I want to try snowboarding; what's the best way?
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Scott - DCSki Editor
December 27, 2004
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,137 posts
For the past several years, I've been tempted to try snowboarding. (I've been a content alpine skier for awhile.) This year I plan to follow through and take a snowboarding lesson. So -- what's the best way?

I will probably take the lesson at Whitetail because that's most convenient to me and I'll only have a chance to sneak away for a few hours.

I know there are several lesson options available. There are packages that include snowboard rental, group lesson, and use of beginner lifts. But, cost isn't a big factor for me, so I'd be willing to also take a private lesson if that would be a better experience. Any thoughts? I will need to rent the snowboard and boots, although I'll plan on bringing my own helmet.

Is it OK to take a lesson in the evening (e.g., 5 p.m. or later)? I know the slopes ice up, but that doesn't seem to be as big of a problem on the "bunny" slopes, and I'm sure that's where I'll be my first few trips on a snowboard. Will icy night slopes make it harder to learn snowboarding?

Is it better to take a lesson during a midweek evening or a weekend evening? (My instinct says midweek is better and less crowded, but maybe there are better instructors on weekends?)

Any other tips you can recommend?

Thanks!

- Scott
The Colonel - DCSki Supporter
December 27, 2004
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
3,107 posts
Scott,
I remember when I tried snowboarding. It was during a visit to Snowbird, and on their Chick-a-dee slope. I learned the neaning of "humble" and remembered that repeated falling, albeit going verrrrry slow, was not necessarily a fun thing but a large part of learning something new on the snow. I never really got it, probably too much "goofy", so I continue to contently ski.
The Colonel
kennedy
December 27, 2004
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
First off, if money isn't the issue get a private lesson, get a full mountain lift ticket, and get your rentals at Ski Chalet. Don't ride at night on the bunny slopes.

Here is my reasoning. Private lessons will help you learn faster because individual attention means faster learning.

Get a full mountain ticket so you can hit snowpark. The bunny hills are far too shallow in pitch to really learn effectively. I ride everything at Whitetail flat out no problems. The bunny hills are where I get hurt the most. Snowboarding in theory is a little like riding a bike. If you have speed it's easier to turn than when you go slow. In order to use your edges you need to have enough speed to put pressure on them without falling over. The bunny hills just dont allow you to do this, you need something with a little pitch to it to build speed and learn turns. The beginner package at whitetail doesn't give you access to the Snowpark/Stalker lift.

Rent from Ski Chalet because their boards now have strap in bindings with high backs. I'm sorry but I'm still of the opinion that step ins suck especially for beginners and the excuse that it's easier to teach students to step in rather than strap on is bogus.
bawalker
December 27, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
Welcome to my world Scott. I started snowboarding three years ago after friends convinced me to go and after I swore off skiing because of a concussion I got on the Salamander. Well I went preseason to Wisp with them and spent $36 on a lifticket/lessons/rentals. It was group lessons but it ended up being private because no one else showed up and I felt that was definately a help because the personal one on one attention went along ways.

When you start snowboarding be prepared to fall... ALOT. I HIGHLY recommend getting wrist braces for around $20 for a pair because it's my own experience that leg/knee injuries are almost nonexsistant in boarding, but arm, wrist, shoulder injuries tend to be higher in number. I know after a nasty fall last year if I didn't have my wrist braces I would have had a broken wrist for sure.

Secondly, wear knee pads. I bought a $10 pair of rollerblading knee pads that I wear under my pants because when you fall you'll want to land on your knees and when the hard shell pads it really breaks the fall. Plus letting your knees break a fall rather than having the full force on your wrists saves alot of pain in the end.

What I found out was the hardest thing for me when learning was that I needed to maintain a great level of balance. When I first stepped on a board the board riding on the snow wanted to go one direction and me standing on the board wanted to go another direction. So when the board started going it's own way, I looked like a circus freak trying to balance myself with flailing arms only to bruise my rear afterwards. It took many times out to learn how to make the board part of my body and respond to me as if it were another limb on my body.

