20 Jul Basics of Snowboarding Equipment
Basics of Snowboarding Equipment
Before you can jump into the fun that is snowboarding, you’re going to have to suit up. You probably have a few questions about what you need to bring. Do you really need a helmet? Here in this article, I’m going to tell you how exactly you’d want to be going about this, and why.
First, lets start with the essentials. Obviously, the most important items here is going to be your board and your boots. Whether you’ve decided to rent it or to buy it, you definitely need this to snowboard.
If you’ve never snowboarded before, you may be wondering how it works. Although similar in concept to surfing or skateboarding, one very important difference is that is imperative that your feet remain in contact with the board at all times. This is because the fundamental turning technique requires you to tilt your board slightly on edge.
This is your typical all mountain snowboard; nice and symmetrical, and designed for most terrain. As you can see, the snowboard is narrower in the middle, and wider near the ends. This curve is the natural turn radius of the board, so when tilted on edge, you will drift in one direction or the other. In order to achieve fast, precise turns, you’ll want your board to be glued to your feet.
To achieve this, screwed onto your board will be bindings. The most common kind are strap in bindings; for these, you put your feet in, fasten the strap, and tighten.
However, the best board and bindings are nothing without some proper boots. Snowboard boots can single handedly determine how enjoyable of a time snowboarding you’re going to have, so be sure to spend some effort to make sure your boots are a good fit.
However, the important things to know about your boots is that they are there in order to provide support and control, although the degree of stiffness can vary from model to model. In order to get responsive movement from your board, your boots need to be as tight as possible without being uncomfortable. This will save you effort and energy when it comes to riding. Be sure to lace them up tightly as well.
There are many different kinds of boots and boards, both of which are customized for different types of snowboarding; freestyle, all-mountain, powder, etc.
Different types of boards.
We won’t go into too much detail here, but for most riders, you’ll do fine with an all mountain board.
You’ve probably heard of ski jackets and ski pants. These are specialised equipment which is specifically designed for riding down slopes. If you’re worried about ski jacket versus snowboard jackets, don’t be; they’re basically the same. Rental stores here don’t even make a distinction between the two.
At first glance, your ski or snowboard jacket doesn’t seem that much different from your regular jacket. Why can’t you just use one of those you have stashed away in a closet?
The first obvious factor is that its a waterproof outer layer. While you may think you already have one, very few general jackets are 100% waterproof. Especially if you’re just getting started, you’re going to want an outer layer that is truly waterproof and not just water resistant. It may not seem like it, but even momentary contact with snow can result in your clothes being soaked.
Its much more important to get waterproof pants though – you’re going to be sitting down a lot, and nobody likes wet underwear.
Secondly, one very useful things ski/snowboard jackets have is a powder skirt.
Lets face it, you’re going to be falling down. A lot. The powder skirt is a tight seal around waist level, which helps to seal the bottom and prevents snow from getting under your shirt. And snow against your bare skin is something that really isn’t funny.
As strange as it might sound, you might end up getting too hot while snowboarding; you might even start to sweat due to all the exertion. At times like these, all the layers you’ve wrapped yourself with start to work against you. If you’ve got a ski jacket though, you can open your pit zips, which allows cool air to circulate where you need it most.
You’d want them open early so you don’t sweat: once the sweat accumulates, you’ll end up feeling much colder than if you were dry.
Some snowboard jackets might also have velcro or inner gloves in order to provide a complete seal.
As you can see, there is an inner layer which is designed to fit inside your gloves. Not only that, but the velcro on the outside can be tightened to create a seal, preventing any snow from reaching your bare skin.
So now you’ve got a rough idea about the difference between a regular jacket and a ski/snowboard jacket. Moving on, lets touch on the importance of ski/snowboard pants.
You might think other than making sure it’s waterproof, any pants should do, right?
Ski pants pretty much dictate how wet your socks are going to be at the end of the day. Wet feet feel disgusting, and is a pain to deal. Worse still, it might even soak your boots, so you have to start your day with wet feet. Not ideal.
As you can see from the picture, you want to have your pants going over your boots, preventing snow and water from getting in. As boots are really wide, normal pants arent going to cut it.
