Tips sought for skier thinking of snowboarding
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Scott - DCSki Editor
December 22, 2003
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,251 posts
I've been skiing for a number of years, and like other skiers, I've noticed that more and more snowboarders are carving down the slopes. At first, I scoffed: this is clearly a fad that will run its course. But eventually, it became clear that snowboarding is here to stay, and a mild curiosity began to grow with each passing season. Some friends had switched from alpine skiing to boarding -- just to "try it" -- and hadn't seemed to switch back to skiing. (Traitors!) Could it be that snowboarding is actually -- fun? Might I enjoy it better than skiing? Hmm.

Fears of falling and having to restart a sport as a complete beginner have kept me from trying snowboarding. But.. This season, I think I might give it a try.

I know there are some avid boarders here, as well as some skiers-turned-boarders. So I ask for some advice. What tips can you offer for a skier who wants to give snowboarding a try?

As I see it, there are some pros and cons. These are uneducated pros and cons, so feel free to correct any misconceptions I have.


- Snowboarding might actually be fun.

- The boots are a heck of a lot more comfortable than those skiing foot-vices I've been wearing and complaining about for years.

- It provides an opportunity to learn about new gear. And a new vocabulary. (I feel quite dated, not knowing what jibbing is.)


- It provides an opportunity to spend a lot of money on new gear.

- Falling looks painful. On skis, I rarely fall, and when I do, it's a controlled fall -- gliding to a stop. On a snowboard, it looks like the transition from movement to non-movement is instantaneous -- causing the wind to get knocked out of you.

- On skis, your basic stance is facing down the mountain. On a snowboard, you're facing sideways. I'm afraid this might be difficult to get used to, and might be hard on the neck.

Any comments on the above?

What is the best way for a skier to learn snowboarding? My first lesson would probably be at Whitetail. Any tips specific to Whitetail? Should I look for a group lesson or a private lesson? What can I expect in terms of equipment? (I really don't know much about snowboarding equipment.)

How long does it take to learn snowboarding? What can I expect to be able to do after my first lesson -- and second and third trips? How does a snowboard handle in ice (er, "frozen granular") compared to skis? Not that any Mid-Atlantic resort would ever have ice, but you know..

I'm not looking to be able to attack the terrain parks of halfpipes. In fact, I'm not sure I would ever be interested in that -- my primary interest would be in just carving down the mountain.

Any advice is welcome. I've considered snowboarding in the past but have always wimped out... But this year I think I'm willing to try something new.


- Scott

[This message has been edited by Scott (edited 12-22-2003).]

December 22, 2003
Member since 12/29/1999 🔗
77 posts
Scott, I'd highly suggest that you get out and try anowboarding. I've been riding for about 5 years now, and while I'm no expert in either, my personal feeling is that skiing is far more complex and harder to master.

I was actualy taught to snowboard by a lifetime skier turned alpine boarder, and like many he made the transition due to skiing's tremendous toll on the knees.

I think as a whole, snowboarding has a much steeper learning curve in the beginning, so expect the first day to be pretty rough. If you can manage to survive through the first day, you can usualy ramp up quickly to linking turns and carving.

My tips for anyone interested in trying snowboarding would be the following:

- Rent Equipment before you buy.
- Try and determine if you are "goofy" or "regular" before you hit the hill.
- Padded shorts, have helped some beginning riders.
- Group snowboarding classes at most hills will NOT be able to tech you to ride.
- Try and team up with an experienced rider (one who has the patience to spend time with you on the bunny hill).

Try LIBERTY as their learning area is likely the best in the PA/MD region.

