip for your back foot when it’s not strapped into the board. It’s placed on the board between your bindings, just in front of your back foot. It’s good for providing traction for your back foot so you don’t wipe out when getting off the lift or sliding across a flat section of the slope.
ARE YOU GOOFY OR REGULAR?
I’m goofy. Seriously, I am! In the silly sense, but also stancewise. You’re “regular” if your left foot is forward, “goofy” if the right foot is forward. How to find out which one you are?
The test I’ve used: stand with your feet close together and have someone give you a surprise shove from behind. Whichever foot steps forward first to catch your balance will most likely be the foot in front when you snowboard (or do any board sport).
Ok, this is a good amount of information to get you started. I’m sure you’ll have other questions, as you get into snowboarding, such as stance width and angles, but I’ll leave you in good hands with a few solid resources:
Also, I’d like to recommend another excellent site I found: shayboarder.com “The World of Snowboarding Through Fembot Eyes.” Here, you’ll get great product reviews, as well as features on the snowboarding industry, from Shay, who is an avid snowboarder.
I’ll update and add to the post if I think of anything else. Also, seasoned riders, feel free to post links to your favorite resources, as well as add any info. that will be helpful to a new snowboarder.