Not only that, but good ski/snowboard pants also have an inner layer to tuck into the boots.
As you can see, there’s an inner layer that goes inside the boot, while the outer layer wraps around the outside. This provides double protection, and really stops and snow or moisture from entering your boots at all.
Unless you have sweaty feet, then.
In general, proper snowboard pants are much more important that a snowboard jacket. You can actually use any old jacket you want and it won’t affect your experience that much, but wet socks and wet boots will ruin anyone’s day.
We’ve come to the smaller things; but make no mistake, they are as important as the rest of them.
First off, gloves. There are special gloves designed for snowboarding, but they aren’t that different from regular gloves. Some models of gloves come with an inner and an outer layer, which helps in really cold conditions. In addition, you can consider getting a pair of mittens as an outer layer, instead of regular gloves. Mittens have the additional advantage of being much warmer, but you lose the dexterity you get from having all your fingers free.
Of course, the most important consideration is waterproofing. However, it isn’t that uncommon for gloves to be waterproof, so this isn’t a unique factor. If you’ve already got a pair of waterproof gloves, then they should work fine.
An important point to note is that you’ll want the area where your gloves connect to your jacket to be as snug as possible. You don’t want snow to get in under your sleeves or into your gloves: that will eventually melt and you’ll get wet.
This in part depends on how good your jacket is as well, if you seen the section above.
Next up, your helmet. A helmet is the basics of the basics, but you might be surprised: over half of snowboarders don’t wear helmets.
As a basic safety precaution, a helmet is a must. Strange as it may sound though, a helmet is actually more necessary the better you are; just starting out, you aren’t going fast enough that you’ll flip, let alone cause serious damage.
That being said, it’s always a good habit to wear one at all times.
While all helmets are designed for impact protection, snowboard helmets are specifically constructed for snowy conditions.
Snowboard helmets are noticeably from other kinds of helmets in a few ways.
First off, they are more insulated to help in cold conditions. The difference is probably most noticeable around the ears; you won’t even feel the cold in strong winds.
Secondly, snowboard helmets are designed with goggles in mind. In order for the goggles to fit comfortably, the helmet must have a larger gap in front.
Also, they usually have some sort of clip or securing mechanism in the back to keep the goggles from flying off in the middle of the day.
Most helmets also have venting systems; much like the pit zips, this is prevent excess heat and sweat from building up. Some models even allow adjustable systems which you can adjust based on the weather conditions.
Finally, goggles. If you’re travelling on a budget, you might be tempted to skip out on these; don’t. Goggles are very very useful pieces of equipment in all kinds of weather conditions.
Of course, on blustery snowy days, goggles help to keep the snow and the wind away from your eyes. You don’t want to go down a slope when you can’t even open your eyes half the time. This becomes more noticeable the higher up you go, as the wind tends to get stronger. They also are very well insulated, so if nothing else, at least half your face will be warm.
On sunny days, while you might not think it, goggles are probably even more important. The snow, being white, reflects sunlight really well (about 80% of all UV rays are reflected back from the snow). As you can imagine, prolonged exposure to UV rays is not good for your eyes, so without protection like goggles, you run a risk of getting snow blindness.
In fact, UV rays will still be present even on cloudy days, so you should wear goggles all the time to be safe. Goggles with reflective surfaces are generally better than clear ones, but any will do fine.
You might see some guys with balaclavas or face masks. While incredibly useful, I wouldn’t recommend wearing them unless you’re facing very cold/windy conditions. Personally, the stuffy feeling of breathing through fabric is quite troublesome to deal with, so I wouldn’t wear them unless necessary. That being said, they’re very useful for preventing suntan/burn or frost nip on your face.
You won’t really find these in any snowboard equipment rental anywhere, and it isn’t considered part of the ‘set’, so try to bring your own.
That covers all the gear you should be needing in any snowboard trip. If you’re wondering which pieces of gear are the most important, here’s a list from most to least important for what equipment you should be focusing on to get the most enjoyment out of your time.
Boots, Goggles, Board, Gloves, Ski Pants, Helmet, Ski Jacket
If you’ve got any thoughts or things to add, leave a comment down below!