December 22, 2003
Member since 09/30/2003 🔗
172 posts
scott, i think that once you get it, you will find that snowboarding really opens up our small mts for maximum fun. because you can 'pop' off the tail of a board, you will be able to get air on almost any little roller which kind of turns the whole mt in a big park.
December 22, 2003
I would suggest trying to get a private lesson on a weekday. Its hard to concentrate on learning when you are constantly watching you backside. Thats one thing a lot of crossovers have problems with. on skis its much easier to see to both sides of yourself. You simply turn your head. On a board you end of with a bit of blind spot to your heelside. That can be very disconcerting for many people. Everyone here is right, the first day or two can be pretty brutal. You WILL fall, you will ,most likely, fall hard. Repeatedly. So look into some pads. If you rollerblade you already have some of them available. At a bare minimum I would suggest wrist guards, knee pads and a helmet. I've been riding for about 7 years now after crossing over from skiing for about 12 years and I wear those items every time I go out. I ride about 30-40 days a season. I broke my wrist when I first started riding and have seen countless others do the same. Try to pick a day when the snow will be fairly soft. Not 10" of powder soft, but a good packed powder day will be much easier to learn on than a skied off skating rink. You asked about your stance compared to skiing. In snowboarding your upper body still needs to be square to the fall line to make good turns. So your neck doesn't really need to turn any more than when you are skiing. You turn more at the waist. In my opinion, boards handle a bit differently than skis on various conditions. If its icy you really have to pay attention to what you are doing. That one edge is all you have. You can't transfer you weight to the other ski to save yourself. You can ride on icy conditions just fine. It just requires some skill and knowledge of how the board will act in those conditions. Since you aren't interested in the terrain parks, you should consider looking into an alpine setup once you are comfortable with your ability on a regular soft boot setup. Alpine boards are like the Porsche's of snowboarding. Fast, accurate, a bit unruley. Lots of fun for people who live to carve though. Make sure you have you skills down on a freestyle or all mountain board before you try alpine out though. Give snowboarding a fair chance and I think you will really enjoy it. A lot of people quit after the first day and never go back. If they gave it one or two more days they would be fine. Especially with a good instructor. Instructors are important. Without them we get beginners who go out and learn to sideslip and then think they are experts. So off they go to remove every flake of snow from your favorite expert run. Sideslipping all the way down except for the occasional sloppy transition to their other edge. With a few lessons they could be out there making a decent attempt at carved or skid turns. So to recap.... Get a lesson when the snow is good and skier traffic is low. Wear protective gear. Don't take this too seriously and have a good time with it. It will be worth all of the times gravity lashes out at you in the beginning. Good Luck and have fun.
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December 23, 2003
Member since 12/12/2000 🔗
274 posts
hey scott, i switched to the snowboard after moving to virginia from utah four years ago. i had skiied the utah powder for more than twenty years. while the skiing out here was still fun, the terrain and conditions just doesnt compare.

i had an old snowboard i was given for free and took it to liberty on a sunny february afternoon. never being one who enjoyed any kind of "lesson", i decided to teach myself. for three hours i was there on the beginner slope, barely able to stand up, let alone turn. finally i could link one or two turns, then fall. just when i started feeling good about my new abilities i realized that i was riding backwards (switch). so back to square one, but i made a few turns off the summit before leaving.

my next runs were at whitetail on closing day. the slush made for a great learning surface, slow and forgiving of my many faceplants and whiplash back-falls. but i tell you carving turns on my last run of the season from the summit at whitetail was seriously the most rewarding experience i have ever had on skis or board. the sense of accomplishment was incredible!

it was stated below that snowboarding really maximizes the fun of our small hills out here. and i couldnt agree more. so go for it, and give it at least a couple of tries. after six to eight hours you will be shredding.

my only other suggestion is not to go when it is icy. the average wipeout will be a little more painful. best to learn in the spring season when there is the snow is plenty soft and slow.

December 23, 2003
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
At the risk of getting into a huge flame fest, I'll just state what is my opinion from what others have casually mentioned to me in the past: basic snowboarding technique is easier than skiing overall. In general the statements I've heard is it takes a 3 solid days of snowboarding to get past the falling and face plants before you "get it..." On the other hand, my opinion is you can learn basic skiing in one simple lesson and reach the very broad "intermediate" ranks of skiing by day 3, especially with lessons... On the other hand, to truly become an advanced pole planting, carving and graceful skier takes a substantial amount of time and effort that many people seem to either avoid or simply cannot do. WHILE and this is a big subjective jump here -- it *seems* like to reach advanced carving on a 'board takes less technique and so is potentially more accessable. In general though, I bet being good at either is actually something that takes effort. If that's your goal, then well, be good at them. I mean take the time to be as good as you can be. I hope that doesn't sound like completely useless advice. Certainly it is pleasure to watch the big carving of a good boarder. Likewise I've seen skiers who can really "hang it there" too and cut the big "rail" carves... I'll take either.
December 23, 2003
Scott - I too am considering taking up snow boarding. I own a condo at Hidden Valley so naturally I ski there more than any of the other local resorts. However, there is not much in the way of challenging slopes at HV. Well, it aint Aspen but it's to increase challenge and fun I thought of taking up snow boarding. There are a few things that bother me about snow boarding:
1) Most snow boarders seem to have no idea about skiing etiquette. They'll cut you off and a whole group of them will just sit in the middle of slope. Snow boarders reputation as being rude is well deserved. Thus I will be a good example as a polite, rule abiding snow boarder. 2) They don't call them scrapers for nothing. I believe that snow boarders move a hell of lot more snow than skiers constributing to deteriorating snow conditions. 3)I hear the first 1 or 2 times that you go, face plants are common. However, skiing is hard on your knees so we'll save our knees and perhaps knock our head or break a wrist or two.

