Expert snowboarders are often seen carving fluid turns down snowy slopes. The pros in films make the sport look so effortless. They float across pillows of snow and sail through the air from jumps. But, how you reach that point of enjoying riding with the ease of walking can be baffling. Here at The Adventure Junkies, our goal is to share with you tips to learn how to snowboard for beginners.
Start off by checking out our favorite snowboards to guide you in choosing which one best fits your style. To learn how to ride a snowboard, you can go out with a friend and spend the day crashing and hoisting yourself off the snow. You can learn it the “formal” way by taking lessons. We offer you these 15 steps to get you gliding effortlessly down the slopes.
WHERE TO LEARN
To learn how to ride a snowboard, beginners can visit two places to take their lessons. Indoor slopes offer lessons all year round; while outdoor slopes are open only during winter when snow covers the ground.
Indoor slopes use a wide conveyor-type belt that simulates sliding for snowboarders. Since the slopes are indoors, the experience is climate controlled. Instead of fussing with getting wet or cold, you can concentrate on learning the technique.
Outdoor snowboard areas rely on machine-made or natural snow. Both require colder temperatures and are typically located in the mountains. In the United States, remember to avoid Mad River Glen, Alta and Deer Valley as they still ban snowboards.
GET IN SHAPE
Your first day of snowboarding will require repeated sitting down on the snow and hauling your body into an upright position. Getting in shape for that will make learning easier and lessen your chances of getting injured. Exercises that strengthen your core will definitely help.
Building up the leg and arm strength will add to your success as well. Experienced snowboarders let their arms fall on their sides. Meanwhile, first-timers are advised to use their arms to hoist themselves off the snow. Stretching and improving your flexibility also help. If you don’t know how to train for snow sports, then try this REI-recommended training program.
ROUND UP GEAR
While first timers could simply rent their snowboards, boots and helmets, most shops do not offer the rest of the necessary gear. You’ll need to purchase your own or borrow from a friend. To cut down on costs, check out ski swaps and sports recycling shops that sell used clothing and gear.
At a minimum, you will need your own eyewear such as goggles for snowy days or sunglasses to protect you from the sun’s glare. Also, you should look for a pair of gloves, snow jacket, snow pants and a warm hat for days when you aren’t wearing a helmet.
WHICH FOOT FORWARD?
Figure out which is your dominant foot before going to the rental shop. The shop must outfit you in a snowboard with your dominant foot in the forward binding. Keep in mind that this factor varies from person to person.
The stronger foot usually corresponds with your writing hand. But, this is not always the case. The dominant foot can also be the one you automatically put forward for balance if someone shoves you from behind. Another test to determine your dominant foot involves sliding across an indoor floor to see which foot you would naturally put forward.
If your left foot is stronger, then you are “regular-footed.” If your right foot goes forward, you’ll ride “goofy footed.” Determine this at home before arriving at the rental shop.
Consider renting equipment for your first few lessons. Once you progress enough that you’re hooked by snowboarding, then you can eventually buy your own.
You can rent equipment in town shops or at mountain resorts. It’s more convenient to rent your gear from where you take your lessons. This way, you’ll carry less gear during your travels.
Rental equipment consists of a snowboard, snowboard boots and a helmet. Rental shop technicians will ask you for personal stats like weight, height, age and ability. They’ll also need to know if you are regular- or goofy-footed. These will help them select the appropriate gear for you.
TAKE LESSONS FROM A PRO
Sign up to take your first lessons from a professional snowboard instructor. Most are certified through the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI). Unlike friends and family members who may not have the patience and know-how to guide you, professional snowboard instructors follow methods that make learning easier and safer.
First timers can take group or private lessons. Group lessons are cheaper while pricier private lessons focus on only you. In North America, January Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month offers good deals on group beginner lesson packages.
Many resorts offer first-timer packages that combine a group lesson with rentals and a lift ticket. Multi-day packages, usually called “1-2-3 Ride,” propose three-day lessons, rentals and lift tickets. These are practical options to learn how to snowboard.
WALKING IN A SNOWBOARD
Instructors always start with introducing the equipment. From a sitting position on flat snow, first strap in only the front foot. To do so, place the ladder strap into the rachet and tighten.
Before learning to slide, you must learn to walk with only your front foot on the board. It’s an awkward stance with the front foot and knee cocked inward. But, it’s the best way to load and unload lifts or move across flat surfaces.
To walk forward, slide the leading foot strapped onto the board across the snow and shift the free foot forward on the toe side of the snowboard. For walking up a hill, the technique changes. Put the snowboard across the slope (horizontal) with your front toes facing uphill. Then, use your free foot on the uphill side of your board to step forward. Using the toe edge to gain a footing on the slope, lift the snowboard uphill.
