Picking the right category of snowboard is just the first step. You'll also find different lengths and widths for each style of snowboard. Choosing the right size will help you get the most out of your snowboarding experience. If you go home with the wrong size snowboard, you may find it frustrating once you hit the snow.
Snowboard lengths are measured in centimeters. You can find snowboards ranging from around 129 centimeters up to more than 165 centimeters. Alpine boards can be even longer. Manufacturers design shorter snowboards for women and children.
You may have heard a general rule of thumb to follow is to pick a snowboard that's long enough so that when you stand it on end, the tip reaches somewhere between your nose and chin. But a more important factor to take into consideration is your weight. If your weight is in the average range for your height, the rule of thumb is safe to follow. But for heavier riders, a more important consideration is the board's flexibility.
Let's say you're a heavier rider and you follow the general guideline. You pick a board that's long enough to reach your chin when you stand it on end. The board might not be rigid enough to support your weight. That means your new board could break out on the slopes.
For heavier riders, rigidity is more important than length. It's fine if a heavier rider can find a board that both supports his or her weight and falls within the general guideline for board length. But it's better to get a board a little longer than normal if that's the only kind that's strong enough to support the rider safely.
It's also important to consider the width of the board. Riders with large boots may need wider boards to avoid toe drag -- that's when the front of the boot makes contact with the snow. The board's width will change the way the board handles, too. Wider boards are better on powder. Narrower boards are good for racing or carving.
Another factor to consider is the type of snowboard. In general, an alpine board that's right for your height and weight will be longer than a freeride board, which in turn will be longer than a freestyle board. If you look around a snowboard shop, you'll find freestyle boards that are longer than some of the shortest freeride boards but these aren't meant for riders of the same height and weight.