I have a friend who has a mono ski. Thus you are facing straight ahead. This may be a more natural position for us skiers. I have watch him use this thing a he makes it look easy. He is 70+ also skis, snow boards and was a memnber of the Senior Olympic Hockey team, so he is an excellent athelete.I don't believe that any of the ski manufacturers make a mono ski at present, so I guess were stuck with snow boarding.

December 23, 2003
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,555 posts
Some questions for those who both skied and snowboarded.

1) Is snowboading really "easier on the knees" than skiing?

2) What do you mean by "easier on the knees"? Less knee fatigue? Less chance of knee injury? Both?

December 23, 2003
Member since 01/1/2003 🔗
276 posts
I've skiied and snowboarded and while your knees may take a beating the first day or so snowboarding by getting hit into the snow every time you fall that way, you never seem to twist your knee boarding. I've never known anyone to have a real knee injury boarding. The only time i've ever really felt a twist at all is when you get off the lift and only one foot is strapped in. This is TERRIBLY dangerous when you aren't used to the lift yet. I've done some serious twisting and turning during boarding wipe outs and i've never had a real injury, just beat up a lot

On the other hand, the 3 times that i tried skiing i was scared for my entire athletic future everytime i fell because my knees always seemed to get twisted when one ski went one way and the other went the other. Sure, i stunk royally at skiing but i just had no desire to risk my knee forever in order to get good at it.

December 23, 2003
Member since 09/30/2003 🔗
172 posts
i think easier on the knees has to do with falling. falling on skiies is ugly because both feet can move independently and can cause the knee to twist. because both feet are secured in a snowboard, there isnt much twisting at the knee when falls happen. now, thats only the knees. i think the wrists take a big hit on snowboards and if you use strap bindings, you feet are in trouble too.
December 23, 2003
Scott, you're a braver man than what I am if you have the courage to try snowboarding. Just promise not to plop onto the snow immediately after you exit the lift....I realize the boarders need to put their 'free' boot back onto the board, but I think etiquette dictates that they should move just a wee bit further away from the lift off-ramp.....
December 23, 2003
Member since 09/30/2003 🔗
172 posts
the key to that is to keep your knees bent and weight distributed evenly on both feet to slightly toward the nose. one big key is the trailing arm. snowboarding is mostly done via upper body and when you let the trailing arm get behind you, it pulls everything back which makes the board want to turn (point the tail downhill). keeping that trailing arm in front of you helps keep your weight forward, which keeps the nose pointing downhill.
December 24, 2003
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
358 posts
<<1) Is snowboading really "easier on the knees" than skiing?

2) What do you mean by "easier on the knees"? Less knee fatigue? Less chance of knee injury? Both?>>

1. No... not really. Depends on the conditions though. Anything remotely lumpy sends my knees howling at the bottom. Moguls are especially bad, not only on the knees, but the leg muscles as well.

Anytime you're trying to stick turns in chopped up snow is rough, especially when you're flying along. Your knees absorb the jolts that would otherwise make you fall.

2. When falling, snowboarding is easier on the knees. Most of the time else, it isn't, as already mentioned.

I love the leash rule... you know the one dictating you have to use a leash or not ride the lift. Hmm... let's see, what keeps my board on... oh right, 2 straps, 4 nuts, 10 screws (that are important, there's more), and some silicone caulk holding the baseplate to the board. If that all fails then we have a much larger problem. Besides, the bindings would hit first... and don't tell me its the falling that's dangerous, because skis fall off all the time. Right now my leash is connected to my boot... that's it. It runs under the boot and I stand on it all day. Hmm... maybe I should paint it bright neon green... "Do you have a leash?" "Do you have eyes?"

