My first attempt at a commercial site. I had just started teaching snowboarding and was trying to generate ad revenue by writing tips. I hand coded the affiliate links because I wanted to choose the ads that appeared on my site.
Ready to go snowboarding? Don’t have a clue what to expect?
I’ve put together a couple of the basics here for you, in beginner lesson style. From how to dress for comfort (fashion comes later) to linking your first turns down the hill.
When you finish reading these lessons you will have the knowledge to head out to the slope and tear up the nastiest, steepest bunny hill you can find. If you attempt the terrain park you’ll be just one more obstacle on the ground. At the very least you will have a basic grasp on the fundamentals of riding.
You can always just rent some gear and head to the top of the mountain. I don’t suggest it though. You are more likely to hurt yourself or someone else if you don’t know how to control your board. Anyone can stand on the board and bullet down a mountain on groomed snow. Stopping is another story. Unless you want some personal experience with Newton’s First Law of Motion, learn to ride your board – don’t let it ride you.
I recommend reading through the lessons, take some notes, and go practice. Snowboarding is a physical skill, and requires your muscles to learn new things. If you practice bad habits, they will be damn near impossible to break and could limit your riding abilities.
Select a lesson from the list below:
- Buying gear? check here for tips and tricks and the best places to look online
- How to save money buy doing your own board tune-ups
- Advanced Lessons
- History of Snowboarding
I hate paying retail prices for any of my clothes or gear. I get a lot of my long underwear and socks from SierraTradingPost.com. Check out their deals and see for yourself!
Clothing: Before you ever get to the slope, be sure you are dressed according to the weather. Let’s start from the toes up. Wear tall, thick comfy socks. Snowboard boots are supposed to fit snug, so you’ll want the cushioning inside. Wool blend sock with liners really help keep your feet dry and reduce blisters. I highly recommend SmartWool® socks – they are really the finest socks on the market. Period.
Wear pants that won’t absorb water or restrict your range of movement (blue jeans are right out). I like to wear a heavyweight pair of waterproof pants, with appropriate layering underneath. Think padding.
Layer your top according to the weather. Cotton is not a good layer to have against your skin because it absorbs sweat which will chill you quickly when you stop moving. Polypropelene or silk (or high tech if you want) make a great base layer. Your jacket should be comfortable, and allow free movement of your waist and arms. A jacket that covers your butt will help keep some of the snow from going down your pants.
Gloves or mitts are a must (waterproof are great), because you will be on the snow a lot. And wear a hat. Even if it’s not that cold out, wear a hat. Baseball caps won’t work here, think knit or wool. Most of your body heat is lost through your head and shoulders, so a hat is an easy way to keep warm. Plus it’s an easy layer to lose when you start to sweat. Plus a hat gives you a little padding when you bounce your skull off the packed snow. Trust me.
Hiking around on the bumps and hills can really heat you up, but just taking off your hat or opening up your jacket usually does the trick.
Don’t go all out here – just wear something comfortable that won’t get soaked. And bring spare gloves. If you don’t have anything fancy, thick cotton socks, jogging pants over your sweats, and cotton longjohns will work. Just bring a spare set for later on.
Equipment: DO NOT GO OUT AND BUY NEW GEAR!! The rental shop at the mountain will hook you up with what you need. I wouldn’t even get a helmet yet, because you won’t be going up on the mountain on your first day. Trust me.
You will need to figure out which foot you like forward. If you skate, you would ride the same way. If you’re like me and never rode anything other than a bike, you just get to figure out what’s more comfortable for you. Try this to give you an idea: run and slide across a slick floor in you socks. Which foot did you put forward instinctively? Try the other way. Which is better for you? This is probably the way your going to ride as well. It usually has nothing to do with your dominant hand, so don’t worry about that at all.
Riders with their left foot forward are “Regular” and right foot forward are “Goofy.” I have no idea where this came from, but the rental shop will ask, so pick one.
Your boots will be tighter than your regular shoes. This is a good thing. The only way you have to control your board is with your feet, and if your toes and heels slip around a lot, that’s wasted movement and loss of control that could be going to your board. If your feet go numb after 20 minutes, the boots are too tight. If you can strap into your board and lift your heels inside the boots, they’re too loose.
A good size board is based on your height and weight. A good size would be from your chest to your chin, if one tip of the board is resting on your foot. If you have big feet (size 11+) ask for a wide board .
Make sure you understand how your bindings work. They will either be straps or click-ins. Each has benefits and drawbacks. Figure out what works best for you.
Objective: After successfully completing a Level 1 lesson, students can name the parts of a snowboard and their applications. Students will also demonstrate ability to maneuver a snowboard on flat terrain, and show proper safety and stance while skating on a moving board over short distances.
Safety: Snowboarding is an active sport, with the possibility of injury existing. Most injuries occur from falling, and are more likely to affect the arms and upper body (where skier are more likely to blow out their knees). To minimize the risk of injury, always follow the skiers responsibility code and ride within your limits.
When you fall (and you will) never try to catch your fall on your hands – that’s a good way to jam a wrist. If you fall forward, keep your hands in fists up by your shoulders and try to take the impact across your entire forearm and body at once. If you fall backward, land on your butt and your forearms – not your wrists or elbows (unless you like pain).
If it makes you feel better, wear a helmet. I do.
Parts of the board: There are really only 3 parts you need to worry about for now: the bindings, edge, and base.
The bindings are where your feet attach. This should be a snug connection because this is the only way you have to steer the board. If you can move your feet in the bindings or in the boots, they need to be adjusted.
The edge is the metal strip along the outside perimeter of the board. If you do not have a metal edge on your board you probably have a sled that looks like a snowboard. The edge is the steering mechanism. All turning and stopping is done by controlling the amount of edge in contact with the snow. When standing on your board, the edge under your toes is the “toe side.” Any guess what the other edge is called… you guessed it – “heel side.”
The base is the flat part underneath that rides on the snow. If there is snow sticking and freezing to your base, take it back to the rental shop and ask for a little wax. It will make your life easier while doing your first slow movements.
Skating: Stand (or sit) on a piece of flat terrain. After getting your front foot strapped in, try spinning the board around you while standing on your other foot. You’ll notice a difference if the board is flat on the snow or if it is tipped onto an edge.
With the board flat again, point the front end at a target a little ways off (tree, pole, sign). Start with your back foot in front of your toe side edge. Using short pushes with your back foot get the board moving toward your target. If you take too big a step, you might loose your balance and end up doing the splits. After a few steps toe side, shift over and try pushing heel side. use which ever is more comfortable for you. You will use this skating motion in lift lines at the top and bottom.
Stance: Your stance on the snowboard should be a regular athletic stance. Knees bent, back straight, weight centered over the board. Riding, you weight will be shifted slightly to the front foot. The hardest part of learning to ride will be to keep from leaning onto your back foot as a brake. Trust me.
Gliding: Find a short, gentle down hill slope. Really 20 – 30 feet is plenty. Skate up to the top of this slope, and stop. Get your other foot onto your board on you stomp pad (the foam bit between the bindings) or pushed up against your back bindings. Keep a good stance and your weight centered and slightly forward. Ride the slope out and come to a stop at the bottom. If your slope doesn’t stop gently, drag your back foot as a brake until you can stop. This will not be graceful. Repeat until comfortable.
“J” Turns: A basic turn and stop in one direction is called a J turn. Your track in the snow should go straight down, then turn and stop, just like in the letter J.
Sit down on the snow with your board in front of you. Pull up on your right toe, and push down with your left. Do you see how the board twists? This is the steering motion of the board. As your front foot flexes or extends at the ankle, the toeside or heelside edge will be in greater contact with the snow. Your board will move in this direction. The same is true on the back foot, but is used to complete turns not initiate them.
After you’re sure you know how to fall safely, strap your other foot into your bindings. Point your board down a gentle slope and glide for a bit. Remember upright stance and weight slightly forward. Pressing down onto your front toe will start to bring the board around in that direction. Increase pressure and it will turn faster. To complete this turn, put pressure onto your back toe.
A successful first J turn gets your board to change directions before you fall. Practice until you can turn the board and move across the hill and then stop under control every time. Now switch and do it on your heel side edge as well.
I must stress, this is a physical skill and needs to be practiced. Reading is not going to be enough.
Side-slipping: This move is useful if you get on a slope you can’t ride down any other way. You can always side slip down anything. It’s not pretty, but it works. It will also help you get a good feel for edge control.
You may need a buddy to help with this move. On a slightly steeper slope than earlier sit facing down hill. Now flip over onto you belly, feet still downhill. (This flipping over is an important survival skill for moving around on the slopes after a fall.) Keep your weight onto your uphill edge (toeside) by pushing down with the toes and/or lifting your heels. Now stand up. As you let your heels slowly drop closer to the snow, the board will move faster. This works for both feet. If your front foot starts pointing down hill, raise up with the heel to increase the edge pressure. Same for the other foot. Now try to slide down the slope for a while trying to keep perpendicular to the fall line.
Don’t look at your board. This just brings your body weight off-center. Try to keep your upper body straight, and look straight ahead (not necessarily downhill – you may need to look over your shoulder occasionally). Practice until this is comfortable. Now try doing the same thing heelside.
Traverse: Moving sideways across the fall line with only a little motion downhill is called a traverse. This is a useful move to get around an obstacle or move to a side you’re more comfortable with.
Set yourself up pointing across the slope and a little downhill on your toeside edge. Controlling the edge under both feet will be important here. If you start to move downhill, add pressure under your front foot. If you stop moving period, let up on your front foot to get gravity working with you again. Repeat on heelside the other direction.
Falling Leaf: Another good move for getting down tricky or steep slopes. Imagine a leaf floating down from the tree, drifting back and forth with the same side pointing down the whole time. That’s what we’re going for here.
Start facing downhill on your toeside edge. Let up on your front foot edge a little to get moving. Then increase the pressure to turn and stop. Now go back the other direction by riding switch with your back foot in front. Use the same edge pressure control to start and stop the movement again. Repeat.
Snowboarding is not all that new, but has become quite popular in the last 10 years or so. There is a lot of physics involved in high-tech equipment, but basically you are riding down a flat board down a hill covered with snow. Do your own research if you want to know more. I may fill this in later, but for now, the lessons.
About the Author
My name is Phill Becker. I’m from Texas, living in PA now. I went snowboarding for the first time ever in the 99-00 season when I lived in Boston. After riding twice that season, I got some cheap gear and beat myself up at Wachusett Mt. about once a week the next season. Winter 01-02 I got a job as a snowboard instructor at Tussey Mt. near State College, PA. I’m still not sure how, but I’m glad I did. I guess I teach better than I ride, but constantly riding with better boarders really improved my own skills and my ability to evaluate riding styles.
I’m not the best rider in the world. I have a tough time on the steep and the bumps, and never mind steep bumps. I have just started jumping a little, but need a lot more work. I’m not that interested in rails and pipes, but I do want to work on my freeriding all mountain stuff so I can do some backcountry riding some day. I’m kinda jealous of some of these kids that are in “ski clubs” and come out after school every week. I’m from Texas… where the hell was I supposed to see snow? At college, we had a “ski hill” called Mt. Aggie. It was about 80 feet tall and covered with wet astroturf.
I teach at Tussey Mountain near State College, PA. I am scheduled to work the 2003 season Sundays and Wednesdays, but am available for private lessons on request. Call Tussey for pricing, and email me to set up a time.
A private lesson is a great benefit over a regular group lesson. I don’t have to split my attention between students of different abilities, and consequently my private students generally progress much faster than other groups. Seven or eight years old is a good age to start, although I have taught as young as five and several adults.