Freeriding. The clue’s in the name. Rather than being confined by artificial boundaries, man-made features, a prescribed set of rules, or even a specific environment, snowboarding’s freeride fraternity prefer to venture into more unchartered territories on the mountain. From bottomless conditions in Hokkaido’s legendary powder fields to the high alpine, death-defying faces of Chamonix, there are as many world class freeride destinations as there are best freeride snowboards to choose from.
With such a broad spectrum of terrain comes an equally diverse range of tools for the job. We could have broken this list into freeriding’s ever-increasing splinter factions: big-mountain, carving, backcountry-freestyle, powder, and even those that claim to do a little bit of it all. But where’s the fun in that? Much better to line them all up, Usual Suspects style, and collectively appreciate their weird and wonderful designs.
“There are as many freeride destinations as there are snowboards to choose from in this category”
It shouldn’t take a particularly discerning eye to pick some of key differences between some models. Other features may be harder to spot. With that in mind, here are the key considerations to keep in mind when choosing your next freeride snowboard.
What To Look For When Buying A Freeride Snowboard
It doesn’t take a BSc in Physics to understand that surface area is a key component to how well a snowboard floats, but it certainly takes an open mind to consider some of the more eccentric freeride shapes appearing on the market these days. Whether you’re looking at a more traditional 160+cm freeride snowboard, the increasingly popular volume shifted snowboards or anything in between, the rule remains the same: the bigger the surface area, the better the float.
Shape and Outline
Convention dictates that a snowboard must be directional in its outline to perform away from the pistes. While we don’t disagree that a setback stance, tapered shape, stiffer flex in the rear and countless variations of directional nose and tail designs all play their part, the necessity for a directional outline simply doesn’t hold true these days. Freeriding has increasingly seen freestyle and switch riding move into the backcountry and snowboard shapes are adapting to meet the demand. These days, for every Bataleon Surfer on the market there’s also a Weston Hatchet Pow Slayer.
Take your time on this decision. Are you only ever going to ride this snowboard in bottomless powder? Or do you want/need something that can carve up groomers, or navigate down an icy couloir when you beat the morning sun to the drop-in, too? In most cases, some form of rockered section will feature in the nose of a freeride snowboard. After that, however, there’s an abundance of flat, cambered or hybrid profiles to suit every rider’s needs.
Freeride snowboards tend to come in at a higher price point than your run-of-the-mill park or all-mountain deck. That’s understandable, though. The last thing you need on a trip to the backcountry is a slow running base or construction that can’t withstand the forces of high-speed descents or the odd rock poking through the surface.
Expect to see high quality sintered bases, powerful cores with a blend of different wood species, performance-enhancing additives, like carbon, Kevlar and basalt, and even brands’ latest innovations in state of the art innovations on show in this snowboard category.
“Whichever freeride deck you opt for this season, never venture off-piste without the correct avalanche safety equipment and plenty of practice using it”
Despite an abrupt end to the snowboard season, the Whitelines test team were out in the mountains, from Courmayeur to Colorado, and got a chance to demo a whole stash of this season’s freeride decks. We’ve listed our favourites below.
Above all, whichever freeride deck you opt for this season, never venture off-piste without the correct avalanche safety equipment and plenty of practice using it, as well as some experienced company or a mountain guide.
Best Freeride Snowboards 2020-2021
- K2 Alchemist – Best Men’s Freeride Snowboard
- Gnu Barret – Best Women’s Freeride Snowboard
- Bataleon Party Wave +
- Bataleon Surfer (Unisex)
- Bataleon Thunder
- Burton Family Tree Straight Chuter (Unisex)
- CAPiTA The Black Snowboard of Death
- Jones Dream Catcher (Womens)
- Jones Stratos
- KORUA Shapes Dart (Unisex)
- Lib Tech Jamie Lynn Short Wide
- Nidecker Mellow
- Rome Ravine Select
- Rome Stale Fish
- Weston Hatchet