Once I managed that, it was like the other poster said... keep up some speed and turning is easier. Heck I was doing the blacks at wisp last year and not faling, yet when I tried the green trails I fell. Go figure.

A few pointers for when learning to ride...

1.) Strap your lead foot in, and push yourself back and forth on the snow when your free foot as a way to learn how to move from place to place when standing still.

2.) Learn how to sit down and get up properly with both feet latched in. Do this by sitting down facing downhill. Use your arms to push you up forward while you balance the board perpendicular to the hill and slowly turn yourself to start moving downhill. OR... get on your knees on the slope while facing uphill. Push yourself off your knees so you are riding toeside and facing up the trail, turn yourself and start riding.

3.) Learn how to 'Leaf' as a way to control yourself when learning. This is similar in context to 'wedging' for beginning skiiers. To do this simply ride your heelside perp. to the slope. Let your left foot lower a bit so you start going downhill to your left side. As you approach the side of the slope raise up on your left foot so that you slow down and are still perpendicular to the slope. Then lower your right foot so you gently slide down and to the right. Continue this pattern for learning how to control yourself going downhill. It's basically grinding the snow.

4.) After 'grinding' I advise beginners to start riding with their board parallell to the slope and picking up some speed. While it's not much it seems like alot and seems fast to some. But I've found the best way to control this is how you position your body when riding like that on gentle slopes. Obviously your feet and lower body from the waist down are latched in so that the side of your leg is facing downhill. But I got in the habit of turning my upper body from the waist up, to have my chest face forward so that it may look kinda weird and feel weird, but you now have a bit of torque with your body. You can now let your rear foot kick around a bit faster to do toeside turns, or heel side stops.

5.) Let Centrifugal Force be your friend. When I started learning to pick up even more speed I spent several days working on fast heelside stops which actually turned out to be really fun. I would zip off salamander at the top and with a huge wide sweep, I'd lean back like I was sitting down, let the heel side grind into the snow and come to a perfect stop.

6.) Once you master those things then we'll talk fast blue and black carving.
kennedy
December 27, 2004
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
Bawalker has some good advice in there. One thing though, with wrist guards and knee pads. Get wris guards that go over your gloves not under and buy soft volleyball type knee pads. The reason being that having a hard surfaced pad under your gloves/pants could cause them to rip in a fall on an icy surface, I learned this the hard way.

The key with snowboarding is that it is a lot more subtle than people give it credit for. Here is a helpful hint. Your lead arm (i.e. the one in front depending on the direction you are going) is your direction arm. You point this where you want to go. The trailing arm is your balance arm. This is the one that flails about behind you to maintin balance. keep your shouders parralel with the board, when you want to turn point where you want to go. This pulls your shoulder around which pulls your upper boddy, which pulls your hips which pulls the board. Where you point is where you go.

What bawalker says about falling leaf is correct. This technique will get you down any slope. So if you master this you should never have to worry about getting caught on a hill you cant descend. Heelside is good but personally I like to start on toe side.

So start this on a decent slope, say on Snow Park and try this. Kneel down facing uphill with the board 90 degrees to the fall line. Push yourself up gently so you are on your toe edge but still crouched. Slowly stand up just enough so you're standing but knees still bent a lot. Now slowly lower your heels just to the point where the board starts to side slip down the hill. To stop just lift your heels again. This will be really jerky at first but you should get it so that you can slide a bit comfortably and stop at will. This gives the initial feel of side slipping and stopping.

Next do the same thing but this time take you pointing hand and point to a place just slightly downhill in the distance that you would like to go to. The foot pointed in this direction should slide just a little downhill and as long as you keep your edge firmly in the snow you will ride to that point. To stop gently point back up the hill letting your rear foot drop below your front effectively sliding into the direction you were riding. Do the same thing in the opposite direction. Master this on your first day and you can go pretty fast down a slope, completely in control and still enjoy yourself. I did this for my first week of snowboarding and by the end of the week I was flying down black runns in faling leaf no problems.
Crush
December 27, 2004
Member since 03/21/2004 🔗
1,007 posts
yeah man everybody got it right .... you fall a lot the first 4 days. I actually fell mostly backwards on by back or butt so hard that snot would run out of my nose so choose a day that is nice and soft and not icy.

