If you’ve spent time looking at snowboard specs, you’ll likely have seen some boards described as “wide.” It might be pretty obvious that a wide snowboard is going to be broader than a regular one, but why is it important to know the differences between the two types, and how can it affect your riding?
Generally speaking, wider snowboards are intended for taller and heavier riders with a larger boot size; however, this isn’t the only factor that comes into play. A board’s width can also have an impact on its performance, stability, and its suitability for different types of terrain.
Below, we’ll cover the differences between wide and regular boards and then take a look at how and why you might not want to take traditional size guides as gospel.
Whether you’re looking at renting a snowboard or investing in one of your own, you will encounter a few different figures when browsing their specifications.
The first number you’ll see will almost always refer to the board’s length in centimeters.
However, you’ll notice that occasionally this number will be followed by the letter “W,” referring to the fact the board you’re looking at is considered a “wide” model.
While identifying a wide snowboard might be fairly straightforward, knowing whether you need a wide or regular board can make a massive difference in how it will perform and how often you may end up crashing.
In short, the right board will determine your levels of enjoyment and safety.
When we talk about a snowboard being wide or regular (some boards also come in narrow or mid-wide versions) we’re talking about the width of the base at its narrowest point, also known as the “waist.”
Generally, a board is considered wide if the waist measures over 260mm. For context, a mid-wide board is usually 255-260mm wide, a regular is 245-255mm, and a narrow is 235-245mm.
While there are exceptions, which we’ll get to shortly, the width of your snowboard is mostly determined by the size of your boots.
Why? Because a snowboard works by using its edges to cut into the snow, and there can’t be anything that gets in the way of that process.
If your boots are too big for the board, when you try to engage an edge, there’s a very good chance your heels or toes will meet the snow first, known as heel or toe drag.
The best-case scenario is that you’ll lose some speed, but you’re more likely to end up crashing out.
On the other hand, if your boots are too small for your board, you’ll have to expend a lot more energy trying to get the board onto its edge. A rough width-to-boot guide for US sizes would be:
Narrow: Size 8 or smaller. Most (but not all) women’s boards fall into this category.
Regular: Size 8-10. The most common board size.
Mid-Wide: Size 10-12
Wide: Size 12+
However, as you’ll see below, boot size isn’t the only factor you might consider when deciding between a wide and regular snowboard.
The length of a snowboard typically scales with its width because it’s assumed that riders with bigger feet will be taller and heavier, which is true in most cases.
For most snowboarders, this won’t matter; however, some riders choose their board’s width based on their intended riding style rather than their boot size.
This is because for a smaller rider on a wider base, or vice versa, the board will start to perform differently.
A snowboard that’s considered wide (compared to the rider’s size) will be less responsive and won’t turn as sharply.
However, a wider base means a greater surface area in contact with the snow, which can be perfect for surfing over deep powder in big open spaces.
Conversely, snowboarders who spend more time in the park may find a shorter, narrower board easier to execute tricks on, and a slight heel or toe drag won’t make much difference when they don’t need to carve down the slopes.
Personally, I adore riding powder, but I know I’m not always going to have access to deep snow unless I luck out with the weather.
I like to spend a little time in the park each day, and my favorite runs involve weaving in and out of closely packed trees. So, what size board do I ride?
My daily rider is a Lib Tech Skate Banana BTX 154cm with a width of 253mm. I’m 5’10” with US size 12.5 boots, meaning I’m just above average height with massive feet.
You’ll notice I ride a much narrower board than my boot size would indicate because I want a responsive board relative to my size that allows me to turn quickly and perform tricks easily.
So how do I eliminate heel and toe drag and the risk of frequent crashes?
Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks that will allow us to ride our preferred snowboard size if our board of choice doesn’t quite match the size of our boots.
Most snowboard bindings come with an adjustable “heel cup,” which is the part of the binding that lays flush against the back of your ankle.
By fine-tuning the heel cup, you can position your foot centrally over the footbed of the board and reduce the risk of both heel and toe drag.
Your bindings will be attached to baseplates that are screwed into the snowboard itself.
The baseplates can be moved into different positions along the length of the board and can be used to adjust the angles your feet point when you’re riding.
To start, try experimenting with a wider stance by creating a larger space between your baseplates. Next, you’ll want to increase the angle at which your feet point outwards, also known as “ducking.”
The further outwards your feet point from your body, the less they’ll hang over either edge of the board.
Thankfully, modern snowboard boots utilize materials and technologies that allow for a much lower boot profile.
A shorter outsole and thinner shell reduce the overall size of the boot and can save the precious few millimeters that might make the difference between a perfect carve and nasty bail.
This last tip mainly applies to riders like myself who want a shorter, narrower snowboard for most of their riding but don’t want to have to trek to the rental shop for a bigger one when a powder day comes around.
This is where your board’s profile comes into play.
By choosing a snowboard with a “rocker” profile, or a rocker hybrid like mine, the nose and tail of the board rise earlier along the board’s length, making it much easier to float on top of deep snow.
Rocker profiles also have shorter effective edges than traditional cambered boards, making them much nimbler when it comes to sharp turns.
Ultimately, snowboard widths vary to cater to riders’ varying boot sizes, reducing the chance of heel and toe drag and the risk of crashing.
Luckily, the size guides for wide snowboards don’t necessarily have to constrain you to a specific board type.
By experimenting with different boards, boots, bindings, and setups, it’s possible to choose a width that lets you ride in your preferred style and on your favorite terrain safely and with a high level of versatility.