Don’t hibernate this winter — get out in the snow and play! Snow sports are a great way to stay active and beat the winter blues. Sometimes it seems as though skiing gets all of the attention, but snowboarding is just as adventurous and fun. Getting better at snowboarding takes technical skills, but it also takes persistence, positivity, and the right gear. Whether you’re just beginning to snowboard or want to take your skills to the next level, these tips will help you make the most of your time on the mountain.
Get Back up Again
Falling is a part of learning to snowboard. You will fall a lot: when trying to find your ideal stance, turning at the wrong time, or going faster than you should. Don’t beat yourself up; all snowboarders have to go through the learning curve of falling over and over again until it all just clicks. Stay positive and remember that snowboarding is supposed to be fun — it just takes some work to get there. “My advice is to stick with it and give yourself at least three days of learning before you think about stopping,” said Keara O’Brien, who’s been snowboarding since she was 12 years old. “You will be bumped and bruised and want to give up, so even better advice is to find the nearest hot tub each evening.” To keep the bruises and soreness to a minimum, wear protective clothing such as wrist guards and padded shorts that will cushion your fall. And always wear a helmet (duh!). If you’re well protected, you’ll be less scared to fall and more likely to make progress faster.
Learn from Others
It can be intimidating to start snowboarding or work on more complicated moves when you face the mountain alone. Learning from others, whether from instructors or friends, is key to getting better.
“I cannot stress how much value there is in lessons,” said Mike Keller, a ski instructor who picked up snowboarding five years ago. “Teaching has shown me that.” Most resorts offer lessons for every skill level, not just beginners. Once you master basic skills such as standing up, riding downhill, and turning, you can take lessons that will teach you more advanced tricks. Lessons will help you learn quicker and will encourage you to try new things, while making sure you aren’t biting off more than you can chew.
Ride with Friends
If you have snowboarding friends, push yourself to ride with someone a little better than you each time you hit the slopes. They will be understanding but will also challenge you to go a little faster or try something new — whether it be a skill or a run you haven’t tried before. At the end of the season, you’ll be better and more confident than you started.
Read Snowboarding Forums
Chatting with fellow snowboarders online can also help you learn. The PSIA-AASI, an American organization dedicated to skiing and snowboarding, has a great forum for registered members. There are plenty of free forums as well. And don’t just talk to people about the technicalities of snowboarding — ask them about what they’re wearing. “Learning to be prepared and outfitted in the proper outerwear for the varying weather conditions while out snowboarding was my biggest lesson over the years,” said Clint Beebe, a longtime Ski Pro employee who’s been snowboarding for 22 years. Working in the winter sports industry helped Beebe learn to dress adequately for snowboarding, but he also said that “reading mass amounts of forums and interviews of people who knew what they were doing while out snowboarding in various weather conditions really helped as well.”
Practice, Practice, Practice
As with any skill, the more time you put into snowboarding, the better you’ll be and the more fun you’ll have. Don’t expect yourself to be able to tackle black diamonds after only a few days on the slopes. You’ll get there in good time. If you’re a novice, practice the often-overlooked skill of “skating.” Skating is when you have to use your back foot to propel yourself forward, with only your front foot strapped into the binding. This skill is necessary because chairlifts aren’t exactly snowboarder-friendly — they’re designed for skiers, so just getting on and off the lift as a snowboarder can be daunting if you don’t know how to skate. Practice skating on flat snow before you get to a busy lift. It’s also smart to get comfortable riding on gentle slopes with one foot in the binding and one foot free but on the snowboard.
Warm up and Stay in Shape
Keep your body happy by warming up and stretching before hitting the slopes, and don’t slack on your workouts. “You’ll be amazed how much better you ride and how much faster you learn when you’re in shape,” said Mike Keller. Plus, you’ll be less prone to injuries when you’re physically fit. Incorporate exercises into your workouts that will improve your strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility. Squats, jumping squats, lunges, and leg curls will strengthen your legs, and planks and supermans will strengthen your core. Develop a snowboard-specific workout routine that will ensure you’re in top shape for shredding. Energize yourself during your workout by listening to motivational songs with 120 to 140 beats per minute (BPM). This tool will tell you the BPM of any song. Pretty nifty!
Don’t Break the Bank
Snowboarding can be an expensive sport, but it doesn’t have to drain your bank account. There are ways to make your money go further when purchasing clothing, gear and lift passes.
Borrow/Rent Gear or Get Savvy
If you’re not sure whether snowboarding is for you, or you’re trying it for the very first time, find a friend you can borrow clothing and equipment from or rent gear for the day. Some companies rent out clothes, but most rent out only snowboards and protective equipment, so you might have to get creative for some items. A lot of winter sports towns have thrift stores where you can score garments at great prices. Craigslist can also be a good source for used items. If you plan ahead for next year, you can find good deals on clothing and gear at the end of the winter season. “The best time to buy is around Labor Day, as stores are clearing out the previous season’s models and bringing in the next season’s,” said Keara O’Brien. “I usually get gear that's 50 to 70 percent off!” The problem with waiting for sales or thrifting gear is that you may end up with a hodgepodge of items that aren’t quite right. Once you fall in love with snowboarding, you’ll definitely want to invest in quality gear that fits you perfectly and will hold up to a variety of conditions.
Invest in Quality
If you’re an avid snowboarder or plan to become one, do yourself a favor and spring for high-quality clothing that will last you for years. You will have to pay more up front, but you won’t have to continuously replace garments that tear, wear down easily, or are less-than-adequate for wet and cold conditions. GORE-TEX products are perfect for snow sports, as they’re backed by our GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY® promise and block frigid wind. Check out GORE-TEX outerwear for women and men that’s specifically designed for snowboarding, so you know you’ll stay comfortable and protected on the slopes.
Score Cheaper Lift Tickets
Lift tickets can be a frustratingly expensive cost of snowboarding. If you play your cards right, you could save money on passes in a variety of ways. Do the math: If you know you’ll be snowboarding at the same place for more than a few days this winter, do the math and see if it’s cheaper to get a season pass rather than single lift tickets each time. Buy in advance: For most resorts, it’s cheaper to purchase tickets or passes in advance — the earlier, the better. Buy them online through the resort’s website or through Liftopia. Use a buddy pass: Many season passes come with buddy passes, which are free or discounted lift tickets. If you have friends who ski or snowboard frequently, ask them if they have an extra buddy pass. Snowboard at smaller resorts: The prices at major resorts can be astronomical. If you can make it to a smaller resort, give it a try — it’ll most certainly be cheaper. The runs might not always be as impressive at smaller resorts, but could still be well worth the experience. Work at a mountain resort: A huge perk of working at a ski/snowboard resort (even part-time) is the free season pass. Spend your mornings carving turns and your afternoons bussing tables, operating lifts, or any number of positions. If the resort is owned by a company with multiple holdings, sometimes you can get free season passes to the partner resorts, too. An example of this is Vail Resorts — work at one property and snowboard for free at other properties near and far. Just realize that working at a busy resort won’t leave you much time for travel. For many people, working at a mountain resort requires a lifestyle change, because the work is seasonal and temporary housing can often be difficult to find if you don’t already live there.
Follow the Powder
You can’t control the weather, but you can check the forecast and try to head to the mountain on days with fresh powder. Fluffy, untouched snow is so much nicer to carve turns in than weeks-old snow that has been skied or snowboarded on by countless others. During the springtime when snow tends to melt during the hottest part of the day and refreeze at night, avoid snowboarding in the early morning when conditions are likely to be icy. Above all, stay positive and make the most out of your experience, even when it’s not a pow day. If your mind is in the right place, the skills will follow so much more easily.