Tips on Snowboarding Moguls

Stick your arms out. Quit trying to look cool–stick your arms out (and forward) for balance. Yea, like a scarecrow. If you’re that worried about how you look, you probably don’t do moguls anyways, you wimp. I’ve read in the newsgroups to keep your back hand forward.

Use the bumps. The ridges that form the drops are the best place to rotate your board and change directions. Smaller bumps can be hit directly; aim your board right for the top and do a skid turn at the last moment to scrub off speed, then drop down (either toe-side or heel-side) into the next bowl, rotating your board to point down the hill again. On bigger, steeper moguls, look for the ridges that lead up to the top of the bumps and use them. Think of the ridges as pivot points and use them to scrub off speed when necessary.

A related technique that reminds me of “the beginner twist”: hit the top of the bumps in full twisting motion so that your momentum is going directly down the hill and you’re hitting bumps in front of you heel side and bumps behind you toe side (does that make sense?) But if bumps always lined up this well in real life, moguls would be easy…

In smaller moguls you can carve around bumps and avoid them, but this only works in some situations. Practice using the bumps by finding bumps on groomed runs. As you ride across the bump, unweight and change directions (i.e., heel side to toe side, or vis-versa).

In certain spots you have to commit to pointing your board down the hill (like between two narrow bumps); look ahead to the next ridge, bump, or flat spot where you can scrub off speed rather than worrying about the dip you have to drop into to get there. Another situation where it’s impossible to turn is when you are traversing the ‘pit’ between two bumps–you have to wait until you are higher up on the ridges before starting to rotating your board.

Look Ahead. When you’re in a mogul field, the terrain determines when and where you can turn. You can’t just turn when you want to–the moves you can make are dependent on the terrain, and so you always have to be looking one step ahead. Take it slowly and stay in control, only going as fast as you can plan ahead. If you’re moving faster than your ability, you’ll constantly end up in situations where you don’t want to be! If this is happening then work on your balance on groomed runs or smaller bumps. Practice short radius turns on groomed terrain, not looking at or thinking of the turn you’re in, but where your next turn will be. This idea of looking ahead also works really well when snowboarding through the trees… I’m not sure why…

Follow the skier tracks. On steeper moguls there are usually a few well-worn ‘S turn’ paths used by skiers over and over. Use them. On skis, the ideal is to always have your shoulders facing downhill; on a snowboard, you ride the same path like a surfer, your shoulders basically pointing the direction your board is traveling, taking short-radius carved turns (and skid turns to slow down). Compress down in the pit of the moguls in a carve and pop out over the bumps, changing directions while you’re unweighted. Get a rhythm of weighting and unweighting, an exaggerated version of what you do on groomed runs to link up turns… To do this you will have to…

Get off your edges. “Riding your edges” is the security blanket you’re going to have to give up if you want to improve to the next level of skill. What am I talking about? Remember being a beginner, side-slipping down the hill, not wanting to point the board down the hill? Then you progress to moving quickly from one edge to the other, doing skid turns. The next step is carved turns, and the key to carved turns is getting off your edges: having enough confidence to lay your board (basically) flat, letting it point downhill and making a smooth transition between turns. Why is it important to get off your edges? Because a snowboard can’t rotate if it’s on an edge. And you aim your board between turns by rotating it. And in moguls, you need to be able to aim your board quickly–very quickly. When you’re nervous the tendency is to keep your board on an edge and guess what? You can’t turn.

The position of total control is when you’re balanced over the board and the board is flat on the ground. I’m not saying that this is the easiest position to be in. If you’re moving fast, it’s not the safest. But if you’re in moguls or crud or uneven terrain, you basically want to be “on top” of your board, and not committed to either a toe side or a heel side turn, ready to react to the terrain, your knees and body ‘relaxed’.

You can argue that well-executed carved turns appear to be someone who is “always on edge”, but the key is in the transition between edges. There is a whole continuum of edge angles you need to maintain to carve a perfectly round turn, and so I guess I’m really talking about controlling that edge angle based on the situation. The problem I have (and I see others having) is the reliance on staying on an edge, and so that’s why I emphasis this point of getting your board flat between turns. In moguls, getting this concept (whether or not you can verbalize it, or even realize what you’re doing), is key because it’s all about quickly reacting to different terrain.

In moguls, ‘keeping the board flat’ is hard to visualize; think of it as staying centered over the board as it rides out the terrain. There are moments when you just have to ride through some areas to get to a spot where you can make a turn. You may need to hit a bump straight on; absorb it with your knees and keep looking ahead. Crud or uneven terrain can usually just be mowed over or ridden out if you hit it straight on and you’re in a balanced position.

In moguls or steep terrain “staying on top” feels like you’re leaning forward. And so the paradox is that the only way to slow down is to lean forward. If you’re ending up on you’re butt in heelside turns, you’re leaning back. Staying balanced over my board on steep terrain gives me the sensation that I’m leaning forward, but I’m really just trying to keep my weight evenly distributed between my front and rear feet. It feels like I’m leaning forward (and relative to flat ground, I am). Commit your entire body forward into the turns or you’ll end up off-center.