The 8 Best Snowboards of 2020
Last Updated December 2019: We’ve updated our guide to the best snowboards with the eight best picks for Winter 2020. Prices and links have also been updated.
- Burton Deep Thinker
- K2 Broadcast
- Endeavor Archetype
- GNU Head Space
- Weston Logger
- Venture Storm
- Lib Tech Snake Kink
- Ride Berzerker
Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Snowboard
Like a lot of American technological innovations, the snowboard was borne of inspired tinkering. An engineer from Michigan, Sherman Poppen, fabricated the first modern board in 1965 by bolting two kids’ skis together and attaching a rope to the unit. The rope helped riders — initially, his daughters — control the sans-binding board. His wife named the product, conflating “snow” and “surfer” — and just like that the Snurfer was born.
Fast forward more than 50 years, and while you can still get a Snurfer, snowboards have evolved in a way Poppen could not have dreamed. There are boards out there for literally every kind of riding imaginable, and choices galore.
Don’t get paralyzed by the options, though. Just do your homework and choose well. The right choice will reap daily dividends on the mountain, helping make each turn a little sweeter. Here are eight new boards we love, plus some info and tips to ensure epic good times whenever you hit the slopes.
Burton Deep Thinker
Best Overall Snowboard
First, some backstory: this board is the pro model for one of the most stylish riders ever, Danny Davis. And the graphics are courtesy of one of the first artists to bring graffiti to the masses, Keith Haring.
Although Haring’s work pops on the page and screen, seeing it in person is next level. Same goes for this deck. Ride this thing to death for a few seasons and then retire it to the wall of your ski condo or loft.
Because whether you’re chasing powder off-piste or railing groomers on the corduroy, the Burton Deep Thinker makes days in the mountains better. The directional camber is responsive without being catchy, carbon strands plus the hybrid camber profile add tons of pop for park fun and side hits, and innovative edges grip the ice well.
The directional hybrid camber— traditional camber that’s set back, with an uplifted nose — is firm, without being insanely stiff, and loves high speeds. A narrow waist plus a deep sidecut makes for a board that’s great for railing fast giant slalom-type turns on the groomers. Although you can ride it switch, it’s not ideal for doing so all day long.
Carbon embedded in the fiberglass matched with this aggressive hybrid camber profile translates into a board with lots of energy — a powerful board for riders who love going fast and searching for side hits all day long.
Now, a little bit about those edges. The brand asserts its Frostbite edges, were “introduced by Burton long before all the hypelong before all the hype about wavy ‘serrated knife’ edges.” On ice, the edge hold — edges that extend out slightly beneath your front and rear bindings — is admirable. Not the holy grail of Mervin’s Magne-traction, but close.
Great for all-mountain riding and just as great in powder, the Deep Thinker is a playful, versatile board that begs you turn the whole mountain into a terrain park. It just happens to be one of the prettiest decks Burton has ever released, too.
Best Budget Snowboard
When it comes to “budget” boards, there’s not a huge difference between entry-level and pro-level. Most company’s entry-level boards start at $400-$450 and max out around $600. Sure, some boards cost $1K and more, but unless it’s custom — hello, Franco Snowshapes — the qualitative upgrades once you head north of the $600 neighborhood are incremental at best.
And snowboarding’s dirty little secret: some sponsored riders prefer the inexpensive decks.
The Broadcast is a new-ish — released last winter — freeride shape from the folks at K2, a company that’s been making skis for decades and was one of the first to embrace the fat ski movement for powder skis. The Broadcast is one of our favorite freeride boards for 2019. The fact that it’s about $200 less than some similar boards is just gravy.
The directional hybrid shape leans more on camber than reverse camber, making the Broadcast incredibly responsive. Best for riders who are intermediate and above, the Broadcast loves being ridden fast, and that camber ensures that the deck has plenty of pop. Get this board if you have a taste for craft beer, but a PBR budget.
Best Powder Snowboard
The biggest change in the world of pow boards in the last five years? Boards designed for face shots and deep days are also great for ripping groomers and all-the-pow-has-been-skied-out crud.
