In a similar vein to skis, skill level, height, weight and preferred riding terrain will determine your buying decisions so nail these down before even considering your options.
A dark art this but you'll need to consider your height, weight and intended riding style as well as terrain to determine the best snowboard length for you. If you're particularly heavy or light for your height, then compensate by buying a board a few centimetres longer or shorter than would usually be recommended.
If you're a jib and street enthusiast, then you're going to want a shorter than usual snowboard with a true-twin shape and a centred stance. Look for a board with a soft flex but good pop as well as freestyle specific features like durable edges. You'll more than likely want a rocker or hybrid profile for maximum playfulness.
To go big in the park and pipe go for a board that comes up a few centimetres longer than the jib boards, you might also want a stiffer but still soft flex pattern and a twin-tip shape. Look for a flat or rocker profile for loose, catch-free riding.
When looking to buy a freeride snowboard, make sure you're confident charging hard on-piste and off. These boards are meant for high speed and aggressive riding so will be stiff, super responsive and will float well in powder. Go for a board that's a few centimetres longer than the norm and look for a directional side cut and possibly a nose that's slightly wider than the tail to help you float through the powder. Rocker or hybrid profiles work well for maximum float in powder.
An all-mountain snowboard does just that - goes all over the mountain! Boards in this category will mix some of the elements of a freestyle board with elements of freeride boards to create something that's versatile in any situation. You might want to go for a board that foregoes the twin-tip shape in favour of a directional shape as well as a slightly set back stance. You'll also want it to be reasonably stiff for going fast and it'll more than likely have a positive camber profile for good stability and edge to edge response. An all-mountain snowboard will be longer than its freestyle counterpart but not as long as a freeride board.
Too much overhang and you'll get heel and toe drag, too wide a board and you'll find it hard to initiate turns. A little bit of overhang is healthy but ensure that it's no more than a few centimetres at each end of your foot. If your baseplate overhangs the edges of the board then the board is too narrow and you should look to get a new one.
The main advice here is to buy from a reputable snowboard shop and have your boots fitted in store by a qualified and experienced fitter.
This may involve some or all of the following:
Accurate sizing (width as well as length)
Gender specific boots
Having the liner fitted
Getting decent foot-beds, these may be either off-the-shelf or custom made as it's not often that the foot-beds supplied with your boots will be perfectly.
Check out our Gear Awards pages for our pick of the best snowboards of the season