Have a Positive Mindset
Learning to snowboard takes dedication and a positive mindset. This is really a big part of learning anything new. Most things however, don’t beat you up as much as that first day on the slopes. I have taught many people the fun and excitement you can have on a board, but I always say you must be willing to commit to at least three days of struggle. Of course you will have your Aha moments – which are almost exclusively followed by a face plant. This is why it is so challenging for most people. It is a constant struggle of thinking you have it only to find out you were very wrong.
You will obviously need some gear…but where to start. If you are going for the first time almost every mountain resort will have rentals available which can be had for a reasonable price, but be prepared to dish out at least $100 between rentals and lift ticket. Another great option would be searching on craigslist for used gear.
Don’t worry too much about board details as you can get lost in all the newest marketing mumbo jumbo. Really what you need is a decent board that is proportional to your weight. Most people will hold a board up to their chin and say “yep that’s just right,” but what really matters is your weight. The heavier you are the more surface area you need. The majority of Men will be fine starting on a board between 155-160cm, while women are usually in the 147-152cm range.
As you gather more skill you will start to fine tune your board preference, which is also based heavily on the conditions and type of riding you will be doing (park, groomers, powder, etc.)
You should also have boots that fit well – these can also be rented if you are just testing the waters. A Helmet is yet another necessity along with goggles, winter pants, jacket, and gloves. As previously stated most large resorts will have the option to rent almost all of this gear but try to borrow from friends for that first run if you can.
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Getting on the Hill
His point can get very intimidating for most. You will see most people making it look effortless which only adds to your feeling of inadequacy. Don’t worry though everyone had to start in the same awkward stage as you.
I recommend just sitting down with your board and practice strapping yourself in and out a few times just to get a feel for it. This can also be difficult once you add in slippery snow and the unusual position you have to be in to reach your feet with a board strapped to you.
Next, find a nice flat spot away from the lifts, strap in your front foot and practice “skating.” This is exactly like you would on a skateboard. Some prefer pushing with their foot behind the board, others in front. Don’t put too much though into that, but focus on pushing once or twice then putting your back foot on the board in front of your back binding.
The Majority of new people don’t practice this and are in for a rude awakening trying to get off the chair lift.
Now get in line, preferably on a bunny slope or smaller hill – you should grab a map from the ticket booth so you have an idea of the mountain- strap your front foot in and push yourself slowly through the line. Once you are at the front wait at the line until the chair comes behind you and slowly sit back. Going Up!
Exiting the Chair
As you admire the beauty of the mountains and the stillness of it all, you will no doubt see the end of the chair looming ahead and feel a sense of panic. “I have never done this before, what do I do?” Relax, as you move toward the ramp straighten your board out so as you hit the snow you can just stand up. Put your back foot on your board in front of your bindings – like practiced earlier. Now I hate to be hate to be negative but you will most likely fall at this point. All of us did, and some of still do from time to time. Just be cautious that there are more people coming behind you and try to get out of the way. No need to cause more embarrassment.
Once you have moved out of the way and have decided which way you are going down the mountain go ahead and stop. Sit down and strap yourself in like we practiced.
This is where you have to commit yourself to learning. You will spend a fair amount of time just trying to get to your feet, and once you are there you will fall. Keep getting up and trying.
Learning to snowboard involves controlling two things: toe edge and heel edge. Once you understand this you can boost your learning time. Most people will usually learn one or the other much easier. I find the easiest for me is to start on your heel edge and just try to find your balance point while sliding completely perpendicular to the mountain. Keep your knees bent and maintain a fairly upright posture. Once you can keep sliding on your back edge practice facing your front shoulder down the hill. As you speed up try and go back to your sliding position.
Once you get this technique down, congrats, you have just learned how to stop – a very hand skill I might add. Any time you feel you are going to fast just transition back into that sliding on your heels position.
Once you have that down I suggest sitting down, flipping around and attempting to learn the same thing on your toe side edge. This edge is more difficult, as your back is facing downhill. The movement is the same though. Work on sliding this way until you can balance there for a bit, not aim your front shoulder down the hill. As you speed up transition back into sliding with your back facing downhill.
Putting it Together
Now that you have a basic grasp of both heel and toe you can begin attempting to link them together. This is what snowboarding is all about smooth movement from heel to toe.
You will have crashed a countless times by now, but you will have some moments of excitement. That first feeling of sliding down a mountain and being able to control – albeit only slightly – where you go, and how fast you go.
If you start to struggle that’s fine, just go back to the basics of edge control, find your balance points and work your way back into it.
You are a snowboarder now.
As I’m sure you will become aware snowboarding can become very addictive. Once most of us get that first taste of freedom we are hooked. Even if your first day was more of a struggle, give it two more. I always say it takes 3 full days on the hill until it really “clicks.”
Welcome to the community, keep shredding, and I hope to see you out there!