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Cheap vs Expensive Snowboard: How Different Are they?

Cheap vs Expensive Snowboard: How Different Are they?

If you’re looking a to buy a new snowboard, you are probably faced with an endless range of options, with prices ranging from super low to insanely expensive.

But are there real difference between a cheap and an expensive board? Do you always get a better shape, better level of craftsmanship, better materials in a pricier model?

Expensive snowboards tend to use higher quality materials and offer specialized features that result in high performance for specific types of riding and conditions. Cheaper snowboards use less expensive materials and simpler construction methods, but those with good shapes can ride really well.

In this post, I take an in-depth look at how low-end and high-end snowboards are different, and how to determine the best choice for you regardless of your skill level.

Differences between high-end and low-end snowboard

Imagine we’re trying to choose between a relatively cheap snowboard like the Salomon Craft ($420) and a high-end model like the Burton Custom ($840), the Jones Flagship ($700) or the Lib Tech T.Rice ($700).

Let’s look at some fundamental differences that exist between an inexpensive board and a top-of-the-range type of snowboard. These include:

  • Materials and construction
  • Specialization
  • Brand name
  • Performance
  • Durability
  • Flex and weight

Materials and construction

Higher-end snowboards tend to be produced using higher quality raw materials and better craftsmanship and technology.

Pricier boards use higher grade, expensive wood cores, more sophisticated fiberglass, carbon fiber strips for improved torsional stiffness, stronger and lighter plexiglass weaves.

Some pricier boards have wood cores with a specific grain direction in their wood layers to achieve a unique feel in the snowboard.

Some use exotic and durable materials for lamination, and higher quality base and top sheet materials Newer boards also use eco-friendly materials.

Other differences in construction between cheaper and pricier boards may include sintered bases (with high-quality ptex) vs extruded bases, edges with more stainless steel, sidewall vs cap construction, and the presence of the magnetraction feature.

Cheap boards will often have a lower quality base making it slower and more prone to scratches. Some may not have a metal edge protection around the nose and tail, resulting in easier chipping. The absence of carbon stringers also result in lower pop and response for the board.

On cheaper boards, the edges tend to rip out a lot sooner. Cheaper wood cores and cap sidewall construction also make them less robust. A higher-end board will typically be stronger and lighter compared to a cheaper board of the same size.

The shapes of cheaper boards are also generally not as good for high speed and high pressure moves. Newer leading-edge shapes have an R&D cost factored in, resulting in a higher price tag for the board.

The geographic location where the board is produced also differs between cheaper and high-range snowboards. Boards made in North America or Europe are usually better built and last longer than Asian-built ones.


Another key difference between cheap and expensive snowboards is that the latter are generally specifically built for a certain type of riding. They perform very well is particular conditions e.g. park, ice, powder, etc. Their weight and shape is tuned for certain things, e.g. tricks or carving.

More expensive snowboards are more specialized and will often not do great outside of their target use. Each model combines shape and materials to perform well for that given type of riding.

The features of a great carving board are different from a jump board, a powder board, or a jib board – although there is always some overlap.

Note that a beginner rider may not be able to really feel the difference between a high-end and a cheap board. If anything, s/he may find the expensive board more challenging due to the specialized shape and stiffness. See also Can a beginner ride an advanced board?

The beginner / intermediate / expert classification often used for snowboards can be misleading. Snowboards are better characterized by their shape, technology, profile, base, etc, which combine to make each board better for certain types of riding vs others.

Brand name

A snowboard may also be perceived as high-end due to brand recognition and marketing, or even graphics. A signature model for a famous pro rider can push the price up even for a snowboard that doesn’t have outstanding, top-of-the-line quality.

This can influence the buyer’s decision of how much to spend on that board.

Note that many snowboard manufacturers get the same materials from the same suppliers and simply add their name on the final products, some of which are very similar across brands.


High-performance snowboards – stiffer and more responsive boards – are generally pricier. The added stiffness also gives these boards more pop and better float in deep snow. They are typically more durable and have more R&D effort put into them.

These boards, while they offer high performance, are generally less forgiving when carving and landing tricks. You also need more strength and better technique to push through turns.

