If you’re a newer snowboarder looking to buy a snowboard, you may be tempted to choose a board based on brand, looks, or graphics. You may also have found a great deal for a board categorized as intermediate or advanced.
Is it a good or bad idea to use an intermediate or advanced snowboard as a learner vs a beginner board? What is the difference anyway, and how will that affect your ability to ride and progress?
Snowboards specifically labeled as beginner boards are generally softer and more forgiving than intermediate boards. However, intermediate boards tend to be better quality and more durable, and some are flexy and flat enough for a learner to learn and progress on for some time.
See also: Cheap vs Expensive Snowboard
Beginner vs advanced snowboard: what’s the difference?
Let’s first take a brief look at the main differences between beginner, intermediate, and advanced snowboards. These come down to flex, profile and shape, construction, and price.
The main thing to know is that beginner boards tend to be softer which makes them more forgiving and less likely to catch an edge. Advanced snowboards are generally stiffer – except for specialized freestyle boards which also have a soft flex.
As a result of the softer flex, a beginner board will be less stable at higher speed. Most learners, however, tend to ride at relatively slow speeds.
Note that as a new rider, it’s important to get the right length snowboard in relation to your weight. Longer boards are stiffer, shorter boards are softer. A board too long/stiff will be harder to learn on.
See also: Are stiffer snowboards harder to ride?
Shape & profile
Besides being softer, beginner boards are generally flatter, so the deck bottom and edges have as much contact with the snow as possible for stability. This makes them easy to ride for learners, albeit at the expense of speed.
Some complete beginner boards have a subtle camber at the bottom (instead of being completely flat) with slightly upturned edges in order to reduce the risk of catching an edge.
Intermediate snowboards, in contrast, often have some concave, reducing the contact surface on the snow and making them faster. As mentioned, some of these boards also tend to be stiffer.
Advanced boards also have a sharper, less forgiving sidecut radius and other advanced shape features such as tapering in the nose and tail. These make the board quicker and more reactive, but require much better control from the rider.
Advanced boards are built for specific riding styles (freestyle/park, backcountry, etc) which affects their profile and sidewall. Beginner boards are more all around.
Materials & construction
Another key difference between beginner and more advanced snowboards is construction. This includes things like carbon for light weight and stiffness, Kevlar for impact strength, bamboo for flex properties and strength, etc.
These materials are expensive and less likely to be used in budget beginner snowboards. Beginner boards often have a poplar core or even foam cores for really cheap boards from cheap brands. More advanced boards are generally lighter than beginner boards.
Beginner boards also often have a more durable and low-maintenance extruded base as opposed to a sintered base for advanced boards (except for park boards) which makes them faster but require more care.
Besides technology, manufacturing quality, precision and consistency are also differentiating factors between beginner and more advanced boards.
New beginner snowboards can generally be bought between $200 and $450, while intermediate snowboards have a higher price point around $600.
Some riders suggest not paying full price for a beginner setup, but instead getting a model from the previous year at 30 to 50% off.
Intermediate vs advanced?
The main differences between so-called intermediate and advanced boards also lie in stiffness and camber profile. A stiff, full-camber groomer board will generally be considered advanced while a medium-flex, low-camber, or flat board will be intermediate.
The reason is, the stiffer and the more cambered a board, the less forgiving it will be, but the more stable and maneuverable at higher speeds (advanced riders).
Can a beginner ride an intermediate board ?
A beginner can ride any kind of board including a stiffer intermediate board, however she may have a harder time initially compared to a soft beginner board.
As mentioned, more advanced boards (including intermediate) are stiffer and have more camber. This makes them more reactive and faster and requires more skills and strength to avoid catching an edge and crashing.
It will take most beginners a bit of effort to adapt to an intermediate board. Tail pressing, for example, is more challenging.
That said, an intermediate board with a stiffness rating of 3 or 4 and mild (or hybrid) camber will generally be soft and forgiving enough for a beginner, while offering solid lasting construction that you can progress with. A good example of such a deck is the Yes Basic.
A beginner should generally be able to handle something like the Burton Custom with its medium flex, although it won’t be as forgiving as a beginner board.
An intermediate-advanced board with a stiffness above 5, on the other hand, would be quite challenging for a beginner and might get in the way of initial progression.
Likewise, a super stiff board or a specialized asymmetrical power board is generally not a good choice for a learner.
Beginner boards are flexy both lengthwise and torsionnally. For this reason, if you start going faster early in your progression, you will start to lose edge hold due to the flex affecting the angle of the edge on the snow. To avoid this, you may want to switch to a stiffer deck.
As a result, some riders suggest that a beginner who will be riding on a regular basis should probably get an intermediate board. You might get bored of green runs and even blue runs relatively fast, and you’ll want to progress to blacks This is where a beginner board may hinder your progression.
That said, riders warn against opting for a really advanced board as a beginner – unless you exclusively ride on well-groomed terrain. Such a board gets extremely challenging in terms of weight distribution and edge control once you start hitting uneven terrain and powder. This can potentially lead to serious injuries.
Should I buy a cheaper beginner board or an intermediate board?
The most common approach is to start with a beginner board to facilitate learning to control your turns. Once you’re comfortable on the red slopes and have control including on ice pack, you’ll naturally want to move to another board.
Some riders, on the other hand, feel that beginner boards are simply budget boards, some of them useless. What matters is the features which are important for a beginner, such as soft flex, center rocker, early rise (raised nose and tail), triple base technology, and higher degree base level (edge angle).
Regarding the latter feature, increasing the base level makes the edge more beginner-friendly. New boards generally come with either 0 or 1 degree base level, but you can have a shop modify that bevel to make the board’s edge more uplifted (up to 3 degrees).
You may choose to learn on a more advanced snowboard that’s specifically built for your expected riding style, even though you may not use it to its fullest while learning. This can save you money in the future as you won’t need to replace the board for a few years.
As mentioned, the Burton Custom is very beginner-friendly that can be a great choice for a learning rider. It’s a versatile board with decent flex that can be used for park or fast downhill. The only caveat is its relatively high price – a beginner may prefer a cheaper option such as a Capita snowboard.
Examples of good snowboards for a beginner
As discussed above, one valid approach for a beginner is to choose a medium stiff intermediate board. Again, the Burton Custom is suitable for any level. Avoiding the full camber version, a more forgiving albeit playful variant is the Custom Flying V with its more mellow camber.
The Lib Tech Skate Banana with reverse camber and magnetraction is another example of a suitable board for a beginner that isn’t officially a “beginner” board.
The Nitro Lectra is a popular beginner and budget women’s snowboard. Meanwhile, the older Rossignol Frenemy is an intermediate board suitable for a beginner thanks to its forgiving medium flex, camrock profile, and magnetraction for good edge hold on ice.
The Rossignol One is the men’s equivalent and is also a good beginner option.
The Burton Talent Scout camber version is another valid option for women to learn on. It’s a quality all-mountain board with medium flex and an asymmetrical sidecut (short radius / frostbite grip edge).
The Jones Explorer is another nice catch-free and easy option for a beginner, with medium flex, mild camber, and pronounced nose rocker. The Jones Aviator, on the other hand, is super stiff and bouncy with a lot of camber, making it prone to edge catching and hence less suitable for beginners.
Beginners can without a doubt learn on a an “intermediate” board (including an older one) as long as it’s a decent quality board and has key features that make it more forgiving than a truly advanced board (medium flex, subtle camber, grip features etc). As you progress, you’ll need more stiffness for holding your edge at higher speed.