Riding powder is the best thing you can do on a snowboard. Floating through powder is a feeling which is hard to beat, so you want to make sure you’ve got a board which is up to the job. Whist powder specific boards are amazing in the right conditions, they aren’t the most versatile snowboards when it comes to riding park or hardpack groomers. So before you rush out and buy one, I would only get a powder specific board if you have other boards you can ride on a non-powder day, or if your local mountain gets 40+ feet of snow a year!
Do you need a powder specific snowboard to be able to ride powder?
You can definitely ride powder on almost any snowboard, but you will also definitely have more fun on a powder board. On a standard kind of freestyle shape you might find that you struggle when it gets really deep. Powder boards will give you more float meaning that you don’t need to load up the tail of the board so which can get really hard work for your back leg after a while.
Check out my post on Volume Shifted boards for an alternative shape and feel of powder boards
What makes a good snowboard for powder?
There are 4 characteristic which all good powder boards have, which help the board plane up over the snow, making the boards less effort and more fun to ride
Longer boards create extra lift in powder, because they have a greater surface area and because they have a longer nose which planes up above the snow like a surfboard does in water. This can be particularly handy when landing jumps or drops when the nose doesn’t sink under the snow flipping you forward.
A directional shape
A directional shape means that the board is shaped to ride better forwards than backwards. This normally means that the binding mounts and the waist of the board are setback towards the tail. This makes the tail of the board sink a little bit lower in the snow than the nose, helping the board to plane up and float over the powder. Directional shapes are easier to turn and push the snow around with your back foot.
Powder boards can come with different rocker profiles but they should all have an earlier rocker in the nose of the board. This means that forwards of the front binding, the board starts to curve up, lifting the nose and. Rocker helps to prevent catching the nose in the snow means you can ride with your weight more on both feet and less leaning onto the back foot. What goes on between the bindings also has a big effect on how the board handles. Camber between the feet gives more stability and pop and will be better at high speeds and in variable snow. Full rocker boards are more maneuverable and quicker to turn, so great for riding Japan or BC tree lines
The taper of a snowboard is how wide it is at the nose compared to the tail, so for example a board with a 6mm taper will have a nose which is 6mm wider than the tail. The taper increases the surface area of the nose and reduces the surface area of the tai, helping it to sink low and the back and ride up out of the snow in the front. Many taper boards are described as fish shape, which is a term borrowed from surfing, where these shape boards are easy to catch waves and easy to maneuver. Like in surfing, if you pick a snowboard with lots of taper and rocker, then you can ride a shorter length which is better suited to quick turns like you need to do when riding in the trees.
How I picked these boards
These boards are all-round powder boards.They all meet the above requirements and they are all great in every type of terrain – as long as its covered in 2+ feet of pow! I’ve deliberately stayed away from fish shape or volume shift boards which are short boards with loads of taper. Although these powder specific boards can be super fun to ride, they aren’t great for big open powder fields and doing big, high-speed powder turns. In my opinion you should only add a fish to your quiver after you’ve already got a board like one of these.
You can read my review on the best volume shift boards here
My Pick of the best Powder Snowboards in 2020/21
For the design of this board freeride legend, Jeremy Jones teamed up with surfboard shaper, Chris Christenson to produce the ultimate feeling of float through the powder.
The basic shape of the board is a directional, with a 7mm taper, rocker in the nose and a slight camber between the bindings.The feel of riding this board might be effortless but there’s whole bunch of thought and development gone into achieving that:
The turn radius tightens as you move along the edge from the contact point at the nose toward the tail. This delivers smoother turn initiation and extra power at the bottom of the turn as the edge tracks in and out of the snow.
The board is slightly softer in the nose to help absorb shocks, then more rigid between the binding for increased stability under foot.
Transaction Tech edges
The edges of the board are slightly wavey like a serrated knife. This increase the effective edge length and offers more grip when you hit an unexpected patch of hard snow
3d Contour base
This innovative shape gives the base a kind of spoon form in the nose and tail, which helps push the snow out to the sides of the board and away from the edges. The effect is a board which is super smooth in the turn and extra floaty in the powder.
The Ride Berzerker is the board of choice for freeride legend Jake Blauvelt who has a smooth, creative style any rider would want to emulate. This board is relatively stiff, compared to the other boards on the list, making it a great choice for a more advanced, or heavier rider who likes going fast!
It has camber between the bindings and an earlier rocker at the front, lifting the nose of the board. A small amount of taper from tip to tail helps give extra flat.
Along the edges of the board there is a quadratic sidcut, meaning the turning radius starts off mellow at the front for easy turn initiation, then tightens towards the back of the board for extra control and power through the turn.
This board is given extra liveliness thanks to its carbon rods placed in the tip and tail. This technology adds pop without the stiffness generally associated with snappy boards, making it fun and easy to ride.
It was designed by another super smooth backcountry rider, Danny Davis. It has a directional shape and setback stance, giving a longer nose to float over the snow. The rocker in front of the front binding lifts the board further, whilst camber between the feet gives stability in turns and plenty of pop for ollies.
A 7mm taper from tip to tail helps the board sit back in the snow and allows you to ride with more weight on both feet.
Overall the board is not too stiff, making it easy and fun to ride, but still has plenty of pop when you need it. A great freeride option for Burton enthusiasts!
LibTech Swiss Knife
Looking through the Lib tech range, there are a whole bunch of boards which I could’ve picked, but a lot of Lib tech’s powder boards are twin tips so great for freestyle but not for full on freeride, which is what this list is about.
The Swiss knife is directional with taper, but that’s where the similarities end with the boards mentioned above. It’s gotta hybrid camber with rocker between the feet, then camber under the bindings then rocks up again at the tip and tail. So that’s rocker/camber/rocker/camber/rocker for those of you keeping count! This combination makes it really easy to turn, pivoting under the feet on the rocker section. The camber gives it plenty of pop where you need it under the bindings. This combo is common to a lot of Lib Tech’s boards and it seems to work really well.
The edges have Magna Traction serrations which creates extra effective edge length, increasing edge bite and grip on the snow. This gives great control even on hard snow, without the need to sharpen your edges too often
Its got a medium flex so its easy to ride, but still high performance enough for the likes of Swiss legend, Fredi Kalbermatten.