It’s happening. At least here in the Northern Hemisphere where we’re slowly but surely tilting away from the warmth of the sun. Soon, a low winter sun will only heat our half of the planet in a lackluster fashion, yielding colder, grayer days and frigid nights. But with a little luck, at least for the mountainous regions of North America, what precipitation does fall from the sky will be frozen, accumulating upon the previously barren trails and slopes gracing our nation’s myriad of ski and snow resorts. Soon enough, the lodge will open, as will the trails, and we can once again enjoy the fruits of another bone-chilling winter. Best bundle up.
However, for those who have yet to experience the joys of carving down the mountain on a freshly-waxed snowboard, the slopes can be an intimidating place. It doesn’t have to be that way though. For with a little know-how, patience, and trust, learning how to snowboard can be a gateway into the joys of winter sports. So rather than curling up next to the fireplace all winter, why not give snowboarding a try? Here are some tips, etiquette, and gear to get you started making first tracks on that double black diamond run in no time.
10 Tips To Get You Cruising
As with any other sport, practice makes perfect. Also, it’s important to maintain realistic expectations of how you’ll progress. That being said, we highly recommend proceeding with caution when it comes to the types of runs you’re attempting. Always make the safe decision as a beginner. It’ll help build confidence and allow you to get some actual riding in rather than falling every couple seconds. With that in mind, here are 10 tips we found that pertain to just about any beginning rider.
1. Use the Buddy System (or Take a Lesson)
For a handful of beginners, snowboarding is yet another boardsport to conquer. So if you’ve been surfing and/or skating for years, the learning curve with snowboarding is abridged. In this case, we still suggest the buddy system be utilized in spades as you learn the ropes. Get them to give you some pointers, and stick with the beginner slopes as you gain your bearings. For others, we highly recommend taking some beginner lessons from a professional instructor because if this is your first boardsport, it will take some time to get used to the sensation, required balance, and personal trust it takes to hit the beginner runs without endangering yourself or others.
Keeping In Touch: The BONX Grip Walkie-Talkie Earpiece
No matter what your ability level is, there’s nothing more fun than riding with friends. So, if this is on the docket, allow BONX to help keep everyone in sync. Here, this handy earpiece allows up to 10 friends to communicate in real time during each run with an unlimited range anywhere your phone get reception. Additionally, innovative voice activity detection keeps the conversation going swimmingly without interruption, you can also answer phone calls without issue, and each piece is both water and shock resistant.
2. Dress Appropriately
This tip should be obvious. However, we do feel it necessary to emphasize the importance of dressing warmly in gear that’s purposed for hours upon hours in the cold, wet snow. For instance, waterproof or water resistant snowboarding jackets, pants, and gloves are a must. Also, it’s imperative to layer as well. Remember that all runs begin and end at the lodge so you can always remove layers as the day warms up. But there’s nothing worse than attempting to cruise down a 30-minute run while wet, cold, and shivering. This is winter after all. Preparation is necessary.
3. Protect Yourself
And speaking of preparation, safety should always come first before hitting the snow. Meaning, you’re going to fall — possibly hard — so protecting your head is important. Obviously, a helmet is needed before heading out. And don’t let the more experienced riders deter you from wearing one. This is ever-so-important in an environment peppered with ice, trees, and other people. Also, wrist guards could be a solid investment as well since odds are as a beginner you’re not going to know how to fall (more on that below). Finally, and along the lines of falling, impact shorts with protective padding around the tailbone and hip bones come highly recommended as well.
4. Know Your Stance
Those beginners who are already affiliated with skating and surfing will have no issues with their stance. However, for the true beginners, this is where you’ll discover whether you’re regular or goofy-footed. Sound strange? We have you covered. Basically, a regular stance is where your right foot acts as the dominant force on the board (i.e. the back foot) vs goofy where the opposite is true (i.e. the left foot is the dominant force). To figure this out, kick a football or soccer ball. Odds are whatever foot you kick with will determine your stance (i.e. foot you kick with = your back foot on the board).
5. Learn How To Fall
As previously stated, you’re going to fall as a beginner. A lot. Not to worry though. Because if you remain aware of how to fall properly — despite your instincts — it’s relatively easy to avoid injury. A rule of thumb, as much as your going to want to use your hands to break the fall, don’t. This is the most common way to sprain or break your wrist which can ruin the entire day. Instead, if you feel yourself going down, keep your hands close to your body and crossed over the chest.
6. Powder Is Your Friend
Speaking of the inevitable reality of falling, one of the best ways to mitigate injury is to learn when the conditions are right. Meaning, after or during a fresh snowfall. That way runs will be covered with powder and be softer for beginners. Also, key times of day could be better than others — especially during the early and late seasons where daytime snowmelt and overnight freezing could create harmful icy spots that could easily throw a wrench into your run. Icy spots are also detectable ahead of time so be sure to try your best and “follow the powder.” Your tailbone will thank you.
7. Learn Your Signs
Piste symbols serve as key indicators of trail conditions, difficulty, and boundaries on the mountain. Needless to say, there’s a bit of reading up to do before heading out. For instance, all slopes on the mountain are delineated with certain colors equating to levels of difficulty (i.e. green = easiest and best for beginners, blue = intermediate, black = difficult and for experienced riders only). Also, be on the lookout for boundary signs — as the ski patrol is not responsible for issues that occur in “off-piste” situations as conditions are often dangerous in these areas of the mountain.
