Snowboards come in all different shapes and sizes. While these differences are easy to see, there are also subtle differences built into the design of a board that are not as apparent. Flex is one of these, and it’s something every snowboarder should know about.
I’m a certified snowboard instructor who has spent decades on the mountain. I’ve ridden many models and styles of boards over the years, and I’m highly experienced with the different flex ratings.
In this post, I’ll explain what flex is and how it plays a role in the performance of your snowboard. It’s an important consideration to keep in mind whenever you are shopping for a new board.
Here we go!
What is Snowboard Flex?
Snowboard flex is how much bend a given board will have in it. This is usually related to the bend from the tip to the tail and relates to torsional or twisting, like wringing out a sponge.
Flex is typically described as a number on a scale from 1 to 10. One is the softest flex rating, and ten is the highest. But you’ll rarely see a rating that is a 1 or a 10, and things generally fall in between 3 and 9.
I’ll explain what these numbers mean in more detail in the sections below, but keep in mind that the ratings can vary from brand to brand because there are no exact rules to this rating system.
A soft flex means that a snowboard will have more bend to it. Softer boards are usually better for beginners because of this. They are more forgiving and easier to turn than a stiffer board. Anything under four on the flex rating scale would be a soft board.
If you have never snowboarded before, you want to make sure that you get a soft board. This will make your experience more enjoyable because you will be able to learn the basic maneuvers easier.
A softer flex is also ideal for freestyle riding. Most boards you see in the terrain park will have a softer flex because this increases its playfulness and makes it better suited to performing tricks in the air and on other features.
A soft flex board, or freestyle board, usually has an equal amount of flex throughout the entire board, so you will get similar performance when riding regularly or switching. They also bend so they can jib and butter with ease.
Softer boards won’t be as good outside of the park or for more experienced riders who want to tackle challenging terrain. If you aren’t a beginner or park rat, think about a stiffer option.
Medium flex is probably the most common flex for a snowboard to have. Medium flex will fall between 4 and 7 on the flex rating scale. Medium flex gives you good versatility and is most common on all-mountain boards.
If you are an intermediate rider who wants to explore new terrain, medium flex is the way to go. Even if you are an advanced rider, medium flex gives you the ability to go just about anywhere without thinking twice.
Medium flex boards give you versatility because they have performance characteristics of both soft and stiff boards. They are soft enough to be slightly forgiving and playful while also stiff enough to perform better in more challenging terrain.
This versatile performance makes them the ideal board for all-mountain riding. They are capable in terrain from powder to the park and are a good option for any rider who wants a one-board quiver.
The only real downside of medium flex is that because it is more versatile, it doesn’t really specialize in one particular style. If you want a freestyle or freeride style board, medium flex probably isn’t going to cut it.
However, nearly every snowboarder will have a medium flex board in their quiver. They can be a ton of fun, and the added versatility makes them a great option to travel with when you don’t know what conditions you’ll be riding.
Stiff flex is best for challenging terrain and experienced riders. Any board with a 7 to 10 rating on the flex scale is a stiff board. This is the best flex for freeriding and will allow you to eat up challenging conditions and push yourself to the limits.
If you like to explore the backcountry, charge through steep and deep terrain, or generally go big and hard every time on the mountain, you’ll want a stiff board so you can do it all. They will give you aggressive, high-performance characteristics.
Read More: Best Snowboards for Backcountry
Stiff flex boards are best left for experienced advanced-level riders. While some intermediate-ability riders can handle a stiffer board, beginners should stick to a softer option, for sure. It’s too much board to handle if you don’t know what you are doing.
A stiffer board gives you greater control at higher speeds. The board won’t chatter or bounce as much, allowing it to grip the snow very effectively, even under challenging conditions. It will also be much more stable than softer boards.
Stiffer freeride-style boards will also usually have a softer tip and a stiffer tail. This allows you to float over powder without compromising edge bite and control in more challenging conditions. It also makes the board a little more difficult to control if you are inexperienced.
Stiffer boards can also be better for larger riders. This is because they provide more stability. If you try a medium board and it seems to chatter or feels loose when you ride, you might want to consider a stiffer board, even if you don’t have advanced-level skills.
A Blend of Flex
As you can see, the flex of a board will change how it performs pretty significantly. You’ll want to match your style and ability level accordingly, so you know what your board will do when you are out on the mountain.
Experienced snowboarders will usually have more than one snowboard to have the ability to match the conditions on the mountain. I have soft, medium, and stiff boards, and I choose which one to use every time I ride.
Having multiple boards isn’t an option for everyone. Still, if you really want to take advantage of the snow conditions or enjoy flexibility in your riding styles, it’s a recommended thing to think about.
Many boards out there can cover a lot of ground and have a versatile blend of flex. You can always get a medium-soft or medium-stiff flex board to give a little more aggressive or playful experience without compromising versatility.
If you only want to get one board or are traveling and only want to bring one along, medium is the way to go. This gives you the best of both worlds in terms of performance and playfulness. An all-mountain option will literally allow you to go all over the mountain.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you can always rent a board to see if it has the flex you like before committing to purchasing it. This is an excellent way to assess a board’s advertised flex to make sure it delivers on the snow.
Here are a few quick answers to some common questions relating to snowboard flex.
What flex should my snowboard be?
You should choose your flex based on your ability level or the riding style you like to do the most. A softer flex is generally better for beginners and freestyle riders. A stiffer flex is better for advanced riders or for freeriding. Medium flex gives you extra versatility.
Is a stiffer snowboard better for beginners?
No. A softer snowboard is almost always better for beginners. Stiff boards take more skill to control, and they can easily be too much board for a beginner to handle. A softer board will be more forgiving and allow you to learn the basics of the sport more quickly.
What snowboard has the most flex?
Freestyle snowboards will usually have the most flex. They are designed to be playful and bendy, so you can control them easier in the air while also staying in control. Any board with a 3 rating on the flex scale will be one of the most flexible you can get.
Is it better to have a stiff or soft snowboard?
This depends on the type of riding you like to do and your ability level. If you are an experienced rider, you’ll probably want to have several different boards with different flex ratings. If you are a beginner, it’s better to go softer.
Flex is an important thing to keep in mind when you are choosing which snowboard to ride. It plays a significant role in how the board will perform, and different flexes will have different on-snow characteristics.
If you are a beginner, go with a softer board for sure. As your abilities improve, you can begin to increase the stiffness of your board. If you want all-mountain versatility, go with a medium flex board that can do a little bit of everything.About Lorraine