You’ll see riders all over the US rocking decks like the Jones Storm Chaser, Lib Tech’s T. Rice Orca and other fat ‘n’ stubby options on the mountain weeks after the last storm. They’re especially common at resorts like California’s Mammoth Mountain, which regularly gets more than 400 inches of annual snowfall and caters to a lot of folks from SoCal who don board shorts and stand sideways in the water when they’re not on the slopes.
Endeavor’s Archetype has a different DNA. The boutique brand’s been building decks for almost two decades. Vancouver-based pro boarder Max Jenke founded the brand in 2001. Like other small brands — think Venture and Weston — the build quality is top-notch.
Stiff as three fingers of High West Whiskey … with two cubes of ice: just right for railing GS turns at speed and boosting off side hits or big hits. That’s largely thanks to directional camber with a significant 20 cm of sidecut.
On power days, the swallowtail helps you get a little deeper. Sliding your bindings back is easy as can be thanks to Burton’s EST system, which requires fewer bolts.
This board is for experienced riders. And its aesthetic is a nod to race cars. It’s built to go fast and at your limit, and when you throw it on the rack, it looks speedy standing still, just like the race cars in the paddock at Le Mans and Nürburgring. Because when you think about it, lapping a great run is a lot like car racing. Going ’round and ’round, capturing all the fun.
GNU Head Space
Best Park Snowboard
Although pro models are few and far between these days, the Head Space is one of two pro models for Forest Bailey. Like fellow Mervin athlete Jamie Lynn, Bailey is an artist and his handiwork adorns his freestyle deck.
It’s hard to tell at first glance, but the Head Space is asymmetrical, a design approach that GNU has been honing for years. The thought behind it? Since snowboarders stand sideways, heelside and toeside turns are different biomechanically. Accordingly, each side of the board is shaped to optimize each type of turn: a deeper sidecut on the heelside and more shallow one on the toeside.
The Head Space includes a hybrid camber with mellow rocker between the feet and camber in front and behind the bindings. With soft flex, the board doesn’t beat you up in crappy conditions. And a core that’s a combination of sustainably harvested aspen and paulownia wood delivers plenty of pop.
Size-wise, it’s available in four lengths: 149. 152, 155, and 158. The 152 and 155 are also available in wide versions.
It’s also a great deal — $460— almost claim our best budget board honors. You’ll have a few more bucks left over for $12 beers at the mountain.
Best Freestyle Snowboard
The Logger’s been one our go-to decks for years and years. That’s mostly thanks to its versatility. The Logger is a fun and fast all-mountain freestyle board that’s down for a good time, no matter where you take it. And the true-twin is so well balanced that sizing down doesn’t cost you high-speed stability.
We usually ride a 160 cm, give or take, but we love our lil’ 155 cm Logger. Flex-wise, the Logger is smack dab in the middle. Weston calls it a 5 out of 10 and they ain’t wrong.
Like past versions, the latest Logger features a flat profile with blunted nose and tail, sintered base, and wood core. New for this season, Weston weaved carbon through the snowboard’s core from the top sheet to the base and back. The result? More pop than Blink 182’s back catalog.
Polyurethane sidewalls provide additional dampening and durability, and the four-year warranty is one of the best in the business.
Built by a small crew in Silverton, Colorado, Venture’s snowboards just feel boutique. Strap in and you get a sense that you’re riding a board that was built with love in the mountains. That may sound hippy-dippy, but we’ll bet you a nice, life-affirming crystal that if you test-ride one, you’ll feel the same.
Silverton is home to Silverton Mountain, which offers some of the gnarliest lift-accessed terrain in the world. Named for an iconic peak in the San Juan Mountains with a 13,487-foot summit, the Storm is the tool for ascending and descending mountains like this one.
Also available as a solid board, the Storm boasts a redesigned core for this winter. Like its Colorado brethren Never Summer, Venture boards are typically overbuilt. Those extra grams add durability in spades, but the new core shaves some weight.
It’s not Venture’s stiffest split (that would be the Odin), but the Storm is stiff without beating you up. Like most boards in the test, the Storm features hybrid camber, with a bit of a twist. Instead of camber between the feet, the Storm is flat. This profile is great for powder, but it can be a little squirrelly during run-outs when snow conditions get variable.
The soft nose provides insane amounts of float when the pow gets deep, though, and the moderate sidecut will put a smile on your face. Oh, and for folks who care about carbon footprint, the Venture workshop is 100-percent solar powered.
