In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know before getting out on a snowboard for the first time.
- Difficulty: Moderately challenging
- Things you’ll need: Snowboard and snowboard boots, warm waterproof clothing, goggles, gloves, and a helmet
Do you ride in a regular or goofy stance?
Regular stance means that when riding downhill, your left foot is forward; with goofy, the right foot is forward. If you surf or skateboard, use the stance you are used to. Otherwise, there is a simple test you can use to determine your dominant foot. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and have a friend push you in the back, just hard enough that you have to take a step forward. Whichever foot you step forward with should be your front foot when boarding. When you become a more advanced snowboarder, you’ll also learn to ride “switch” which means you ride with your other foot forward.
This is a great way to get acclimated to moving around on the board, and also how you’ll move around at the bottom of the hill to the ski lift. It’s very simple. Just strap your front foot into the binding and keep your other foot free. Then, push off the snow with your free foot, and glide across the snow. Start off small, pushing off just a little, almost like you’re walking. As you get more comfortable, push off harder, skate farther, and glide along. If you’re going a farther distance, rest your foot on your stomp pad (the pad in between the bindings). Practise this until you are comfortable before getting on the lift.
All right, you’re finally ready to get up on the mountain! Find the beginner run (bunny slope) and jump on the lift.
- Getting on: Skate into the line for the lift and pay attention to the lift operators. When it’s your turn skate up to the indicated lift boarding line. Wait for the chair to come up behind you and then sit down. Relax and enjoy the ride.
- Getting off: When you’re approaching the end of the lift, turn your body so that the front of your board is facing the ramp off the lift. Let your board hit the snow, and push off the chair to stand up on the board. Your front foot should be strapped in, and your back foot should be on the stomp pad. Glide down the ramp on the board until you come to a stop.
If you fall, STAY DOWN! Don’t sit up right away or you might get hit by the chair.
- Watch out for the next people coming off the lift. They’re only a few seconds behind, so make sure they’re not getting off when you’re trying to stand up. Let them avoid you if they are coming.
- Stand up and skate away.
Time to ride
Stance and balance
- Falling leaf: At the top of the hill, sit down and strap in your other foot. Then, stand up, keeping your weight even between your two feet, but leaning back on the heel edge of your board. You should be standing up and still. Shift your weight toward your front foot, and slightly off your heel edge, and you’ll start to move toward your front foot. Shift your weight toward your other foot and you’ll slow down and then move in that direction. Keep repeating this, and you’ll slide down the hill in a falling leaf motion.
- Regular riding: Stand up, and put your weight on your front foot, not leaning on either edge. This will propel you straight down the hill. Ride with your knees bent slightly, and always have your weight over your front foot.
Slowing down and stopping
To slow down, lean onto your heel edge, and move your weight towards your back foot. This will turn your board perpendicular to the mountain, and dig heel edge into the snow to slow you down. Keep your knees bent to make a smooth stop.
Always slow down and stop if you think you are starting to get to an out-of-control speed. You are responsible for avoiding riders downhill from you, so do not run them over. Always board in a safe, defensive manner, or ski patrol may take away your lift ticket (which is lame).
Turning is easy in theory but definitely takes practise to do accurately. When riding down the hill with your weight on your front foot, simply lean onto your heel edge and keep your weight on your front foot to perform a heelside turn. When you have turned far enough, stop leaning on your heel edge. A toeside turn is performed the same way, but lean on your toe edge. Toeside turns are usually more difficult for beginners.
You will fall as a beginner. A lot! It’s okay. When you do fall, there are a couple techniques that will stop you from getting as hurt. First, do not extend your hands to catch yourself. The most common beginning-snowboard injury is a broken wrist because so many people have this bad habit. Instead, make a fist with each hand and land on your forearms. This will protect your wrists and also spread the impact out, making it easier on your body. Also, if you fall backwards, pick a butt cheek to land on. You want to avoid a painful landing on your tailbone, and the padding provided by your butt will do just that. Lastly, after you fall, it is your responsibility to look up the mountain to make sure it’s clear when you get back up.
When you first learn to board, you will fall, and you may get discouraged. The first hours of the first day getting down the basics will be the hardest, but if you stick it out you’ll be able to board the whole mountain in no time. Happy riding!
Tips and warnings
If you have a beginner friend, learn together. It will be more fun and you are less likely to get discouraged.
Snowboarding is an extreme sport. This means you can get hurt, especially if you are a beginner. Always stay on marked trails, and try not to get out of control.