A Winter Guide For Buying Essential Snowboarding Gear

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A Winter Guide For Buying Essential Snowboarding Gear

If fanning through soft powder as you carve a fresh trail into mountain slopes is what's on your mind this winter, but plain old skiing has lost its thrill, then perhaps snowboarding is for you.

Strapping your feet onto a slim wafer of wood is only the first step. Snowboarding can be a gear-lover's hobby, but knowing what's essential and what's just expensive is the key to starting the right way. You don't want to be spending the kids' college tuition on high-end snowboarding gear if you're just starting out. On the other hand, you want to acquire the right equipment to make your first runs enjoyable and safe. 

1. Board

Start with a short board. These provide a measure of control which is harder to attain when the length of your snowboard stretches to medium or long. Measure a snowboard by standing next to it. A short board for an individual should, when stood on its end, reach to about the rider's collarbone. Width-wise, your boots should span the board edge to edge.

Beginners want what's known as a freeride board. Freeride boards are a bit more rigid than the other types of boards, which can be built for tricks or racing. It lends the learner a little more room for mistakes when it comes to maneuvering and staying upright.

The price of your first board can vary tremendously. Prices start at around $200 and can soar to more than $1,000. You can certainly save some money by shopping for used gear, especially through online auctions. But be careful: Clear up all the details about the item before bidding. You want to be sure that there are photos of the board and an established way to contact the seller if the item arrives in shakier condition than the Internet advertisement suggested. Watch out for exorbitant shipping fees, too.

2. Boots

Snowboard boots are specially built for the kinds of movements you'll learn during those early rides. For beginners, flexibility can be an advantage so try a soft boot over a hard one. A good pair will cost you $200 to $300. A great way to shave some dollars off that price: shop at the very beginning of a season when retailers tend to discount last year's leftovers.

3. Bindings

These attach the boarder's boots to the plank. You can choose either strap-in or step-in bindings. Some think the straps allow more flexibility and control. Bindings can run about $60 on the low end, to high-end types for more than $400. The average price of a decent-quality set runs $150 to $250. Again, going with the previous year's models can cut the price, sometimes by more than half.

4. Stomp Pads And Leashes

The stomp pad is a small piece of traction that gets attached to your board just in front of the rearmost binding. You use it to clean snow off the underside of your boots and to help guide your board when you're not strapped into it. The leash runs from your front binding to the corresponding boot; it keeps the board from sliding away when it gets away from you. Most stomp pads cost under $25 and leashes run $5 to $30.

5. Helmet

Risk-seeking athletes will want a full shell model, while the more tentative snowboarder can select the short shell. Typically, expect to pay $70 to $150 for a name-brand piece of headgear.

6. Boardwear

For outerwear, plan on procuring goggles, gloves, a jacket, pants and thermal underwear/socks. This category of gear is very much dictated by personal taste and the variables of where you plan to do your boarding. It is estimated that you'll sink about $250 into good gloves and eye wear, and another $350 into average quality boarding threads.

All of this certainly adds up, doesn't it?

If snowboarding is your next outdoor sport, the price tag for a first-year kit can run you $1,000 to $1,500. And that's before you step onto the slopes with a new lift-pass in hand.

Consider renting. A typical day at the mountain for renters can cost $30 to $40 for the board and boots — but bring your own outerwear and goggles — and anticipate paying about $60 to $70 for a lift pass. If you shop around, you can find deals where you get a board and boots, an afternoon on the mountain, and even a room for under $100.

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