A few years ago when I got my first snowboard, I decided to go the route of Craigslist after not really doing much research. I figured I was just looking for a beginner board, so how bad could I mess up? Horribly apparently. I found a nice looking snowboard with bindings and was all proud of myself – even with the sketchy Burger King parking lot purchase. But then when a snowboard friend looked my board over, my little bubble of pride got pretty badly burst. Turns out my board had edges falling off, deep gouges, never been waxed, barely flexed, was entirely too long for me, and so much more. A nice older gentleman at a repair shop told me, ‘Miss, your board needs an exorcism’. Uhm?
$65 repair later, and with my Frankenstein board – I started to snowboard, but quickly made up my mind that the next season I needed some better equipment. After a few hopeless forays into the big box stores on my own, I ended up at Snowboard Jones (SBJ) in Manchester, NH.
At places like SBJ, everyone there is a boarder and you know it. They know their stuff, so I figured for this week’s post I’d let them educate the general public about shopping for a snowboard setup. So, I’d like to introduce Todd, Lisa, and Aaron. All are long time employees of SBJ. If you want to read a little bit about them and the other SBJ staff, check out this link.
Ok, so where to start? A snowboard setup requires 3 main pieces: the snowboard, the bindings, and the boot. While all three pieces can make or break the ultimate setup (and the bank), a solid understanding of what’s truly needed and important, can help you from wasting money and frustration. As Lisa explained, the price will always equate to the ability level.
Aaron and Todd jumped right into explaining that a beginner can usually get an amazing board for under $400. Ideally, you’ll be able to get a board that will work for you for several years as you progress through being a beginner and continue into the more advanced levels. Then they jumped into trying to get me to understand the complex nature of extruded versus sintered bases, reverse camber (rocker) versus camber, and lots of other fun stuff. To sum it up:
- Extruded – Found on more beginner boards, requires less maintenance and wax.
- Sintered – Known as the faster base and a feature of more advanced boards. Of course requires a lot more upkeep.
- Reverse Camber – Great for powder, but works all over the mountain too. You can visually tell a board is this type by the flattened out U shape from the side.
- Camber – Also good for all mountain, but known for being excellent with turns. Looks a lot like the rocker, but the middle pops up slightly.
For any snowboarder though, there are four main things that matter when it comes to picking out a snowboard: height, weight, shoe size, and riding style (Park? Powder? All-mountain?). Go talk to the awesome people at SBJ because the online charts years ago told me I needed a 149-152 board length. It turned out I’m actually a 141-143 (thank you, Aaron). That long, flat, Frankenstein board was just a major issue all around…
After a thorough discussion on boards, we moved into boots. I’d like to quote Todd on this one just so it might have more of an impact: “DON’T RUSH BOOTS!!!” Why? Well, for one, boots are expensive. They will end up being the most expensive shoe you ever own, so make sure they fit correctly. Todd went on to explain that a boot should fit snug (not to be confused with ‘I can’t feel my foot anymore’) since it will loosen up as the season goes on. If the boot comes with the option for heat molding, do it. It’s going to simplify life.
I had expected a bigger discussion over bindings, but Aaron summed it up by saying it was really all preference. Bindings come in all styles, prices, features, and brands – so it’s up to you to figure out what you want. My only personal word of caution – as tempting as it is to buy cheap, find something decent. A broken binding due to quality on the mountain is miserable!
Since I had the staff of SBJ for a bit longer, I decided to ask them a bit more so we talked a bit about clothing… and stupidity. Now, there’s a huge difference between being a snowboarder and looking cool (literally, freezing and losing blood flow to extremities). Todd, Aaron, and Lisa all said the same: No cotton (no jeans, t-shirts, cotton sweatshirts), don’t wear two pairs of socks (snowboarding socks exists for a reason), and use the right gear. If you want to look cool without actually putting yourself in danger, just make sure you throw on a good base layer (technical polyester), and then you can throw whatever you want on top of it.
To wrap up the formal questions, I asked Todd what made SBJ so much different than the big box stores. He said it all came down to having “more love of wanting to snowboard”. When you go to a big box store, the guy who normally sells kayaks is probably the one now (trying) to help you with snowboards (even if he’s terrified of chairlifts). At SBJ, these people live, breathe, and love snowboarding. And to make it even better, they’re constantly being visited by reps, trainers, and designers from tons of snowboard companies who teach them everything there is to know!
So of course I couldn’t wrap up the interview with Todd, Aaron, and Lisa without asking them what is now the official closing questions, so here it goes:
> Snowboarder or skier? I didn’t even ask… they’re all very much snowboarders.
> Favorite ski area ever? Loon is the home mountain for all three, so I asked them about some other favorites.
- Aaron: Alpine Meadows (CA) and Squaw (CA)
- Todd: Best experience ever was at Chamonix (France), but best run ever was at Cannon (NH)
- Lisa: Jay Peak (VT) since it’s a little bit of the West in the East
> Best chicken tenders?
- Todd & Aaron: Puritan Backroom in Manchester, NH (totally saw that answer coming – it’s the most popular chicken tender in all of Manchester)
- Lisa: Kimball’s in Pembroke, NH
A huge thank you to Aaron, Todd, and Lisa for answering some questions for Tenders & Trails! If you’re looking for any new gear whatsoever, get over to Snowboard Jones in Manchester, NH… now!