In the Store:
Where do you go and what do you like to ride? If you head to Utah for powder, look for a longer, wider all-mountain board. Or if you gravitate to Colorado resorts for pipe-and-park playing, go with a shorter board with good spin and flex. And if you're unsure what you like, try a few different types before buying.
In the Field:
Keep some hardware close at hand, like Bakoda's Pocket Tool ($20; bakoda.com) for on-mountain binding adjustments, rub-on wax for a quick application after lunch, and an edge tool for occasional detuning before park runs. Check regularly for burrs on the board's edges and use an edge tuner to file them down. Even new base materials need regular waxing. It's best to apply temperature-appropriate wax, but if in doubt, an all-temperature mix like Hillbilly Wax-Works' Coffin Polish Wax ($18) will suffice.
Before storing it for the off-season, wax your board and scrape it while it's still hot. Then apply hot wax again. Store your board in a cool place out of direct sunlight to prevent the base from drying out.