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Cheap Snowboards Buying Guide

Cheap snowboards tend to be a bit heavier than more expensive boards and fairly simple design-wise, but many still feature strong all-around riding capabilities. Feedback on cheap snowboards is relatively scant online; pricey boards from names like Burton, Lib Tech, and Gnu dominate the conversation among riders.

Related Guides:
Snowboard Bindings and Snowboard Boots
Based on the comments and reviews we did find, as well as the reputations of prominent snowboard brands including Forum, K2, Ride, Rome, and Salomon, we've rounded up some top contenders under $300 for both adults and kids.

The Salomon Pulse (starting at $249) and the K2 Vandal youth board (starting at $200) are two cheap snowboards popular for their strong performance across multiple types of terrain. They are also flexible enough to give riders optimal control without sacrificing much speed or aggression. The Ride Lowride (starting at $170) makes our list as a good youth board that's soft and light enough for smaller riders to handle easily. The Forum Recon (starting at $300) is another popular pick for adult beginners. Women seeking a precise fit and greater control would do well to consider the entry-level Burton Genie (starting at $300) and Salomon Lotus (starting at $200), two top cheap snowboards designed specifically for female riders.

LaMar and LTD are both known for producing cheap snowboards but don't win much respect -- or attention of any kind -- from serious riders. These boards populate mass-market retailers and discount sites such as Overstock.com, yet don't cost much less than the reliable boards mentioned above.

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Generally the construction is what separates the cheapest snowboards from expensive ones. Wooden cores are the most common, while materials such as carbon, Kevlar, and aluminum honeycomb add expense. Foam cores have become less common because, although they cost less, they sacrifice performance and durability. Manufacturers of some cheap snowboards, including the Ride Lowride, strategically incorporate foam into low-stress areas of otherwise wooden cores for the sake of making their boards lighter. Ride's new Gummy Core includes a strip of foam through the center, which is intended to make the Lowride youth board more forgiving and easier to handle for beginners and young riders. The other cheap snowboards we've chosen have all-wood cores. The cheapest snowboards, including those on our list, also tend to come with extruded bases, which are slower but easier to repair and maintain than the sintered bases on pricier boards (more on that later).

Other snowboard features vary slightly depending on the skill level of the rider and the board's specialty, whether that be floating on powder, carving in hard-packed snow, or stomping tricks in a terrain park (an area of a mountain set up for special maneuvers, rather than regular riding). It may be tempting to choose a board based on color and graphics, but a flashy design doesn't affect performance. Pick a cheap snowboard that offers a solid combo of comfort, functionality, and visual appeal.

Beginners should rent their first few times out to get an idea of how different board shapes behave and what riding style they enjoy most. That way they'll know what to buy when the time comes.

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If possible, don't buy a cheap snowboard without looking at it in person first, especially if you don't have the experience to know the right the size, shape, and other features you need. Search for good deals online, but make sure to examine a physical version of the board and zero in on the correct fit before making a buying decision. Finally, keep in mind that many online retailers discount gear from previous seasons, putting higher-end equipment within the reach of frugal snowboarders not intent on riding the latest models.

Often the easiest and cheapest way to buy a snowboard is in a package. Purchasing the board, boots, and bindings all at once can not only save you money but also ensure you're starting off with compatible gear that fits together well. Whether you purchase your setup individually or in a cheap snowboard package, our guides to cheap snowboard boots and cheap bindings can help you find the right combination.

by Kara Reinhardt (Google+ Profile)

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