Lib Tech MC Snake Kink
Best All-Mountain Snowboard
When it comes to keeping it weird, no one does a better job than Lib Tech and its sister company, GNU. Both brands cruise under the Mervin Manufacturing umbrella, founded decades ago and still run by Pete Saari and Mike Olson. And they continue to push the envelope with technology, innovating reverse camber tech more than a decade ago, perhaps the most significant bit of snowboard tech in history.
They’re the longtime board sponsor of the best freerider in the world, Travis Rice, and they hold onto their athletes more than any other snowboard company. No surprise, then, that Matt Cummins has the longest-running pro model in snowboarding’s history — his first model was released almost 30 years ago in 1991. Since then, every year has meant a new model. The MC Snake Kink is his latest creation. This freeride deck is a mighty quiver killer, good for all mountain charging, park partying and pow. Lots of pow. And it comes in a one-size-fits-most 159 cm.
The directional deck loves aggressive riding. With killer dampening, the MC Snake Kink is incredibly stable. And the significant sidecut matched with Mervin’s patented MagneTraction — wavy edges to increase edgehold — means sheer ice ain’t a death sentence.
Although the name of the MC Snake Kink may sound like Cummins’ hip hop nome de plume, the moniker tells us a bit about the board. MC: Cummins’ initials. Snake: Short for snake run, the concrete version of a banked slalom course, upon which this board excels. Kink: the shape of the nose.
The MC Snake Kink looks different than any other Mervin board thanks to the graphics.
“I am super pumped to see this come to life,” quoth Cummins. “Damian Fulton did the artwork. We are all super stoked he was interested! Damian is the creator of the Radical Rick comics that ran in BMX PLUS. He also held the position of VP Art director at Marvel Comics for years.”
Forget about Marvel for a sec. Radical Rick has a special place in the hearts of most BMXers from a certain era. Look closely and you’ll see the textured top sheet includes six-petaled daisies.
Such a pretty board, whether it’s on your feet or hanging above a fireplace in a ski condo — after a few years of use, of course.
Best Advanced Snowboard
The Berzerker has been a staple in Ride’s lineup for a handful of years and is nipped and tucked almost as often as Cardi B. That’s because it’s the pro model for Pacific Northwest heavy hitter Jake Blauvelt, who binges on big, burly lines the way Quevo buys bling.
With a new redesign this year, the Berzerker is still stiff, but less so than past iterations. And that’s good for riders who don’t ride like Jake — just about all of us. Because a little softness goes a long way in making turns a little bit more comfortable and fun. Especially when you’re not riding at Mach 10 speeds.
Before looking at the lineage of the Berzerker, it’s good to know about Jake’s background. He’s an old east coaster with a penchant for stiff boards that were so quick from rail to rail that they were twitchy. Typically, that’s fun for your first hour, when you’re chomping at the bit and well-rested. Less so if you’re riding from first chair to last, and you just want to cruise for most of the afternoon.
This year’s Berzerker is still racecar quick from edge to edge. But it’s now more manageable, riding just about as light as other top freeride decks like the Jones Flagship, Burton Flight Attendant or Lib Tech EJack Knife.
The significant change is the Berzerker is now a directional carver that’s as at home on the hard and fast corduroy of New York’s Hunter (Huntah!) Mountain as it is in Vail’s back bowls and the deep powder paradise of Mt. Stevens. Sure, it’s doesn’t handle riding switch as well as previous verisons. But if you’re willing to give up some switch performance for better turns when you’re riding in your dominant stance, put the Berzerker on your shortlist.
The new shape makes it even better than it was in the past on powder days. Originally the board’s did not have taper at all, “because I really like how no taper gives you better turn initiation,” said Blauvelt.
Faster turn initiation is great and all, but it comes at a cost: reduced performance in pow. Lack of taper makes it tougher to get back on your tail because you have to push down added surface area. That’s one reason some powder-oriented boards still have a swallowtail: that V-shape of a tail translates to less surface area, making it easier to get your weight back and keep in there.
The latest edition includes a healthy 8 mm of taper and tightens up the radius of the sidecut. The latter helps maintain quick turn initiation, which is great if that’s what you’re into — something similar to what motorcycle folks call “flickable.”
Blauvelt still uses “twitch” to describe the board’s handling. He uses that term positively. If you’re someone who does the same or desires something super quick, demo this deck.
Terms to Know
Backcountry: Terrain outside resort boundaries.
Base: The bottom of the snowboard that slides on the snow.
Corduroy: The tracks left by a snowcat after grooming a trail. The grooves in the snow look like corduroy pants.
Directional: A board shape where the riders stance is off-center, typically set-back a few inches.
Duckfooted: A stance angle featuring both sets of toes pointing outward. More common for freestyle riders and riders who ride a lot of switch stance.
Edge: The metal edges that run the perimeter of the snowboard.
Effective Edge: The length of steel edge that contacts the snow when making turns.
Flat Camber: A board profile that’s neither concave nor flat.
Flex: The stiffness or lack of stiffness of a snowboard. There are two types of flex. Longitudinal flex refers to the stiffness of the board from tip to tail. Torsional flex refers to the stiffness of the width of the board.
Float: The ability of a board to stay on top of deep snow
Freeride: A style of riding focused on groomers, backcountry, and powder. Freestyle: A style of snowboarding that includes a mix of terrain park and non-terrain park riding.
Goofy: Riding with your right foot in front of your left.
Hybrid Camber: A snowboard shape that mixes reverse camber and hybrid camber profiles.
MagneTraction: A trademarked serrated metal edge on boards built by Mervin manufacturing, the parent company of GNU and Lib Tech. This is for better edgehold on ice. Other manufacturers have their own versions.
Pow: Short for powder. Fresh snow.
Rocker: The opposite of camber. Often called reverse camber.
Regular footed: Riding with your left foot in front of your right.
Reverse Camber: A snowboard shape that looks like a banana that’s concave between the tip and tail. Sometimes called “rocker” because a board with reverse camber looks like it can rock back and forth.
Shovel: Lifted sections of the board at the tip and tail.
Sidecut: The radius of the edge that runs alongside a snowboard.
Sidecountry: Terrain that’s outside resort boundaries that’s accessible from the resort.
Traditional Camber: A snowboard shape similar to a mustache AKA convex between the tip and tail.
Splitboard: A board that split into two ski-like shapes so riders can ascend the mountain like an XC skier and reassemble when it’s time to descend.
Twin tip: A board with an identically shaped nose and tail.
Waist: The most narrow part of a board between the bindings.
Understanding the Construction of a Snowboard
Building a snowboard is a lot like making a good burger. Although new and better ingredients can improve both burgers and snowboards, the process of making them hasn’t changed much.
“Board construction has remained basically the same for the last 20 years. By that, I mean there is a polyethylene plastic running base with an edge surrounding it. There is a layer of fiberglass. A wood core. A layer of fiberglass and a plastic topsheet. Those basic materials haven’t changed much. But there’s been a lot of innovation in each of the specific materials that has really driven the ride performance and the weight of the boards that we see in the market today,” said Senior Design Engineer at Burton Snowboards, Scott Seward.
One of the most important parts of your board is the core. Typically built from wood — different types change the flavor of the ride. Many manufacturers even utilize a handful of different trees in a single core. Many Lib Tech boards include three different types of wood. Some manufacturers build cores from foam. Builders sculpt cores. Thinner in areas where you need more flex and thicker in areas where you don’t. Unlike a burger, you should never see your board’s core. “If the customer ever sees the core, then I’ve done my job wrong,” said Seward.
Sustainably grown cores are more popular than ever. Monitored by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the FSC “ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits,” according to the council’s website.
Next up, the “buns” — in the form of the base. These high-tech plastics are placed in a mold with the board’s edges. Gummy paper or a strong glue helps the edges bond with the base.
The “cheese and condiments” are layers of fiberglass. Operative word: fiber. The layout of the weave of this cloth affects the ride quality of your board. Adding epoxy to the cloth turns this into fiberglass, and there’s a layer on each side of the core. Higher-end boards often have carbon stringers — narrow strips of carbon fiber running the length of the board for added stiffness and pop.