December 24, 2003
Reminds me of a joke I heard once:
What's the difference between a snowboard instructor and their student?

3 days.

Disclaimer: I'm a snowboarder too. I think certified instructors are great and work hard to get where they are. Don't kill the messenger.

December 29, 2003

Lots of good info in this thread, but I'll add my own experiences. I'm 34, & a skier-turned-boarder (circa 1997). I've never been on skis since, & sold them that spring.
Most of the observations here are correct...the learning curve is steep..aka the school of hard knocks. Softer snow makes learning more enjoyable. I taught myself in about 4 hours, but then I also used to skateboard. The hardest part is finding that balance point. Once you've got that, the turning, stopping, etc. flows fairly quickly.

Knees...yes, snowboarding is better on the knees, as the type of catastrophic, sport-ending injury common to skiing cannot happen on a board cuz they can't twist. My younger brother is a ski casualty from this...never made it to boarding.

As for the wrist injuries, this thread is the first I've heard of that. It's never happened to me or any of the boarders I've ridden with, so while I'm not denying it, I don't think it's "a given" or anything like that.

Also, one thing I haven't seen mentioned is ride setup. If you've ever watched professional/olympic alpine snowboarding, you'll notice their stance is much more forward-facing than the typical boarder you see on the slopes. I ride a binding setup that is somewhere between the 2 extremes, & it works well for cruising/carving, which is how I ride (& how you said you want to ride). It allows you to run fast (I pass probaby 90% or more of skiers out there), but also maintain slow speed control. The 100% sideways/skateboarder stance is what most people ride because they either want to ride terrain parks or don't know any better.

Finally, one comment on snowboarder etiquette. I think rudeness goes both ways. One example...last year, I was coming up on a guy in his 30's/40's skiing ahead of me, & we were approaching a narrowing of the trail. As is common courtesy in biking, roller blading, skiing, etc. I yelled "on your right" since he was closer to the left. He turned around, & after seeing I was a boarder, stuck BOTH ski poles out to his sides to prevent me from passing. When I later passed, he made some remark like "boarder a#$hole". I'm sure we could all tell stories ad nauseum about abuses on both sides.

Finally, something I heard early on from a fellow boarder: "I know alot of people that used to ski, but I don't know anyone who used to snowboard".

December 30, 2003
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
1. Rentals: Rental boards are in general terrible. If you want a good one go to East Coast Board Co. They rent out Gnu boards (a pretty good brand) with Flow step in strap bindings and decent boots. Your set up is keey. Most rentals do not take into account your height stance width preference stance angle or any of this.

2. Stance. Right or left foot forward. Everyone varies in preference. Alpine boards like both feet forward. Some like both @ 90 degrees to the board some like 1 pointed forward one pointed back. There is no wrong way only what feels good to you. My preference is 0 in the back and 15 up front. I don't ride park much I like speed and carving and this works contrary to what some say I like it.

Keep your weight 50/50 on each leg. Lean back too much and the nose of the board lifts you speed up lose control and fall. If anything lean just a little forward into the hill.

3. Upper body. This is your direction. On a board where you turn your head is pretty much where you go. My instructor used to tell us to look at the gap between the trees not at the tree.

Your front hand is your directional hand. Point it where you want to go. Back hand is directional but also serves more of a balance role. When I learned that was the one you waved about a bit to stay in control.

4. Hills. Flat is bad. Boards hate flats. It's good to learn how to scoot around on but you need to really get some speed on them to have control. Your edges are your control if you dont have enough speed it's hard to lean back enough to get an ege. As a result you compensate by lifting yourself onto your toes or heels. A bit of a slope allows you to have more control.

5. Learn falling leaf. This technique is a lifesaver. Sometimes literally. It basically involves descending a hill using only one edge. Very useful if you encounter terrain too steep or difficult for you. You can pretty much descend anything using it. Good fr learning fakie too.

6. Falling. Get wrist guards. Failing that when falling do not tense up and try to resist. Tuck in and roll. If you must put your arms out ball your hands into fists and sort of punch into the snow. Falling on the heel of your hand can be devastating. (I've done it on both wrists now it only takes a light fall to ruin my day if I don't wear wrist guards.

7. Enjoy it. Snowboarding has an incredible degree of freedom and creativity. Explore it.

8. Give respect get respect.

Ski and Tell

Speak truth to powder.

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