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Sports: The best snowboards you can buy

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  • With a great snowboard strapped to your feet, you'll be ready to charge down the mountain, carve through powder, or ollie, gorilla grab, and front flip your way through the terrain park.
  • The Burton Ripcord Snowboard is our top choice because it's a progression-friendly board that's suitable for use by novice boarders but still plenty of fun for advanced riders.

It's difficult to trace the exact origins of many of the world's most popular sports. Versions of soccer, golf, lacrosse, and other recreational activities go back many thousands of years and have gone through countless variations over the generations. Snowboarding, however, is a markedly different story. We can mark the creation of this now global sport almost to the day, and certainly to the place and the person.

In the winter of 1965, a man named Sherman Poppen created what would be the first functional snowboard when he attached a pair of skis together side by side, creating a wide monoski style platform with a rope handle affixed to the front of the board.

Named the Snurfer by Poppen's wife, the new device was designed expressly for use by the Poppen's children. But upon seeing how much his girls and their friends loved the new Snurfer, Poppen realized his one-off invention had big potential. The Snurfer was licensed and went into manufacture within a matter of months, and a million of these rudimentary snowboards would be sold within the next ten years.

About a decade later, the world saw the first effectively modern snowboard. It was developed by Jake Burton — who remains at the forefront of snowboard innovation and sales — and consisted of polyurethane-coated wooden boards using waterski foot traps. During the 1980s, snowboarding grew from a fringe sport oft-derided by skiers into a more popular activity, though it was still banned or at least limited at most American and European ski resorts.

In the 1990s, snowboarding finally went mainstream, with riders permitted on almost all slopes on almost all mountains. And at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, snowboarding made its first official debut on the grandest stage in the sporting world.

While mastering all the tricks, flips, and top speed sprints an experienced snowboarder can enjoy takes years of dedication and practice, with the right attitude and the right equipment, you can begin enjoying the sport this very season.

We've included several different types of boards on our list, including those suitable for beginners, one for kids, and some that are geared toward varied types of riding, from downhill speed to tricks and jumps. It's up to you to learn how to fall safely (keep your hands in and use your rump — it's tougher than your wrist bones), stop on a dime (all about the edge control), or pull off the perfect double wildcat (that's a backflip off a straight jump with two full rotations, and it's called the supercat by some, just FYI).

But here are a few great snowboards and a few tips that just might help you channel your inner Shaun White when you're out there on the snowy slopes.

Here are our picks for the best snowboards you can buy:

Updated by Owen Burke on 12/12/18: Added a new freestyle pick, a powder pick, a splitboard pick, and updated prices and formatting.

Read on in the slides below to learn more about our top picks.

The best snowboard overall

The best snowboard overallplay

The best snowboard overall

(Burton)

Why you'll love it: The Burton Ripcord Snowboard is an all-mountain directional board perfect for beginner to intermediate riders.

Burton is arguably the biggest name in snowboard manufacturing, at least in the United States. That's certainly the case when viewed by the metrics of sales, as the brand accounts for the largest share of units sold in any recent year. But the Burton name is also associated with quality and reliability. Simply put, the brand makes good gear. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that founder Jake Burton is essentially the founder of snowboard design as we know it?

The Burton Ripcord Snowboard has a soft flex design that's ideal for beginners just getting to know the feel of a snowboard. It makes carving easy, turning responsively with minimal input and helping keep you upright and moving in varied snow conditions, from fresh powder to groomed trails to springtime melt/freeze chop.

The Ripcord is a directional board, meaning it is intended to be ridden only with the front end leading the way, but most beginner to intermediate snowboarders won't be doing a lot of switch riding anyway, so that's hardly a drawback.

And though the Burton Ripcord was designed for amateur to intermediate users, the durability of the board makes it more than suitable for more active, aggressive use by more advanced riders.

Most people who take the time to write a review about the Burton Ripcord Snowboard accompany said review with a five-star rating. One customer named Max speaks for many when he says: "For learning to snowboard [the Ripcord] was perfect." Max added that he is "looking forward to the second [season]" using his Burton board.

A reviewer with The Good Ride called the Burton Ripcord "one of the best powder boards you can get for the price," though he does say that it's hardly a high-speed board. A write up from Snowboard Critic noted its flexible core that allows for "good control" in just about "any condition."