A relaxed, balanced body stance is necessary for snowboarding. With feet slightly wider apart than the shoulders and a soft flex in the knees, you can exert pressure on the front, back, toe side or heel side of the board. Shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should be soft and not locked into a straight, stiff position. You may feel as if you are about to begin a squat exercise.
Most riders let their arms hang relaxed at their sides. During the first lessons, instructors sometimes have students hold out their arms parallel to the snow surface and the board to aid with balance. Using the front arm, point in the direction of travel. As an alternative, some riders put both hands on the front bent knee.
Without turning the shoulders and hips, face the head to the direction you want to go. Focus the eyes forward on your destination rather than looking down at your snowboard or the snow in front of the board.
FLAT SURFACE SLIDING
Many first-timers fear their first run. Don’t worry. You’ll actually learn to skate on a flat surface before hitting a slope. With the front foot in the binding, skating is the same as walking with your snowboard — only with more sliding. The technique is important for loading and unloading lifts.
Begin by sliding on the front foot while the other foot pushes on the snow with short strides. That front foot and bent knee will twist at what feels like an awkward angle. You’ll soon get used to it. Essentially, it’s like one-footed skateboarding except for the angled front foot.
To practice skating, point the board straight, push off with your free foot and move the free foot on the board between the bindings to slide. To stop, scoot the toes of your free foot forward to drag them in the snow.
Since snowboards have a heel side and a toe side, practice sliding with your free foot resting on the board and pressuring each side. You’ll feel the difference from riding a flat board.
Before riding a lift for the first time, you must learn how to get up off the snow. Begin from a seated position on the snow by strapping both feet into your bindings.
To get up using your toe side, you’ll need to flip over. Grab your forward knee to help in flipping over on your hands and knees. Once you reach that position, push off with your hands while pressing the toe side into the snow.
Getting up from the heel side is harder on a flat surface. Dig the heel side of the board in and use one hand to push yourself up while the other grabs the toe side of the board.
A lift takes beginners up the slope. Instructors will show you how to get on and off the lift. Use one-footed walking or skating to move up to the lift and dismount.
To ride a conveyor carpet, take tiny steps with your free foot to inch up to the start, sliding the front of your board over the moving belt. Place the free foot on your board between your bindings to let the conveyor do the work. Relax your stance to ride up the lift. At the end, use your free foot to propel away from the lift.
Some beginner hills have chairlifts. In the lift corral, skate to the loading line following the preceding chair into position. After sitting on the chair, the snowboard will turn sideways due to the angle of your front binding. Lift it to shift into a straight position for dismounting.
At the top, when your board touches the snow, place your free foot between your bindings and stand to slide straight away from the chair. After slowing down or stopping, use your free foot to scoot away.
SLIDING ON A SLOPE
The fun begins when you reach the top of your first hill. Most likely, the instructor will start with the falling leaf. As the precursor to turning, it’s part of the learning progression where you slide one direction for a little bit and then reverse to slide the other direction. Instead of shooting straight down the hill, the snowboard glides in a slightly angled descent across the slope.
Practice a heel side and toe side falling leaf. Point your front arm to where you want to go and look in that same direction. Put weight on your forward foot.
While sliding, experiment with shifting your body mass to the center, toe side or heel side to control the speed. When on the heel slide (heel is uphill), lift the toes away from the snow to feel your heel side dig in more to slow you down. On the toe side (toes face uphill), lift the heel and press on the toes to slow the speed or stop. On either side, ease up to a flat, centered board to slide.
Once you have mastered a controlled falling leaf back and forth across the slope, the instructor will introduce the two types of J-turns: toe side and heel side. Some instructors may call this a garland or a C turn.
Start by facing your snowboard down a gentle hill with your body balanced in proper falling leaf position. Slide straight ahead, putting more weight on your front foot. Point your front hand downhill and backhand uphill.
Let the board run flat. Then, exert pressure on your toes to make your board arc in the snow on the toe side to a stop. For a heel side turn, lift the toes and pressure the heels instead.
On both sides, finish the turn by moving your front knee. Shift it a few inches inside for a toe side turn or outside for a heel turn. You’ll be making a “J” in the snow.
Once you can do both toe side and heel side turns, then it’s time to link the pair. While descending, alternate between a toe side and heel side turn. Between each turn, let your board run straight downhill for a second or two. As you ease up on the turn, control your speed before going into the next turn.
To initiate each new turn, look downhill. Accomplish the turn by using your whole body as a unit rather than turning only the board.
LEARN THE LINGO
Just like other sports, snowboarders have their own lingo. If you want to learn more snowboarding lingo in addition to the techniques we discussed, you can check out the REI glossary.