Should You Buy a Snowboard Online or In-Person?

You’ve fallen in love with snowboarding, and you’re ready to buy one — what’s next? Will you get the right board, and a better deal, online or in a store?

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You’ve fallen in love with snowboarding, and you’re ready to buy one — what’s next? Will you get the right board, and a better deal, online or in a store?

For most riders, the answer is a personal preference. If you know the kind of snowboard you want, you can do a lot of research online and you’ll have an infinite selection to choose from. If you need some guidance, talking through your choice at a local shop may be helpful.

Additionally, your experience level, your commitment to hunting for deals, your interest in trying boards before you buy them, all will impact the choice you make, not to mention the kind of board you’re buying. You might think about buying a splitboard differently than buying a freestyle board for instance.

I’ve been snowboarding for more than 15 years, and (for better or worse) I buy a LOT of snowboards. I mostly buy online, but I’ve ridden hand-me-down snowboards, bought used snowboards, won free snowboards, and bought from my local shop, and every one of those approaches has pros and cons.

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‍Where Should You Buy A Snowboard?

The answer to this question is, of course, that it depends. It depends on your experience level as a rider and your knowledge level about snowboards, what’s most convenient, what’s cheapest, and what kind of businesses you want to support.

Generally, more experienced riders may lean towards the wide selection online and the convenience of the process. New snowboarders may find the guidance they can get in a shop and the possibility of being able to try a board helpful.

So which of those categories do you fall in? Here are some questions I would ask myself before buying a board online:

  • Do I know what kind of snowboarder I am (freestyle, all-mountain, backcountry)?
  • Do I know what kind of snowboard I like to ride (freestyle, all-mountain, powder)?
  • The answer to those first two questions may align or it may not. I know plenty of riders who prefer to ride a freestyle board all over the mountain.
  • Do I have any brand preferences?
  • Have I had the opportunity to ride a variety of snowboards and some of the boards I’m considering purchasing?

If you have a clear answer to most of those questions, there’s a good chance you can find exactly what you’re looking for online. As an example, I’m mostly an all-mountain rider, but I like my boards on the playful side (tending towards freestyle). I’m lucky enough to have a lot of friends who snowboard, so we trade boards for a run sometimes, which helps me get a sense of what’s out there. If you ride with friends a lot, I highly recommend swapping boards occasionally!

I also have two primary brands that I’ve had great experiences with and usually go back to. I find shopping for boards online on an individual brand’s website to be easier than the websites of large retailers. On an individual brand’s website, you can usually almost line their boards up on a spectrum in terms of the qualities they have and easily find the board that’s closest to what you’re looking for.

If all of that sounded like another language to you and you’re a little earlier on in your snowboard career, I highly recommend stopping by your local shop.

Where Should You Buy Your First Snowboard?

First, if you’ve never snowboarded before, I would think about renting a board for your first few times out. As much as I love snowboarding, not everyone does, and I would hate to see you sink hundreds of dollars into a sport you end up not liking. You’ll also have a better sense of the kind of board you want after you’ve ridden a few times. But if you’re ready to buy, I’d bet on doing it in person.

Generally, if you’re new to snowboarding, you’ll benefit from buying a board in person. The experts at your local shop will be able to help you pick out the right board for your skill level and goals and may even let you try a few out.

However, there are a few exceptions to this you should be careful of. If possible, buy from a snowboard-only shop or at least a snowboard and ski shop. Most of the people who work there will be riders themselves and will be knowledgeable and helpful. If you go to a larger outdoor recreation store, you may end up buying a snowboard from an expert in tennis, and you might have been better off doing your own research online.

Additionally, if at all possible, go to a shop that’s actually located at a mountain and will let you test drive your new board. There’s no substitute for actually riding a board — even with the best possible advice and support, if you don’t ride it first, you may end up with something that doesn’t feel right.

Whether you buy online or in-store, buying a snowboard is a big investment, so let’s talk about money.

How Much Should You Spend On A Snowboard?

This depends on how you ride, how often you ride, and what you’re comfortable spending.

Most snowboarders can get a new, quality snowboard for under $600, and a new, serviceable board for under $400. Boards under $200 likely aren't worth the investment. You may be able to get a better deal on a used board, but if it feels too good to be true, it probably is.

Generally, more expensive snowboards are built to survive more abuse. If you’re a racer or you spend a lot of time riding in the backcountry, you may want to invest in a sturdier board that will hold up to your level of riding.

You’ll also want to consider how often you want to replace your snowboard. If you’re a casual rider who only rides 5-10 times per year, a cheaper board will likely work fine for a season or two, but a nicer board might last you four or five.

On the other hand, I ride a lot, and I like to buy a new board at the beginning of every season. So I usually buy a relatively inexpensive board. I know it will be in pretty rough shape by the end of the winter, but it’ll get me there, and I don’t mind beating it up a little because it wasn’t too much of an investment.

Where Can You Get A Good Deal On A Snowboard?

You can find good deals on snowboards both online and in stores. Timing is usually more important than location. Like most sports, the best strategy is to try to buy your snowboard in the off-season.

If you’re looking to get a good deal on a new snowboard, the end of the season is usually the best time to do it. Most websites and stores put that winter’s boards on sale by April to make room for new lines to come in in the summer. You should be able to get at least 25% off and some websites will go as high as 60% or 80% off for particular models.

While buying a ten-year-old board at a yardsale probably isn’t a great idea, not enough changes in snowboard technology year over year to make buying a board at the end of the season a poor investment. In fact, because companies update their boards every year, if you know you like a board, it might not be a bad idea to buy two or three at the end of the year, because it will never be made exactly like that again.

Finding a good deal on a used snowboard is usually more about luck and persistence than about a particular store or time of year. Make a habit of stopping by your local shop to see if they have anything new or if they’ve dropped prices. If you know a board’s been sitting there for two months, you might even be able to negotiate a lower price to take it off their hands.

Used boards can be great options. I just recommend buying from a store that will stand behind its evaluation of a product or buying from someone you know and trust. If you don’t have the knowledge to evaluate the condition a snowboard is in, you don’t want to take a stranger’s word for it.

Should You Rent Or Buy A Snowboard?

Usually renting a snowboard if you’re just learning is the way to go. You can get a board that’s built just for that process and make sure you love the sport. As you get more experienced, renting usually makes less sense.

I think renting for your first time out is a no-brainer. There are snowboards that are built specifically to make the learning process easier. It wouldn’t make sense to buy one of these boards, you’ll outgrow it after a few lessons, but they can make your first time much smoother. Buying, renting, or borrowing a board that’s built for a more experienced rider can make the learning process much more difficult and frustrating.

A lot of shops will rent you a snowboard for the season or possibly offer rent-to-buy options. Again, these aren’t usually built for the learning process. For your first day, I recommend renting from the rental shop at the mountain — your knees and your butt will thank you!

Once you have some experience snowboarding, deciding whether to rent or buy is basically a mathematical question. As we discussed above, you can buy a decent snowboard for about $300. Renting a board for the day often costs more than $60, so using those two numbers, if you snowboard five times in a year, you break even, and any more than that, you’ll save money buying.

If you’re considering seasonal rentals, those will likely cost more than $100, so if you know you’re going to ride for multiple seasons, investing in your own board likely makes sense. The big exception here is with snowboards for children. If your children will need a bigger snowboard every year, a seasonal rental may be a great option.

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