Everyone has their own snowboarding style.
Whether you’re just beginning or have decades of riding under your belt, each individual boarder has their own flow that shows up as an on-snow form of expression.
The sport allows for quite a bit of creativity. That’s one reason why it is so great.
Outside of your individual riding style, there are also broader classifications within snowboarding that describe how you might like to ride.
Two of those styles worth looking into, as they are often confused due to their somewhat similar names, are freestyle and freeride. Let’s dive into the distinction between them here.
Why Does Style Matter?
From the outside looking in, the different styles of snowboarding simply describe how you like to ride. This comes down to the different types of terrain you enjoy the most, as well as the maneuvers and tricks you most often perform.
You don’t have to classify yourself into one style over another (although that is a style in and of itself known as all-mountain), but the snowboard industry has become specialized in a way that offers different equipment to match different styles.
Freestyle and freeride snowboarding styles both have different characteristics, and there’s equipment built to specifically match these styles.
If you want to focus on one style over the other, getting the proper board or boots can really help you perform better.
Freestyle snowboarding is all about tricks and high-level aerial maneuvers. This style is pretty much synonymous with the terrain park, but it can expand outside of it as well.
Every feature you’re familiar with in the park falls under the freestyle riding category. From catching huge airs to hitting rails, freestyle is all about learning new maneuvers and pushing your limits in the park.
This style has been heavily influenced by skateboard culture, as evident by the rise in the halfpipe’s popularity. The feature is a staple at any quality terrain park and serves as an official Olympic event.
As I said above though, elements of freestyle riding can extend out of the park and into other areas of the mountain as well. Any jump, jib, or spin you perform can technically be classified as freestyle snowboarding.
If you love to learn new tricks, even if you have to work on them for days or weeks before you finally stomp the landing, you most likely consider yourself a freestyle rider.
Freestyle is popular all over the world and can potentially have a longer season than other styles as you don’t need as much snow in the park as you do the rest of the mountain.
If you’re looking to get set up with freestyle equipment to help you perfect new tricks and go huge, there are some things you want to look out for in the type of board you get.
A freestyle snowboard will almost always have a true twin shape that allows you to easily perform all your tricks in either direction. The board is symmetrical and caters to riding switch better than other styles.
Freestyle boards are softer in flex than other styles, which makes them great for jibbing, pressing, and buttering. If you’re an aggressive pipe rider you might want a little more stiffness.
However, that will still be on the medium-soft side of the flex scale.
Freestyle boards are also usually shorter to allow for easier spins and aerials. A shorter board is easier to handle, making it ideal when you’re focused on tricks or new maneuvers.
Unlike freestyle, freeride snowboarding is a bit harder to define.
In a broad sense, it means you like to go all over the mountain and enjoy a variety of conditions, features, and terrains. Some riders classify it as pursuing terrain that’s harder to access, which often means chasing big lines in the backcountry and off-piste situations.
An easy way to think about freeriding is anything that’s in a more natural setting than a groomed resort-type of run.
You can still perform tricks and high-level maneuvers when you’re freeriding, but instead of hitting a manicured jump in the park, you are going to bomb off of a cornice or other natural feature that presents itself on the mountain.
If you’ve ever watched a snowboarding video where people go off a big cliff or haul down a line that’s only accessible by helicopter, then you’ve watched freeride snowboarding.
As with freestyle, freeriding has its own style of board. You don’t have to get a freeride specific board to pursue this style, but there are some things to look out for that can help you perform better in situations that fall under this type of riding.
A freeride snowboard will usually have more of a directional shape than a twin shape. That means the board will have better performance when you’re riding in your normal stance than when going switch.
Since freeriding can be more aggressive in nature, and as you’re often tackling big mountain conditions, a directional shape can increase performance.
A stiffer board is better for freeriding as well. Less flex is more responsive and allows you to navigate rapidly changing conditions.
A stiff board also has better edge control. When you are high up on a steep face with no ski patrol nearby, the more control you have, the better. Increased stiffness also means that your board will remain more stable at high speeds.
Freeride snowboards are also longer than freestyle boards. A longer board will allow you to ride faster and is generally more stable than shorter options. The board’s length is related to your height and weight as well.
You always want your freeride setup to be longer, as that will match the conditions you’ll encounter outside of the park and beyond normal resort riding situations.
Both freestyle and freeride snowboarding are both fun, popular snowboarding styles.
If you’re just a beginner, you should explore every riding style to see what you like and what you don’t. If you are experienced and know your favorite style, make sure you get the best equipment to match your pursuits on the mountain.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what style you like. All that matters is that you’re having fun.About Lorraine