How do I Learn to Snowboard?

A good point to keep in mind here is that snowboarding doesn’t have to be painful. Taken slow and with the right guidance boarding can be quicker to learn than skiing. PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) and CSF (Canadian Snowboard Federation) now certifies snowboard instructors and most resorts which allow boarding will have instructors on staff. Most boarders who have also skied agree that boarding is initially more difficult than skiing but after learning the basics the intermediate and advanced levels are achieved more quickly.

Edging and balancing skills are more important from the outset because your feet are secured, you can’t step from foot to foot, and you don’t have the use of poles as skiers do. Snowboarders fall differently than skiers do. Where skiers tend to fall to the right or left snowboarders fall forward or backwards onto their face or butt. It is best in a forward fall to fall to the knee and forearm (do not stiff arm on the palms) and then lift the board in the air until you stop. In a backwards fall it is best to go to the butt and roll onto the back, keeping the chin in your chest, lift board until you stop. Learn to ride with fingers in a fist, to avoid finger smashing. And why not have releasable bindings? Most boarders would disagree with the use of a releasable binding, the board is relatively short, most ride a 150-170 cm length board, and the idea of going down a hill with one foot released and one not is a very scary thought.

Most ski areas require snowboards to have metal edges, leashes, and secure bindings. The newer boards are far easier to use than anything made prior to about 1988. Boards today are lighter, easy to turn and comfortable to ride. If the board your friend is letting you use to learn on has a split tail, center fin, solid high-back bindings, bindings with nylon straps, or a stance very off center towards the rear of the board find a new friend, or rent. Use a boot designed for boarding. How would you like to learn to downhill ski in hiking boots? The right boots give your ankles much needed support and alleviate pressure points from the straps or buckles. A beginner should learn on an all-around or alpine board with high-back bindings and a firmer soft boot or hybrid boot. Hard boots and step-in bindings are not recommended because of the increased difficulties of balancing, turning, skating and using lifts. There now are a few books out there on snowboarding which include how to sections written by professionals.

The reason to start with the rear foot out is twofold: 1) It is not natural to have both feet locked down. We are bi-peds with independent leg action to move. When trying anything new it is best to take baby steps to learn. Putting only the front foot in, lets a person try stuff while still using their rear foot in an independent way as sort of a training wheel. You do this on only slightly sloping almost flat terrain, so that the person gets the feel of the board, builds their confidence up, and so that their muscles start to memorize how to turn a snowboard. Baby steps. 2) The 2nd is way more practical. We have to cruise around a lot with only one foot it. Traverses, lifts, etc. It is just good and necessary to learn how to move around with only one foot in. Think of it as skateboarding on snow just to get the feel of the board and lock down the proper stance (weight on front foot).

I see people each week on our bunny slope, bag on lessons, go to the top, strap both feet in, go for it. 9 times out of ten they go too fast, sit way back, wipe out, can’t turn. A bunch give up. Give up on a very fun sport, even before they have given it an honest try. The best way to learn is in a lesson.

The best ingredients of a lesson are:

0) Stance: Natural athletic stance. Feet about shoulder width apart, angles of about 15 in front and 0 in back usually work well. Knees bent, kind of posed like your going to box somebody. If you jump up an come down in a boxer ready stance you will usually land in the proper stance naturally.

1) Front foot in: walk around. Skate and slide like a skateboard. Weight on front foot.

2) Front foot in: Straight run. Climb up on almost flat terrain. Push off. Glide straight down to a stop. Weight on front foot.

3) Front foot in: Direction change. While doing straight run, with weight on front foot, look and point with front hand in the direction you want to turn. heel then toe, then combo. If you have trouble, make a motion like you’re opening and walking through a left handed, then right handed door.

4) Lift: Watch people get on. Talk about getting off. Just do a straight run or slight direction changes as before as you get off. Lean forward. Do not put rear foot on snow, put it on the stomp pad if you have one or right in front of rear binding.

5) Strap in. Side slip. straight down on heel edge or toe edge. Need a moderate incline. Balance weight over edge. Smooth changes. Slide evenly – like spreading peanut butter on bread. Stay on uphill edge.

6) Garland: Move across the hill. Stay on uphill edge. Look up hill to slow down, look down hill to speed up. Do not make a full turn (edge change). Go across the hill, sit down, flip over, do on other edge. This is the best way to learn – teaches turning without massive speed build up in that no-mans land between turns.

7) Link turn: Do garland, but on very mellow terrain, bring board around to other edge, and proceed on the new garland. Flat board during transition. Patience. Terms: Front foot: The foot that is always secured to the board. Left for regular (righty) rider. Right foot for goofy (lefty) rider. Back foot: The foot that you remove from the board when walking around or getting on or off the lift. Toe side: The edge and direction on the side of the board where your toes are. Right for regular rider Left for goofy rider. A Toe side turn then is one where you are kind of up on your toes, heel in the air at the end of the turn. Heel side: The edge and direction on the side of the board where your heels are on. Left for regular riders. Right for goofy riders. A heel side turn then is on where your toes are in the air and you are balancing more on your heel at the end of the turn.

Common Problems:

1) Sitting back. Get your weight forward. Sticking your front hand out (left arm for regular, right arm for goofy) helps keep your weight forward. Do not stick your butt back to counter balance your arm being forward. Bend your knees and get you entire weight forward. If you start out slow on the flats and get confident on the board you will trust it and lean forward. If you are up on the hill and are leaning back, it typically means you are scared and went too fast. Go back to the start. The skateboarding moves at the beginning with one foot in should really lock in the mind and in the muscles that the board will only move correctly with the weight on the front foot.

2) Looking down: I always ask my students what color or pattern is on their board. ‘Good’ I say, now that you know you do not have to keep looking at it. Look where you are going, forward or to the left or right. You body will follow. When you look down, you tend to also lean back.

3) Locked front knee: Front leg straight. Need to bend it. Makes your weight back. If you have to, crouch down and stick your arm out, or grab your cafe with your front hand to stop this bad habit. This is a bad habit for a lot of snowboarders. Do not get into it at the start. If you go into a turn with a locked front leg, you could be a body builder and still not be able to bend your knee. The key is to go in with your leg bent and then go down from their. In snow boarding you never want locked knees.

4) Lift falls: Don’t put back foot on snow instead of board upon exiting lift. Don’t sit back.