Snowboard Shape

There are 3 main shape options you need to be aware of when buying a snowboard.

The differences revolve around where the bindings are placed on the board (if they’re “set back” or not) and differences width of the nose and tail.

Before we go any further, it’s important to understand what is meant by ‘set back’.   If a board is set back the binding holes are closer to the tail of the board.  The distance they are set back is usually 13mm (0.5 inches) though it can be 25 mm (1 inch) on some powder boards.    If a board is not set back, it means the distance from the nose of the board to the front binding holes is the exact same as from the tail to the rear binding holes.

As you may have noticed from the other articles on this site, there are many aspects to choosing a snowboard.  The shape is among the most important because it changes how the board rides.

Below is a chart showing the options:

Set Back Not Set Back
Directional Shape Directional / Tapered Directional
Twin Shape Directional Twin True twin


Directional boards are set back and have a wider nose than tail.  The difference may be hard to see with the naked eye, but in the world of snowboards, millimeters matter.  Having a wider nose makes the board easy to turn.  Directional boards are always all-mountain boards.  They can be used in the park, but a park specialist would never ride one.

If most of your snowboarding is all-mountain based, you don’t spend a lot of time in the park, and are looking for a board that is easy to turn, directional is a great choice.

Tapered Directional

Tapered Directional boards are similar to directional boards in that they are set back and have a wider nose than tail.  The difference is that with the tapered boards the tails are MUCH thinner than the noses.  The reason for this is that a thin tail is easier to sink into the powder, so it requires less muscle to get the same performance.  By the same token, the wider nose catches more powder underneath it and therefore floats more easily.

If you consistently spend your snowboard days searching for powder, tapered directional boards are a great choice for you.

The diagram shown below is intentionally not drawn to scale to make the differences obvious.

Tapered Directional

If you only ride powder, you can’t go wrong with one of these.

True Twin

True twin or ‘twin’ boards are totally symmetrical.  If you cut one in half, you’d get two identical pieces. They have the same flex at the nose and tail.  They are a little more difficult to ride in the powder because your weight is further forward, but it is possible to do so.  They tend to be used for freestyle riding so if you enjoy spending your days in the snowboard park a twin is the way to go.

Traditionally advanced riders who focus on all-mountain riding would use directional twins (see definition below) and park riders would use true twins, but the current trend in snowboarding is a move towards true twins for both.  They are considered more fun, though you need strong leg muscles if you’re going to be riding a twin in the powder.

True Twin

Directional Twin

Directional twin is the style that most intermediate to advanced all-mountain boards are.  They are great all around boards.   The bindings are slightly set back which makes them easier to turn than a true twin.  They are also easier in powder because your weight is further back on the board making it easier to lift the nose and sink the tail.  At the same time, they have a twin shape which makes them good for jumping and spinning.  Finally, the tail is stiffer than the nose which gives them more pop for jumps while the softer  nose helps  it float more easily in the powder.

If you’re an upper intermediate to advanced rider who spends most of your time riding the mountain rather than the park but want something that can jump when asked, these are the boards for you.

Directional Twin

How can I tell which is which when buying online?

Snowboard shape is important enough that online retailers will always list it.  Just find a board you like the look of, then search for the word’s ‘directional’ or ‘twin’ and it will be listed.

Previous post:

Next post: