Shaun White makes it seem so simple, right? While getting good at snowboarding is quite easy once you get the hang of it, the initial learning process is frustrating and painful. There’s really no avoiding it — you have to pay your dues, which in this sport means time spent ass-to-snow. Snowboarding is all about repetition. The moves, from turning to stopping, seem alien at first, but as you put in the time and gain experience it’s incredible how natural the process becomes.
Within a year you’ll instinctively wake up at the crack of dawn every time it snows, chomping at the bit to hit the hill. In the meantime, here are tips to make the process more enjoyable, less humiliating, and an experience that you may just want to have again.
How to get started snowboarding:
1. Figure out if you’re regular- or goofy-footed before showing up to rental shop.
These terms refer to which foot you are more comfortable putting forward. It has nothing to do with being left-handed or right-handed. Try standing on a skateboard and seeing which way feels more natural to you. To save face, avoid terms like “backward”, “left-footed”, and “facing the wrong way” when talking with the staff.
2. Take a lesson on the first day.
For real. Even if it’s only a half-day lesson. Your friends might be seasoned veterans, but no matter how good they are, they don’t want to teach you. Even if they say they do — they don’t, and you don’t want them to anyway because they have no idea how to teach proper technique surrounding new muscle movement. In a lesson, you’ll learn from a pro. You’ll also spare your friends or significant other the stress and frustration of not being able to explain away the inevitable falls that are going to happen on day 1. Nothing ruins a relationship faster.
3. Get your body prepared — how to not get injured when snowboarding?
Stretch! Snowboarding is going to work muscles in your body that you didn’t even know existed. It works your core and puts considerable pressure on your calves. You will likely be sore after the first couple days. This is normal, and a sign that you’re whipping yourself into proper snowboarding shape.
I love a nice yoga session after a day on the hill. It helps me unwind and keeps my body loose, which is ideal for riding multiple days in a row.
Additionally, be mindful of the pressure on your knees. Jumps and icy conditions are tough on the joints. Keep a heating pad handy. Wrist guards aren’t a bad idea for your first few days as you may do a few forward tumbles.
Get your gear in order the night before. Always.
Few things suck more than getting to the mountain and realizing you’ve forgotten your left boot. I recommend writing out a checklist the first several times until you commit the necessary gear to memory.
- Snow pants, shell, under layer
I’m all about a nice pair of wool socks. They’ll keep your feet warm and act as a cushion between your feet and the often rough rental boots.
Few activities, aside from surfing and a number of blue-collar trades, have developed a lingo as diverse and unrecognizable to the untrained ear as snowboarding. In an incredible bout of chance, nearly 80% of all snowboarder-specific catch-phrases seem to start with letter “S.” Shred, schralp, slash, slashie, sickie-gnar, slashington, shrederific, schralp-tastic, you get the picture. Many others are mere sounds exaggerated by a profound “Ahhhhh!’ on the front or back end. Listen closely and observe.
Another marvel lies in the fact that nearly all of these terms appear to mean the exact same thing. Therefore, when caught in a bind, just repeat what that dude on the chairlift said and you’ll be high-fiving your way to the apres-bar feeling like the coolest kid on the block. But don’t get too cocky — a whole new chapter of the snow dictionary awaits if you ever venture into the backcountry.
Preservation and taking care of the environment
There’s no other way to put this: we need the mountains, and we need the snow. Approaching the sport with a humbleness and respect towards nature does two things for you right off the bat: it helps you appreciate the beauty and serenity of the environment and instills a desire to protect what we have for future generations. It may even trickle into your daily life, helping you become more mindful of the environmental impact you’re leaving behind.
This simply cannot be taken for granted.
Snowboarders often come across as somewhat disconnected from mainstream society. Some have labeled us airheads, mountain jocks, the list goes on. But rarely will you encounter a group of people more passionate about their sport and the environment which hosts it. With organizations like Protect Our Winters and Beyond Boarding being vocal and active, the line between snowboarder and environmentalist is increasingly blurred. Collectively, the snowboarding community strives to protect and respect the mountains that host us.
It should go without saying, but being a good steward of the land is as important as the lines you take down the mountain. Be mindful — and clean up your damn trash.
Those who grew up skiing or who have spent time doing winter sports have the advantage of being familiar with the weather and gear. Those more accustomed to beaches and boat docks have some learning to do. Looking back at my early days, there were two things about snowboarding that intimidated me:
1. The gear
In grade school, I was a skier. When I first got on a snowboard, the constant strapping in at the top of the hill and unstrapping at the bottom took some getting used to, as did the stance. This was back in the days of stiff boards and click-in bindings that I was always terrified would come unhinged on the lift ride up. Snowboard gear has evolved a lot since the nineties and is easier than ever to learn. Part of why I encourage a lesson to start is that you’ll gain familiarity with everything involved before setting foot on the mountain. It’s actually very straightforward — after a few reps you’ll have it down. I encourage you to have the bindings set up on your board at a slight “duck” angle (called this because both feet are angled outward, like a duck), between +10 +15 degrees in the front and -5 to -10 degrees in the back. There is a lot of twisting and turning in snowboarding, and this allows you to move back and forth in a manner that is more natural in all directions.
2. The attitude
This could be because I’m older now, but I personally believe that the style and swagger of snowboarding are more approachable today than it used to be. Skiers and snowboarders get along, don’t listen to anything contrary. Snowboard culture is like going to a random house party in college. When you first show up, you don’t really know anyone and it looks like there are some cool kids running the show. Everyone else seems to have the scene down and be comfortable in their skin. You’re an outsider. But after a couple beers, you break into conversation with someone standing next to you at the keg. Five minutes later you’re his beer pong partner. By the end of the night, you’ve got the phone number of everyone at the party and are going to breakfast with them in the morning. The snowboarding scene is a community. It’s a little different everywhere it exists but, in the end, it’s driven by passion. If you have that passion, you’re in — and you’ll find your crew of riding buddies.