Pros: Great choice for novice riders, easy turns, soft and flexible feel, good for powder

Cons: Slower than many options

Buy the Burton Ripcord Snowboard from Backcountry for $379.95 (price may vary by size)

The best snowboard for freestyle riding

The best snowboard for freestyle ridingplay

The best snowboard for freestyle riding

(Salomon)

Why you’ll love it: The Salomon Ultimate Ride is a highly technical board primarily designed for the terrain park and the halfpipe, but it’ll still hold up on the steep stuff if you’re a comfortable enough snowboarder.

This is an advanced snowboard for terrain parks. No snowboard is ever quite going to do it all perfectly, and certainly not in the terrain park, but the Salomon Ultimate Ride comes pretty damn close.

Whether you’re hitting powder or groomed snow, the park or the glades, this is a board best suited for the advanced rider. The hybrid camber (which results in a shape like a camel’s back lengthwise) lets you float over powder better than a flat or full-rocker board (both of those shapes would be better for more strictly downhill riders).

The best thing about this snowboard might be its “Popster” technology, which not only helps you lean into sharp, fast turns, but gives you a ton of snap and pop going into airs, too.

Australian halfpipe rider Scotty James found it to be his favorite of the nine boards he blind-tested for Snowboarder Magazine, finding that it held a firm edge, but also allowed for a pretty smooth transition between edges as well.

Despite having a long edge — which does give this board a relatively good downhill ride — the board’s “Quadrilizer” sidecuts (quad-angled cuts at either end) give you a ton of stability in turns, so it’s much more maneuverable than it might look.

All in all, this is a highly maneuverable board, and while it’s designed for tricks, will hold up in just about anything under an advanced rider. — Owen Burke

Pros: Stable, long edge, stiff flex for boosting airs

Cons: A little stiff for hitting rails in the park

Buy the Salomon Ultimate Ride from Backcountry for $599.95

The best versatile snowboard

The best versatile snowboardplay

The best versatile snowboard

(System)

Why you'll love it: The System MTN Snowboard can float over powder, charge down graded slopes, and help you pop over jumps, boxes, pipes, and more.

First, let's talk about the fact that you can get a complete System snowboard package for less than $320, not counting the tax. That means you will get not only a snowboard, but also bindings and boots.

And to stay on said bindings and boots for another moment, the former are the System APX Bindings, which are lightweight and can be used over the toe cap or over the top of the foot, while the latter are System APX boots, which are prized for being durable, supportive, and warm. Just one note: the bindings are of moderate quality at best, and will probably be the first thing you'll need to repair or replace.

Now, on to the MTN snowboard itself. The board has a camber-rocker-camber profile that helps it stay atop even the fluffiest freshly fallen powder and elevates the contact points, helping minimize the chance you catch an edge on any snow type. In other words, the design reduces the frequency of you ending up end down, or face down, in the snow.

Thanks to the MTN's core design, this board is also suitable for freestyle riding. Its core consists of durable but flexible poplar wood and a heartwood stringer down the center of the board. A pair of high-density stringers flanks this central heartwood, supporting the board and adding a snappy, responsive pop.

The System MTN is suitable for regular or switch riding, and it is comfortable carving a path through the woods or barreling down a back bowl. And all that in a package most boarders can afford.

The System MTN Snowboard scores a four out of five-star score when its many ratings are averaged together. A customer named Nolan said that for "the price point there's nothing better." An owner called Casper said the board is "suited to be used basically anywhere on a mountain."

A product write up from Wired Sport called the System MTN Snowboard a "rocker dominant [board]" with excellent "float in powder." And in a review from Our Great Products, a writer called the board ready for "shredding the harshest terrain and parks."

Pros: Highly versatile board, floats over powder, design prevents edges from catching

Cons: Included bindings of middling durability

Buy the System MTN Snowboard Package on Amazon for $320

The best kids snowboard

The best kids snowboardplay

The best kids snowboard

(Lucky Bums)

Why you'll love it: Every little shredder needs a first board, and the Lucky Bums Kids Plastic Snowboard is affordable, easy to use, and easy to adjust for elementary school-aged kids.

You don't hop behind the wheel of a Ferrari 488 Spider the first time you learn to drive a car. So too is it not the best idea for a youngster's first snowboard to be a 3D core twin end 163 CM wide body snowboard. The Lucky Bums Kids Plastic Snowboard is a much better choice.