My main problem was being over-anxious to get the board up on edge rather than being patient and flattening the board, letting it swing into the fall line, then edging up gradually. I would put it right on edge and it would immediately carve and rail, and the board would squirt out from under me. The edge power you can apply is really something with a snowboard. You'll have a ton of fun despite the falls!
Murphy
December 27, 2004
Member since 09/13/2004 🔗
618 posts
Being a beginner is the only thing I can speak on with much authority so I'll chime in. Most of the click-on binding are pretty good so I personally wouldn't worry about strap-in for a beginner. I got my first lesson as part of a group lesson but it was a mid-week night at Winterplace so I was the only student. The kid had his mommy drop him off at work and probably didn't know more about being an instructor than what's already been said in this thread. That being said, he was more than adequate for my first lesson. He had me going down with confidence within the hour. If I were you, I'd save the private lesson for your second or third trip.

What's been said about wrist protection is very true. On my first trip snowboarding, which was before my first lesson, I nearly broke my wrist. After that I learned to make a fist with my hands and catch myself with my forearms instead. With all the padding and the snow it doesn't hurt.

Picking a place with good beginner terrain is very important. While I agree with Kennedy that riding very slowly is actually harder, I think you'll be amazed at what seems steep your first day out. Take Snowshoe for example. Skidder is ok but it really is a little too flat. The problem is that even the 2nd easiest slope at Snowshoe (probably something on the Northern Tract) will have sections that are a bit too steep. Maybe this won't be the case for an experienced skier but it has been for most new boarders I've seen.

The last thing I have to say is be patient. While the first trip down the slope may take you 30 minutes and a dozen falls the learning curve is very steep. You'll be good enough to enjoy yourself by the second day maybe sooner if you don't have too much pride.
kennedy
December 28, 2004
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
Trust me on the strap ins. I've ridden both and difference in control between strap in and step ins is astronomical. I know some people like them but if steps were so good they would dominate the market, as it is I would say only about 25% of riders use them. If I was learning at Snowshoe I would be more inclined to take lessons at Silvercreek. Wider longer runs. It comes back to this. Riding a board has a lot of the them principles of riding a bike. Try riding a bike really slowly in a straight line without wobbling or turning without having to put your foot down. Boards are the same. The most difficult thing to master ona board is not necessarily turning, it's riding the board on the flat. Here is what happens. As the board rides on the flat the rider has a tendency towant to try to turn one way or the other by pushing their shoulders one way and their hips the other. What happens is that the board goes opposite the direction they intend it to go, as a result the try to overcompensate and push the board more out of line. When this happens at slow speed the rider ends up trying to force the board at which point the lean on the downhill edge resulting in a fall, and if your unlucky it will be a headringing heelsider. The trick is, as I said, subtlety. At slow speed you must be very subtle, gently turning your shoulders slightly and letting your hips lead the board into turn. In order to get enough speed to turn first you must straight line. Harder than it sounds because as a beginner there is always the tendency to be dragged off line and when that happens edges catch and falls happen. So like riding a bike when you go a little bit faster turning gets easier because your speed helps keep you upright. At snowshoe main area most of your greens are catwalks where you need to ride the board on the flat a lot. Ride too slow edges catch and you'll fall. You have to ride a little faster so you can actually use edges effectively without falling. Another problem with those trails at Snowshoe is that they are narrow so you need to be capable of making edge transitions quickly or it's into the treeline. I agree with Murphy in that hills can seem really steep your first time but on a board it is actually easier to ride with a little more pitch. I know the local resorts try to get you standing and making turns in an hour but I think the focus should be on teaching new riders how to scoot, mount/dismount lifts and do falling leaf as their first class. These are solid basics that anyone can learn in an hour set the basis for solid riding skills.
AndyR
December 28, 2004
Member since 12/9/2004 🔗
1 posts
Well, Scott, I think getting a private instruction during weekdays is the best way to go. I wish I had someone to hold my hand or watch my back and keep me from falling on my first day although I was also a competent skier. I think the nighttime is better if the daytime is too warm and vice versa. Bring a good snowboarding outerwear/gloves, especially water proof/breathable snowboarding specific pants because it gets very hot fast and also you get to sit on the snow a lot while learning how to snowboard. A pair of wrist guards is a must. A butt pad helps too. Make sure your boots are centered on the board by looking at the board from nose to tail and from tail to nose while your boots are bound on the board. If not, you need to adjust/change the bindings. Hill side slipping was next to impossible with the center of weight off an inch toward the toe side on my first day. (Toe side slipping was too easy with that setting, though ) Best wishes to your first snowboarding day and on!

