A Beginner's Guide To Snowboarding
There’s no doubt this winter season will be different across all ski resorts worldwide, but there are still many opportunities for you to learn how to snowboard. Whether you’re booked in for a lesson at a local snow dome or planning a future holiday, our comprehensive guide for beginner snowboarders can help you get started.
Snowboard Equipment For Beginners
What equipment do I need to go snowboarding?The bare minimum needed for snowboarding is a snowboard and boots; however, there are plenty of other pieces of gear that make it lot safer and more comfortable.
Should I rent or buy snowboard equipment?For your first time snowboarding it's best to rent equipment to keep the costs down. Almost all snowboard centres hire out snowboards, boots, helmets and some even offer waterproof clothing.
Check with your resort or snow dome for any changes to the process of renting equipment during the pandemic.
What clothing do I need for snowboarding on dry or indoor slopes in the UK?
You are going to need:
- Gloves or mittens (avoid wool if possible)
- Waterproof trousers
- A coat (waterproof if possible)
- A jumper
- Long thick socks
- A woolly hat
*You should wear old clothes that you are happy to get wet and dirty!
What size snowboard boots and snowboard do I need?
Any good snowboard centre should advise you on sizing when getting fitted for a snowboard and boots but here are some tips just in case.
Putting on snowboard boots can sometime be quite difficult. You want to loosen all the laces (including those on the inner liner), pull the tongue forward and slide your foot in. Once in, tighten the inner liner before fastening the outer. The boot should stop your heel from lifting without restricting the blood flow to your foot.When you stand up straight your toes should t graze the end of the boot. Next, you want to bend your knees and lean forward against the front of the boots (imitating a snowboarding position).
Snowboard length is determined by height, ability, weight and terrain but a good measure for beginners is to have the top of the snowboard just under your chin. The shorter the snowboard the more manoeuvrable it is (easier to turn) while length adds stability and speed.
How to strap in
Once you have your boots on and the correct length snowboard, head out to a flat area of snow and position your snowboard perpendicular to the slope (heel edge nearest to you). It can help to bump the heel edge into the snow a few times to keep the board from moving.
Sit down on your bum with the board in front of you and place your lead foot in the binding, pushing your heel back. Feed the toe strap into the ratchet and tighten until snug; do the same for the ankle strap. Repeat the process for your second foot, then push up off the ground and you are ready to go.
Whether or not you have a snowboard holiday booked it's probably best to get lessons in the UK at your local snowboard centre.
Dry or artificial snowboard slopes tend to be cheaper than indoor snow domes although the latter is easier to learn on and transition to "real snow". You can have private lesson on a one-to-one basis or group lessons. Private lessons are a lot more expensive but you get the full attention of the instructor with the aim of progressing quicker. For your first taster lesson, a group session should be fine as you will be learning very basic movements and simply getting used to the sensation of being on a snowboard.
Once at the centre, you'll collect your equipment and be led to the slope. Here you will learn to put your snowboard on, move up slope, heel and toe edge slide (sliding down the hill facing forwards and backwards, falling leaf technique and maybe how to use the button lift.
Lessons at resorts tend to be split into morning and afternoon sessions with the option to receive lessons in the morning then practice by yourself in the afternoon, or you can opt to have a full day of lessons. As well as teaching you to snowboard instructors are a wealth of knowledge (often having grown up at the resort they work for) about the pistes, restaurants, bars and much more.
Before you start any snowboard lessons a general level of fitness and strength will help you develop your technique. The major muscle areas that you use while snowboarding are thighs and core, with some balance helping out.
Doing a few squats or wall sits along with some sit-ups and planks is going to give you a solid base to work from. To improve your balance, you can stand a cushion with one leg for a minute (if that is too easy try it with your eyes closed).
Like all sports it's important to add in a warm up and cool down into any practice session. Some dynamic stretches and a couple of star jumps, squats and press ups should have your body and muscles loose and ready to go. After the session, stretch out all the main muscle groups; this should reduce any aches and stiffness the following day.
There are plenty of resorts to choose form but as you won't have been snowboarding for a long time it's not worth paying for a massive snowboard area. Prioritizing lots of green (beginner) runs, a mini park, snowboard schools and off-snow facilities are a good way to select a resort.