First, let's talk about plastic. While not a suitable material for creating an Olympian's snowboard, for a kids' snowboard, high-density plastic is an ideal choice. First, it's highly durable. This board isn't going to crack even if it's banged around all winter.

Second, while the bottom of the board is finished to a high gloss that lets it slide smoothly over the snow, this board is much slower than one designed for adult use, and that's a good thing. Finally, the edges of this plastic snowboard are smooth and round, without any sharp surfaces that could cause abrasions or metal that could cause blunt force trauma.

The Lucky Bums Kids Plastic Snowboard comes with pre-mounted bindings spaced well for most kids of average size. The bindings are designed to accommodate regular winter boots, so no dedicated snowboard boots are required. They are also easy to adjust, so several kids can share the board or one child can use it for several seasons even as his or her shoe size increases.

Just keep in mind that a child with serious winter sports aptitude will quickly outgrow this board, which is ultimately more akin to a toy than a serious piece of sporting goods gear.

A grandpa named Jerry called the Lucky Bums Kids Snowboard "just right for younger children wanting to learn how to snowboard" after he watched his grandson enjoy the board all winter long. Another customer said it was "durable enough to stand up to the rigorous use [of] a nine-year-old boy."

A Gear We Are review of snowboards for kids praised the "fully adjustable bindings" while a video reviewer from TimeToPlayMag.com noted the "rugged design" and multiple color selections, but did point out that this board is not suitable for use at actual ski resorts.

Pros: Great first board for kids, easy to adjust bindings, durable construction

Cons: Modest performance capabilities, not allowed at most ski mountains

Buy the Lucky Bums Kids Plastic Snowboard on Amazon for $45 - $60, prices vary by size

The best low-cost snowboard

The best low-cost snowboardplay

The best low-cost snowboard

(Camp Seven)

Why you'll love it: At less than $200 and with bindings included, the Camp Seven Roots CRC Snowboard is a steal.

The Camp Seven Roots CRC Snowboard has a camber-rocker-camber design, thus the whole CRC thing in the name. What does that mean for you, though? It means an easier, more stable and in-control ride, basically.

By keeping the primary contact point centered under your mass, this board makes balance and control easier than with a traditional camber design, wherein the center of the board features a convex shape rising away from the snow.

While suitable for use by the intermediate rider, this is a superlative snowboard for the beginning adult (or teen) user. And yes, that's partly true because of its low price. If you don't stick with the hobby, or you only hit the slopes a few times a year, then you won't have spent too much on gear used too little.

The Roots CRC board has a lightweight DD2 Core made up of poplar stringers and synthetic high-density materials. Thanks to this light, flexible core and the dual camber shape at each end, the snowboard is responsive to your every move and explosive off jumps, rails, and other features. The included APX bindings feature a full-length EVA base pad and either-or toe straps. Aluminum ratchets help keep your boots where they belong, which is strapped securely to the board.

An admitted newbie to snowboarding named Greg wrote a review calling the Camp Seven Roots CRC a perfect "board for amateurs like [him]," and noted how it would "pay for itself many times over" when compared with average rental costs.

A reviewer with Snowboard Critic appreciated how the Camp Seven Roots CRC Snowboard's "high density stringers ... add to the responsiveness of this board." A write up from YourPerfectSnowboard said the Roots CRC is notable for "performing very well in all terrain."

Pros: Great price for board with bindings, camber-rocker-camber design maximizes control, lightweight and responsive core

Cons: Not up to the demands of expert riders

Buy the Camp Seven Roots CRC Snowboard on Amazon for $200

The best snowboard for powder

The best snowboard for powderplay

The best snowboard for powder

(Backcountry.com)

Why you’ll love it: The Rossignol XV Sushi is uniquely designed for powder with its wide shape and split tail, but its straight, relatively long rail and set-back stance help you hold an edge on steep, groomed terrain.

The Rossignol Sushi is built like a surfboard to plow through and coast over powder. It won’t really serve you too well in the terrain park, especially if you're riding switch and performing rotational maneuvers, but the big, shovel-like nose is a delight in the fluffy stuff, on and off the trail.

Most powder boards tend to have softer edges, which help keep your speed up when turning through powder where stopping can leave you neck-deep and requiring a shovel to get back underway. The distinct “fish” shape of the Rossignol Sushi, taken from a classic 1970s-era surfboard design, gives it a fairly straight edge and a long point of contact, so handling the hard-packed snow isn’t out of the question, though beginner and intermediate boarders might want to take note: It’s not necessarily easy.