Boards with tech features like Magnetraction (which can make a big difference in ice) also result in higher prices.

See also: Can A Beginner Ride An Advanced Snowboard?


Durability is an important differentiator between cheaper and high-quality snowboards. A cheaper board may have signs of wear after just a few sessions, while high-quality boards may last up to 100 sessions.

Some cheap boards will delaminate very fast even with mellow use, while high-end boards will often last for years despite great abuse (tricks and jumps).

Nicer boards with sidewall construction allow for more robust repairs that will last longer.

See also: How Long Does A Snowboard Last?

Flex and weight

Boards at the higher end of the spectrum are often heavier and stiffer due to the added materials.

That said, some Burton models are engineered to be lighter resulting in higher prices.

Now that’s we’ve see the primary differences between a cheap and an expensive snowboard, let’s look at which is a better option.

See also:
Jones Flagship vs Lib Tech T.Rice Orca
Lib Tech Box Knife vs Capita DOA
Burton Flight Attendant vs Custom

Is it worth buying an expensive board?

A more expensive snowboard doesn’t always mean a better board. While a low-end board will have less features and possibly an extruded base, it may still be a great board for specific uses. You generally can’t know how well a board will ride based on price alone.

There is usually going to be some correlation between price and performance as higher-end boards use higher-quality materials. However, this doesn’t always result in a board that will ride better.

A snowboard’s shape (length, width, sidecut, nose and tail, camber profile) is as much a determinant of performance as the materials used in its construction. Shape plays a huge role in riding dynamics. Some boards with great shapes but built with cheaper materials ride really well.

A well-designed affordable snowboard from a lesser-known brand that is built with decent materials can be a great option. Of course, this doesn’t apply to Walmart-type snowboards.

What’s your skill level?

Cheap entry-level boards from big brands will work fine for beginners, but the low features and tech on these boards can make your experience unenjoyable after the initial learning stage.

If you get a high-end snowboard (think Burton Mission or other full camber advanced boards) when still a complete beginner, chances are it will be inadequate for your current skills and make your progression more challenging. Unlike learner models, high-end boards are very unforgiving.

That said, learning on a higher-end board can help you learn good technique from the start, as it will require you to up your skill level faster and punish you more for bad form.

Investing in a nice board becomes worth it as your skills improve. As they do, you’re able to notice the differences in flex, pop, and kick when riding park, for example. You appreciate the board’s edge to edge behavior when carving, and its stability at speed – it helps you ride faster without you realizing it.

Once you’re past the initial learning stage, you may want to consider getting a higher-end snowboard as opposed to choosing a cheap one and upgrading later – which may end up costing you more.

What’s your riding style?

Whether it’s worth investing in an expensive snowboard also depends on the type of riding you do. If you mainly ride park, urban, or trees, your boards may get a lot of abuse and you may go through them every couple seasons. If so, going for a cheaper board makes sense.

See also: Why do skiers keep running their skis over my Snowboard in lift lines?

Expensive vs mid-range snowboard

if trying to decide between a mid-range snowboard (say $500 – $600) and a higher-end one ($700+), it’s worth noting the tech used in their construction is generally comparable.

A higher-end snowboard may have additional carbon fiber and Kevlar stringers, but these materials are actually relatively cheap – they were long used in snowboards of all kinds of price.

A lot of the tech talk is mostly marketing. In reality, the technology doesn’t vary much between a really expensive board and a middle-range one.

What might differentiate a pricy board from a mid-range one are things like the attention paid to wood grain, or the use of different woods for varying flex on different parts of the board.

Before choosing the expensive option vs the mid-range one, make sure you are truly able to take advantage of these high-end construction qualities.

See also: How Much Should You Pay For A Used Snowboard?

Final thoughts

In summary, whether you should choose an expensive snowboard or a cheaper one depends on factors such as whether your skill level will allow you to feel the difference, the specific types of riding you do and where you ride, how often you ride, and how often you like to switch snowboards.

A cheaper board can be a good choice if it has a great shape, even if it lacks some of the high-end materials and tech found in expensive boards.

The best way to pick a board is to try as many as you can across different price ranges, e.g. by attending a demo day on the mountain.

See also: Are Old Snowboards Any Good?