The benefits and disadvantages of a long snowboard versus a short one primarily depend on your skill level and style. The length of your board also depends on your height and weight. Kids pick up snowboarding in a blink because their center of gravity is lower to the ground. If you’re super tall and just starting out, you probably have a greater chance of falling over on a snowboard than the 10-year-old whiz kid on the slopes.
Common knowledge in the snowboard industry is that a short board should extend to anywhere between your chin and collarbone. A medium-size board will reach up to your nose. A long board can rise as high as several inches above your head. Snowboarding websites typically have snowboard size calculators. For example, use the snowboard size calculator on Snowlifts.com and input your height, weight, skill level and shoe size to find an appropriate snowboard size.
Height and Weight
When first choosing a board, you’ll want to take your weight into account. A snowboard has no idea how tall you are, but it will feel your weight as soon as you stand on it in snow. If you’re carrying a lot of weight and your snowboard is too short, you’ll sink like a stone in powder. The board doesn’t have enough surface area to carry your weight. If you’re a beanpole and your board is too long, you’ll have problems controlling it on the slope.
The performance of a long board versus a short one also depends on the conditions of the snow. There’s a large amount of air in powder, so not as much of the surface area of your board makes contact with the slope. Unless a certain amount of the board’s surface area touches snow, the board can’t move. For this reason, longer boards are used to ride in powder. The opposite holds true on hard-packed snow or ice. In these conditions, almost the entire surface area of the board is in contact with the slope. Short boards will not accelerate as quickly as long boards in these conditions. In addition, you can cut into ice with a short board because you can apply more force to the edge of the board. If the board is too short, you can end up spinning like a top on turns. If the board is too long on hard pack, you can pick up too much speed and lose control.
Style of Riding
There are basically three types of boards – short, medium and long – which suit different styles of snowboarding. Freestyle boards are wide and short and turn up at the tip and tail. This structure enables freestyle riders to move forward and backward and perform tricks. The width is required to mount bindings straight across the board without toe and heel drag. Medium-sized boards do well in both powder and hard pack. These mountain or freeriding boards tend to be stiffer and narrower than freestyle boards. For racing, riders use long, narrow and stiff boards. The board’s length gives a rider more edge contact in snow and is more stable at high speeds.
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.