- Piste, Slope, Run: the (usually) groomed and patrolled areas to snowboard in that are graded in difficulty via a colour system
- Off piste/backcountry: any area that is out of bounds or to the side of a run
- Green run: groomed gentle slopes that are ideal for learning on, especially if you've never been snowboarding before
- Blue run: groomed slopes that are wide and good for developing technique at slightly faster speeds than a green
- Red run: a groomed run that is narrower and steeper than a blue and requires more technical snowboarding
- Black run: groomed or moguls, a black run is aimed at experts who areconfident in their ability to navigate very steep, narrow and challenging terrain
- Après: literal translates to after in French; involves a lot of dancing and partying
- Moguls: a series of bumps caused by turning that form on the piste if it is not groomed
- Piste basher/groomer/snowcat: at night these giant caterpillar-tracked machines are driven over the snow to smooth bumps and put a 'corduroy' pattern into the top layer
- Corduroy: the pattern in a freshly-groomed piste that makes it easier to turn on
- Powder: soft, fresh snow
- Fall line: the natural path that gravity dictates an object to travel down
- Regular: riding with your left foot forward
- Goofy: riding with your right foot forward
- Switch: snowboarding in a backwards direction
- Carve: a smooth turn
- Slash: a sharp turn that kicks up snow
- Jib: small technical tricks over jumps, rails, bumps etc.
- Ollie: jumping in the air form flat ground
- Board slide: sliding along a rail or box
- Kicker: a wedge shape jump
- Magic carpet: a conveyor belt that carries you up the hill
- Poma/t-bar/button lift/drag lift: a lift that you hold on to while it pulls you up the slope
- Gondola/cable car/bubble/: you stand in the gondola while it carries you up the hill
- Téléphérique: a large gondola, that can carry up to 50 people
- Funicular : a cable railway
- Chair lift: you sit on the lift while it travels up the mountain
- Whiteout: when it is snowing heavily it can become hard to distinguish between the sky and the horizon
- Bluebird: a sunny day with no clouds
- What to do with my stuff when I get to the slope?
Some resorts have lockers at the bottom of the major lift stations or you may be able to leave a bag at your snowboard school centre.
- Can I wear a rucksack?
Yes, you can wear a rucksack and can carry water, sun cream, food/snacks, extra layer etc. which are all useful on the slopes. Be aware that snowboarding with a rucksack adds extra ballast to your body making it harder to execute and learn technique, so it isn't generally recommended for beginners.
- Are there toilets on the mountain?
There are no toilets on runs but there are in restaurants and at major lift stations. Some of these may require you to pay a small amount to use the (50 cents) to help pay for the maintenance, so it is worth keeping a bit of small change with you.
- How do lifts and gondolas work?
All the chair lifts, button lifts and gondolas have lift attendants that will help you get on and offer advice.
- Where do I get a snowboard pass?
Depending on what type of holiday you are on (package or independent) you will be given your pass at your hotel by your resort rep or your can pick it up from an office at the bottom of a main slope.
- How can I take photos without the risk of damaging my camera?
Smart phones are a good option for photos as they strike a nice balance between size and quality of photos. It's better to store your phone in your chest pocket as you are less likely to fall on that part of your body while maintaining quick access to it. Using a sturdy case is a wise decision.
- What should I eat and drink?
It's important to keep your energy levels high when snowboarding as you can burn up to 500 calories an hour. Snack-size chocolate bars, protein bars, or sweets are small enough to fit in your pocket and should keep you going till lunch.
It may be cold out but you will find yourself sweating so drinking plenty of fluids will keep you hydrated and ready to go.
- What time are the slopes open from and when do they shut?
This varies from resort to resort and the time of the year. Saying that, most lifts open around 8:30am to 9:00am and shut around 4:30pm to 5:30pm. Each lift should have a clock or sign on it indicating these times, it’s worth noting these as you don't want to get stuck without a lift home, a taxi home can be expensive.
- What if I get lost on the mountain?
Pick up a piste map when you collect your pass for the lifts, it will have every piste on it - or you can download phone apps that show your position on the resort (be aware these apps can sometime be inaccurate and battery life is shorter in cold weather.
Each mountain has a patrol team that maintain the pistes and ensure that everyone is safe. Feel free to ask them for directions, advice or any other questions.
- How do I avoid injuring myself when snowboarding?
Snowboarding is an inherently dangerous sport where you will fall over but it is being able to mitigate the risk of injury from those falls is what will keep you safe. Wearing protection such as helmet, impact shorts, wrist guards or a back protector are going to lessen the force of any impacts you do have.
It's also useful to snowboard within your limits in terms of speed and choice of terrain. One way to do this is to map out a series of runs on the piste map that suit your ability or ask your instructor for suggestions. There is nothing wrong with wanting to progress but a solid grounding in technique will hold you in good stead for more challenging runs.