It also has a stance setup which plays two-fold: With your back foot placed near the tail (just like on a short surfboard or skateboard), you can lean back and keep the nose up in powder, but you can also lean forward or center your weight and get a lot of use out of the stiff, voluminous nose when you need to bleed speed and/or turn on steeper and groomed slopes.

Still, this is a powder board, and the underfoot camber allows you to turn this otherwise fat plank of a board on a dime. A thrifty rider probably won’t have much trouble at all hitting steep groomed trails with the Sushi, but it’s going to be a solid 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) shorter than your average downhill board, and you’ll feel it at times.

Ten centimeters might not sound like a lot, but on a snowboard that’s all of about 155 centimeters (5-foot-one-inch) or so, it makes for a lot less volume.

Outside and snowboard-centric site The Good Ride both also love the Sushi for what it’s designed to do. We all acknowledge it’s nowhere close to the ultimate all-around board, but it is exactly what you want for far-flung, off-trail adventuring.

If you’re also considering a splitboard, which is the ultimate off-trail setup, Rossignol also makes the XV Sushi (LG) in that design. Just remember that if you’re looking to “skin” (that is, put skins on the board in ski form and push up a slope), you’ll need to buy skins separately. These Spark R&D Skins fit the Sushi. — Owen Burke

Pros: A powder board which, under the right feet, can handle steep groomers too

Cons: Directional, not ideal for technical maneuvers in terrain parks or riding switch

Buy the Rossignol XV Sushi LF from Backcountry for $449.95

Buy the Rossignol XV Sushi LG from Backcountry for $549.95

The best splitboard you can buy

The best splitboard you can buyplay

The best splitboard you can buy

(Backcountry.com)

Why you’ll love it: The Voile Revelator Splitboard opened up the world of fresh, unridden powder and the untamed wilds of the back side of the mountain where the lifts and gondolas don’t go.

A split board is a great option if you’re going to be doing some pioneering off-trail to make tracks where there aren’t any. You’re not going to get the best snowboard or skis out of these things, but you will get the best of both, and a much easier trip up the mountain (just don’t forget a pair of skins).

There are at least three great things about split boards: They’re compact, they’re lightweight, and, of course, they can be skis or a snowboard, as you need. You can also get your hands on some collapsible poles, so if you want (or need) to ski, you can stash them in a pouch or a backpack until you need them.

You’ll also need a set of poles, as well as skins, which you strap onto the bottom of your splitboard when it’s in ski form for poling up steep, slick ascents. These should do the trick for the Voile Revelator.

Outdoor Gear Lab tested the Voile Revelator, finding it impressively lightweight with easily adjustable bindings. It’s also got a stable ride and easily adjustable bindings, which is a huge plus, as adjusting your bindings on the slopes can be a bit of a pain, especially if you’re in thick powder and don’t quite know what you’re doing, or worse still, drop a screw.

Women's Gear Guide also reviewed and loved Voile's Revelator, which had women involved in the R&D design all the way through. It also comes in two sizes for women (149 cm and 154 cm), which sort of makes you wonder why they didn't opt to give male riders the option, too. Still, a 154 cm board is a decent all-around size for most men.

All in all, you could spend a bit more on a splitboard, but this is a great user-friendly entry into free riding. — Owen Burke

Pros: Lightweight, ease of use, binding adjustability

Cons: Not the best on groomed snow or ice (though if you’re going off terrain, you’ll probably find little if any of either)

Buy the men’s Voile Revelator Splitboard from Backcountry for $649.95

Buy the women’s Voile Revelator Splitboard from Amazon for $650

Buy the Spark R&D Splitboard Skins from Backcountry for $190

Buy the Voile Camlock 3-Part poles on Backcountry for $109.95

The best places to buy snowboard boots, bindings, and other accessories

The best places to buy snowboard boots, bindings, and other accessoriesplay

The best places to buy snowboard boots, bindings, and other accessories

(REI)

Unfortunately, you're going to need more than just a board, and boots, bindings, and other essential hardware are just part of the deal. Here are our favorite places to shop for all of the above:

  • Backcountry has the best stocks of snowboards, boots, bindings, and hardware.
  • REI has just about everything from goggles and caps to parkas, boots, and bindings.
  • Wal-Mart doesn't have the largest stock, but you can often find great deals on the odd pair of boots.

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