How to Snowboard for Beginners
Resist cabin fever by getting outside and heading to the mountain. It's time to shred.
During winter, it's tempting to stay cuddled up inside, sipping on hot cocoa...that is, until the cabin fever sets in. The antidote? Get outside and try something new.
Snowboarding, in particular, is the perfect sport to get you outside and active during the colder months—and, let's be honest, makes you look like a total badass. (Need more convincing? Here are six reasons to try snowboarding).
If you've never tried it before, it can be pretty intimidating; but that's where this guide on how to snowboard comes in. Here's everything you need to know, courtesy of Amy Gan, the lead snowboarding instructor at Mount Snow in Dover, VT, and a team member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI). (Not sure you're ready to strap both of your feet onto one board? Try skiing instead! Here's How to Ski for Beginners.)
"Teaching beginners is amazing because you have the opportunity to introduce them to a whole new world and invite them into a really cool community," says Gan. "It could be life-changing!"
1. First, a reality check.
Gan likes to prepare beginner snowboarders by reminding them this sport takes some time to learn. "There's a little bit of a learning curve, but it's a cool process," says Gan. "It's a lot more creative of a sport than I think people realize!"
That said, don't go into your first day with huge expectations—even the athletes at the X Games had to start somewhere. It may take some time before you can comfortably make it down the mountain, but you'll definitely get a good feel for it on your first day.
Beyond that, consistency is key to learning how to snowboard. "If you can commit to four days of snowboarding in your first season, you'll be off to a really great start," says Gan. (You can also try these exercises to prep your body for winter sports.)
2. Dress for success.
Being fresh on the powder doesn't give you an excuse to dress improperly. Here are the three key layers to consider:
- Baselayer: Gan suggests wearing any sweat-wicking leggings, plus a long-sleeve merino wool shirt topped with a thicker fleece layer. (Any of these winter baselayer tops, bottoms, or sets will work perfectly.) She also brings heavier and lighter layer backup options to the mountain so she can be prepared for any weather change.
- Top layer: "Get snow pants; don't wear jeans!" says Gan. Waterproof pants and coat are essential for staying warm.
- Accessories: "Definitely wear a helmet and a pair of goggles if you can get them," she stresses. (These ski goggles that are functional and stylish). Plus, wear a pair of wool or polyester socks will keep your feet warm, and tuck them up into your leggings so they don't get bunched up in your snowboard boots. As for keeping your hands warm and dry, any type of mitten or glove that isn't a wool or cotton material can work, says Gan. You don't want the snow to be able to stick to them. (Try waterproof leather mittens or Gore-Tex gloves instead.)
3. You're not too cool for school—take a lesson.
The number one piece of advice Gan gives is to take a lesson during your first day on the mountain. She warns that if you go off on your own or with a friend, you're going to be crashing a lot more often than if you take an hour or two to learn to snowboard from a pro.
During your lesson, the instructor will help you figure out which foot is going to be the one that goes in front. There are a few different ways to figure this out, but Gan likes to work backward. "Whichever foot you're going to be more comfortable picking up and pushing the board with is going to be your back foot," says Gan. This action, called "skating" (which is similar to pushing a skateboard), will be how you get around on flat surfaces and, eventually, board the ski lift.
You'll also start slow. "The first two skills we work on in a lesson are balance and stance," says Gan. You'll begin on a flat surface in an athletic stance with knees slightly bent to see what the board feels like on the snow.
4. Fall with style (and safety).
While you might be able to make it through the first day of skiing without a wipeout, you're pretty much guaranteed to be butt-in-the-snow when you're learning to snowboard.
Luckily, Gan has some crucial anti-crash advice: On your first day, if you ever feel out of control or are about to fall, just sit or kneel down (depending on which way you're falling). "Try to squat down and roll onto your butt or squat down and roll onto your knees and forearms," she says. "If you can get your center of mass close to the ground and roll, it will be a lot smoother than the alternative." This will also prevent you from using your arms to brace your fall (and potentially injuring your arm, wrist, or hand).
More good news: These days, most mountains offer beginner's rental equipment that's actually designed to reduce crashes. The edges of the board slope upward, so it's not as easy to catch the edge of your board in the snow and fall.
5. Started from the bottom, now you're here.
When you're able to graduate from flat ground to slightly-less-flat ground, congrats! But don't feel like you need to go to the top of the mountain on your first day. "It's better to stay in the beginners' area because that's going to be a positive environment rather than forcing yourself to go somewhere that's going to make it not fun," says Gan. (Don't be scared though: There are so many reasons to try a new adventure sport, even if it is a little nerve-wracking.)
And don't get frustrated with yourself if it seems like you're not getting the hang of it. If you find yourself getting agitated, take a quick break, says Gan. You might not realize what you have accomplished. Keep positive thoughts—and remember to take in the scenery!
6. Finally, après ski.
Après ski—or the social activities following a hard day of skiing and snowboarding— are some of the most gratifying moments after spending a day on the slopes. Whether it's enjoying a cold beer or a hot tea, reward yourself for trying something new and being active outdoors during the winter. Gan also suggests going in a sauna or hot tub if available, and to stretching out with some yoga to help avoid becoming sore.
"Anything like the pigeon pose that gets your quads and hip flexors loosened up is a good stretch," says Gan (Here are 6 Post-Workout Stretches for After Any Activity.) Gan also uses balance poses in yoga to get better at snowboarding, such as the tree pose.
In the offseason, Gan likes to go hiking to stay in shape for snowboarding. She recommends anything to help keep your glutes and hamstrings strong while also building your endurance, so you can keep your energy up run after run. If you're not able to go hiking, Gan suggests doing squats, wall sits, and agility drills (such as a ladder drill) while working out at home or in a gym to get the same effect.