Some helpful links:
http://www.abc-of-snowboarding.com/learninghow.asp
http://snowboarding.about.com/cs/beginners/a/learntoride.htm
SeaRide
December 28, 2004
Member since 03/11/2004 🔗
237 posts
I want to add couple things to the posts above.

I notice it's harder to learn on the bunny slopes when it's hard packed/almost icy/almost crowded. I think the steepest bunny slope would be at Whitetail since it's wide and long. Hope you get a chance to learn while the snow is soft and good.

Second, Do not ride the snowboard flatly most of the time period. Try to ride the edge by shift your weight toward the edge initially but hold on once the edge is cutting.
Your legs has to be bend and work like a leaf spring. Do not stick your butt out too much or stick your shoulder out too much.

As for falling, your mileage may vary on this situation. I fell few times the first time I try snowboard long time ago. My son fell few times compare to my daughter fell down many times over few days. You might need to learn how to fall down like a leaf instead of landing on your wrists or knees. Similar to a stuntman falling off the motorcycle and slide properly instead of landing on your head or wrist.

With my daughter, I sort of hold her hands and run down the slope. I would correct her on her posture and stuff while going down the slope. It helps her alot. I also made her watch snowboarders going down the hills and learn from them. I would point out which snowboarder is going to fall and point out the errors the snowboarders made.
You may learn alot by watching the expert snowboarders.

Private lesson would be a good way to go.
Murphy
December 29, 2004
Member since 09/13/2004 🔗
618 posts
SeaRide,

How old was your daughter when you taught her to board? I'm debating whether I should get my 3 1/2 year old started on a board or skis. Skiing seems easier at that age but I'd like to teach her to board (I've never actually skied). Also, how do you handle the lift on a board at that age.
kennedy
December 29, 2004
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
There was a discussion on this before, I think it was sometime last year. As I recall the general consensus was that kids don't have the muscle development or control needed for a snowboard until about age 7, maybe a bit yourger. Skis are a little easier for them to grasp at that age.
SeaRide
December 30, 2004
Member since 03/11/2004 🔗
237 posts
I do regret not getting my daughter into snowboarding at an early age. When I was at Squaw Valley couple years ago, I saw bunches of kids young as 4 or 5 years riding the board on the bunny slope at the high camp area. They were cute.

My daughter started skiing at first but kept switching between skiing and boarding over the last few years. She decided at age 10 or 11 that she wanted to learn how to snowboard without whining/complaining all day. My son learns fast and have a lot of patience which is different with my daughter. She's learning to snowboard at her own pace which is fine with me. We will see how it goes for her this coming winter. I am hoping she will get to ride some blues this year.
SeaRide
December 30, 2004
Member since 03/11/2004 🔗
237 posts
Actually I 've seen kids walk up the slope or use the carpet lift. Some kids wear the harness where an adult can grab a loop harness behind the back to lift the kid up.
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