When standing in line for a ski lift, it’s hard not to notice that most skiers and snowboarders are fit and slender in weight. This isn’t to say that larger people aren’t able to snowboard and shouldn’t give the sport a try, however, heavy weight does have its implications for snowboarding.
With the right muscle build and core strength, snowboarding is more about balance than weight and is entirely possible for heavy riders. However, fat or obese riders can struggle due to the impact of weight on the muscles and joints, as well as potentially reduced flexibility and fitness.
Is there a weight limit for snowboarding?
While snowboarding is no doubt easier for lighter riders who are physically in shape, heavier riders who are fit and flexible can enjoy snowboarding.
A person weighing around 250 pounds, relatively young (e.g. under 40) and fit is typically able to learn to ride without issues.
Learning to snowboard involves lots of falling, sitting, and getting back up while strapped onto the board. Continuous bending to strap or unstrap bindings can put uncomfortable pressure on an overweight rider’s stomach and knees.
Snowboarding requires a level of flexibility and fitness that might suit athletically inclined heavy riders but not most riders over 270 pounds.
A good rule of thumb is that if you’re able to bend over and tie your shoelaces while standing up without pain or contortion, you should be flexible enough to strap in and out of your bindings.
On the other hand, if you struggle to go for a jog or a walk, you’re probably too out of shape for snowboarding. Cardio fitness is an essential requirement for snowboarding.
As an overweight person who might have high cholesterol and blood pressure issues, it’s essential to make sure you can breathe at a high altitude whilst doing physical exercise with several layers of clothing on.
Snowboarding as a heavy (non-obese) rider
The following are a few tips that heavier riders often have for newer snowboarders.
Be ready for a lot of falling / getting up
When learning, be prepared to spend the majority of the first few days with your butt in the snow. It will take energy to get up from falling and strapping yourself in.
This is a reality for all beginner boarders, however it takes more effort for a bigger person to stand up from the ground, which means you may run out of steam sooner.
Once you’re up and riding though, snowboarding will be a lot mellower on your body, assuming you aren’t riding very aggressively.
Choose appropriate riding style & conditions
Bigger guys might struggle to ride in certain conditions other than groomers. For example, a heavier person may not be able to float as well through deep powder (sink more).
Park and pipe are also not ideal for bigger riders, as they are best ridden on shorter and softer boards that don’t suit large riders.
Don’t go too hard too fast
If you’re overweight and not athletically inclined, you may not be used to the kind of strain snowboarding puts on your body. It is generally advised to take lessons until you feel comfortable riding solo.
Snowboarding bindings don’t have a quick-release setting like skis do. Injuries can be worse and it can be easy to pull a ligament if you go too hard too soon.
Ride the lift solo
When approaching a ski lift, position yourself to take your own lift and sit in the center of the seat to avoid weighing down one side of the lift too much.
Snowboarding as a tall guy
Snowboarding is a lot easier for taller riders than for overweight ones. Since your center of gravity is higher, however, you need to choose your gear accordingly.
With regards to board size, while for a 6’1 rider, a 157 – 163 cm board usually works well, riders over 6’4” will generally do better on board sizes 160cm to 170cm.
Taller riders need to get low to the snow to transfer their weight and propel into a carve. A longer board will better accommodate their wide stance.
If you’re tall AND relatively heavy, a wider snowboard can be a good option. Also, your board should be wide enough to support the length of your feet so as to help prevent toe and heel catch.
Examples of solid wide boards suitable for taller riders include:
- Arbor Coda – evo
- Rome Mechanic – evo
- Lib Tech T Rice Pro – evo, Amazon
- Lib Tech Skunk Ape – evo, Amazon
- Burton Trick Pony (older)
Tall riders of intermediate level may go for a slightly shorter wide board for more agility and speed.
Best snowboard setup for bigger riders
Up-sizing your gear is a must for bigger snowboarders. A larger board will have additional surface area to help distribute your weight. If your board is too short for your weight, the board will feel loose and uncontrollable at high speeds.
You’ll also want a stiffer board to handle your body weight, as a soft board will over-flex and cause you to catch an edge.
The best snowboard profile for a heavy rider is typically a hybrid rocker, which involves rocker between the feet, camber underfoot, and a rockered flick towards the tips.
As a result, the area under your feet only makes contact with the snow when weighted, giving the heavy rider a chance to ride without digging their toe and heel edges from the get-go – as the board has to flex a certain degree before touching the snow. This results in a more stable ride and better float through soft snow.
Here are some typical snowboard size recommendations for a heavy rider:
|Rider weight||Snowboard size|
|200 – 210 lbs||158 – 165cm|
|210+ lbs||159 – 168cm Wide|
|250+ lbs (fit)||168+cm Wide|
The following boards are good generally good options for bigger riders:
- The Lib Tech Skunk Ape is made for bigger riders and even comes in a size 172. It’s a hybrid rocker wide enough to avoid toe drag and is built using ultra-light materials to compensate for the weight in size. Evo, Amazon
- The GNU Carbon Credit and Riders Choice are hybrid rocker boards built to withstand weight. The Carbon Credit is ideal for beginners while the Riders Choice is optimal for intermediate riders. Evo, Amazon
- The K2 Slayblade (older) is a stiff all-mountain camber board that comes in large sizes. It’s well-suited for more advanced heavy riders.
- The Never Summer Heritage is another stiff hybrid rocker that comes in wide (X) and extra wide (DF – drag-free) sizes. Evo, Amazon
- The Nitro Magnum also has a stiff and wide base and comes in sizes 159 to 171cm. Its sintered base makes it a fast option for bigger riders. Amazon
Be careful not to size up too dramatically as you might lose control over your board, adding to the difficulty of learning.
Best bindings & boots for heavy riders
Getting durable bindings is just as important as the snowboard you choose. Even if you don’t ride too aggressively, solid stiff bindings should last you a lot longer if you’re a heavy rider.
Using soft bindings on a stiff board will give you a less responsive ride and can take a toll on your ankles.
The following are some good stiff bindings:
- Nitro Phantom – Evo – Amazon
- Burton C60 (older)
- Ride El Hefe – Evo
- Rome Targa – Amazon
- Rome Arsenal (older)
Overweight riders who really struggle to bend over and strap-in might benefit from step-in bindings. These don’t require manual straps, instead, your boots click into your bindings when you apply pressure.
On the other hand, the biggest drawback of step-ins is their limited stiffness. Thus, it’s a tradeoff between easier strap-in and better control while riding.
Snowboard boots & clothes for bigger riders
Snowboarding in comfortable boots is essential. Don’t skimp on price for boots and try on different models and brands until you find a boot that fits your foot perfectly.
Bigger feet and ankles will take the brunt of your riding and the combination of being overweight and wearing uncomfortable boots is a recipe for disaster. Quick tie boots with a boa string are a good option for easy lacing.
Finding large enough outerwear generally isn’t easy. Ski pants rarely come in huge sizes. Burton, Volcom, Columbia, North Face, Bonfire, and Special Blend do make clothing up to size XXXL, but these come in limited stock due to the relatively low demand for these sizes.
Snowboarding is suitable for heavy riders as long as you have the physical strength and flexibility for the sport. Finding the right gear can be a challenge, but you’ll generally find a wide range of longer, stiffer and wider boards to choose from.
Severely overweight people with limited core strength and/or flexibility may have a hard time riding and even struggle to stand up on a snowboard.
Snowboarding without a minimally athletic inclination can be dangerous for yourself as well as others on the mountain. It may be a good idea to get into a weight loss program and build up your fitness before you hit the slopes.