Epoxy covers each layer, holding the board and its pieces together. This isn’t your grandfather’s nasty, toxic epoxy. One of the more recent innovations by folks at companies like Lib Tech and Burton is bio-based epoxy. You can’t understate the importance of epoxy because it holds the board together, bringing its character to life.
After the second layer of epoxy, the board is ready for the topsheet. Once that’s added, the top is inserted into the mold and sent to the press where heat and pressure will do the work of the grill, bonding all of the layers together as well as setting the camber profile of the board.
Although heavy machinery is critical to building snowboards, there’s a lot of craftsmanship mixed in. “Most people are surprised at how much hand-work is done,” said Seward.
The board’s in the press for about 10 minutes. Once removed, the board goes to finishing, where craftsmen remove excess material and add sidecuts. After that, the board is ground down, to remove excess resin. After a handful of grinds, the board is either waxed or shipped.
Looking into his glass ball, Seward sees boards with a smaller carbon footprint.
“The future of snowboarding is going to see more innovation of sustainable manufacturing,” said Seward.
How to Pick a Snowboard
Picking a snowboard can be tough. With so much many different styles of boards available, paralysis of choice is a real threat if you aren’t honest with yourself. But, if you know what you want, the world is your oyster.
Before even wading into the waist-high selection of what’s available, it’s important to think about how and where you ride.
“There’s such a broad spectrum of riding styles and riding preferences, that people get to find out what’s really in their heart and soul as to where they want to find themselves on the mountain. Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll want to start looking for what’s a better tool for that discipline or trying to cover as many disciplines as possible with one snowboard,” says General Manager of Wave Rave in Mammoth Lakes, Tim Gallagher.
Most shops worth their salt will ask you a handful of questions, like: Where’s your home mountain? What type of riding do you want to do with this board? Is this board going to be a do-everything board or is it filling a specific need in your quiver? Where do you normally ride? Is there a style of riding or is there a rider you want to emulate?
They’ll also ask about your foot size and weight. The former question will ensure your board is the appropriate width. Not too narrow, so your toes and heels are hanging off the sides and not too wide, because that can make a board feel sluggish.
One of the best ways to find a good match is to do your homework and find a shop you trust. “There’s some misinformation out there. A lot of people are educating themselves. It’s not always good info. Come into a shop with an open mind, accept some guidance and try before you buy if you can,” says Gallagher. The value of a good shop is paramount. Utilize its brain trust. Another good move for folks who really like to be thorough? Talk to more than one salesperson.
Demoing a few boards is one of the best ways to ensure you make the right choice. Most good shops let customers apply part of the cost of a demo towards a purchase. Most narrow their choices down to three boards or less. “If there’s more than that, you don’t know what they want,” says Tucker Zink, the General Manager at Darkside in Killington, Vermont that includes a demo fleet of about 75 decks. Darkside’s slopeside location in Killington makes demoing boards easy because customers don’t have to leave the hill to switch up boards.
It’s also worth asking the shop near the mountain you ride the most about their most popular board. Last year at Darkside, that was Burton’s Deep Thinker, an aggressive all mountain board with some of the coolest graphics in history — artwork by skateboard legend Mark Gonzales. That deck was followed closely by a similar board: a Lib Tech Travis Rice model (he probably has more pro models per year than any snowboarder in history).
At Wave Rave, the Jones Storm Chaser was last year’s best seller. At first glance, that’s a bit surprising. It’s a powder board with a short swallowtail. Designed by surfboard shaper Chris Christenson, the Storm Chaser is inspired by the shapes of fast gliding surfboards. And many riders in Mammoth use it as their daily driver, making surfy turns down the hill all winter long on corduroy, through crud and in powder.
Part of the popularity of the Storm Chaser in Mammoth is due to the mountain’s location. The 3,500-acre resort is about five to seven hours away from some of the most popular surf spots in Southern California, so it attracts lots of surfers, many of whom love to mimic riding waves when they’re in the snow.
But that doesn’t mean, pow and the new shorter but wider boards are just for So Cal surfers. At Darkside, they sell plenty of these boards as well, many to folks who travel out west to ride. Others appreciate the short turning radius that makes these boards great for riding trees.
“There’s no right or wrong way to snowboard. If you’re having fun and you’re exploring the mountain, and you’re pushing yourself, you’re doing it right,” said Gallagher.
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