Key Terms To Know:
All-mountain: Snowboards designed for exploring any terrain.
Backcountry: Unpatrolled wilderness with unpredictable terrain/topography.
Cruiser Run: A mellow and relaxed run down the mountain.
Edge: The sharp and smooth metal strips around the board’s perimeter.
Heelside: The edge of the board closest to the rider’s heels.
Toeside: The edge of the board closest to the rider’s toes.
Moguls: Large bumps and mounds in the slope — often intentionally placed.
Off-Piste: Potentially unstable backcountry terrain without lifts, patrols, or other amenities.
Run: A slope or marked trail at the resort.
8. Keep Your Head High
Once you’re up and riding, instincts will persuade you to look down at your feet. Don’t do this. Instead, look ahead at where you’re going and your feet will follow. Feel the snow underneath your feet and gently use your back foot to guide your turns. Looking ahead will also allow you to dodge any obstacles and will keep your posture balanced — helpful hints for not falling. Doing this will get you comfortable on the board before you know it. Trust us.
9. Trust Your Edges
Another key to a successful beginner experience is to trust your edges. Here, by edges, we’re referencing both sides of your board. Meaning, don’t be afraid to really lean into your turns. This is a whole body experience so don’t just think that turning your back foot will direct you. Instead, think of the back foot as an anchor that’s steering the ship. Not the steering wheel of a car. Use your heels and toes to shift your body weight and lean into the turns, allowing the edges of the snowboard to cut into the powder beneath and keep you steady. It’s all about trust.
10. Know Your Limits
Finally, just like any other activity, know your limits. Are you going to progress from the bunny slopes to a black diamond in a single day? No way. Also, keep a map of the mountain on you at all times and know what ski lift goes where. The last thing you want is to mistakenly end up at the top of the peak where the only way down is via a double-black diamond. Also, if you’re tired or injured, take a breather. There’s no need to push yourself as a beginner. Getting comfortable on a snowboard takes time.
Nobody Like A Nuisance
Aside from key pointers to get you up and riding on the mountain, it’s also important to remain aware of your surroundings and fellow riders because odds are, you won’t be the only beginner/boarder on the run. With that said, here are a handful of basic etiquette pointers to help minimize conflict/maximize respect while out and about.
1. Remain in Control
Seems obvious we know, but working to remain in control means a handful of things — like not pushing yourself to more experienced runs where you’ll be in the way of other more experienced riders, keeping a watchful eye for other learners, and just handling yourself in a manner that’s not reckless.
For a more entertaining breakdown of basic snowboarding etiquette, allow pro snowboarders Kevin Pearce and Jack Mitrani to assist here.
2. Know Who Has the Right of Way
Always, always remember to yield to the rider ahead of you. They have the right of way at all times. The reason being is that they can’t see behind them, so it’s up to you and the riders behind you to yield properly — not speeding past without warning or at an unsafe distance. Let them work their line accordingly and adjust your line in response — for the two shall never meet. Also, when two trails merge into one, yielding to fellow boarders and skiers is mandatory as well.
3. Don’t Obstruct The Run
Similar to the above, as a boarder who’s downhill from those higher up on the slope, you should never stop in an unsafe or hidden blindspot on the run. Obstructing it in this manner not only places you in danger but also fellow riders working their downhill run. And if you find yourself constantly stopping or feeling the need to slow down/rest, you might be on a more experienced run than you thought. If that’s the case, take your time cruising down the slope or hail the ski patrol. Just don’t turn yourself into an unforeseen obstacle.
4. Don’t Cut The Lift Lines
We’ve seen this happen before and it’s honestly one of the rudest things you can do on the mountain. Peak season is peak season. And weekends are weekends. You will be waiting in lines for the lift and they will be long. Remain patient, don’t cut in line to meet up with friends, and be respectful. No one gets special treatment.
5. Keep The Booze at the Lodge
Another seemingly obvious piece of etiquette advice yet you’ll be surprised at how many riders don’t adhere to it. At its core, snowboarding can be a very dangerous sport, and consuming copious amounts of alcohol on the run or on the lift will result in impaired balance and motor skills — putting you at a higher risk for injury. Not to mention the effects higher altitude will have on your tolerance. Best keep the boozing reserved for after a day’s run at the lodge.
- Dragon D3 OTG Goggles ($109+)
- BONX Grip Wireless Walkie-Talkie ($140)
- Homeschool Foundary Pant ($140)
- K2 Maysis Snowboard Boot ($300)
- Flylow Colt Down Jacket ($350)
- Yes Standard Snowboard ($500)
Start Well, End Well
Now for the fun part. The gear. And while for most beginners, simply renting equipment is a possibility, once the bug has bitten you the time will come to start sporting your own gear. Not to mention the additional time you’ll save not waiting in line to try on rental equipment and paying to use it. Instead, owning your gear and getting a couple of season passes will facilitate a simplified car-to-lift experience and get you on the mountain quicker and easier. Can’t beat that.
Dragon D3 OTG Goggles
Keep both the fog and cold air at bay with this pair of snowboarding goggles from Dragon. The D3 OTG Goggles not only host an optically correct lens for accurately displaying distance, but the lenses offer 100% UV protection and come equipped with anti-fog technology to keep your field of vision clear as can be.
BONX Grip Wireless Walkie-Talkie Earpiece
If hitting the mountain with friends is on the docket, BONX allows up for 10 of you to communicate in real time during each run. They also host unlimited range anywhere your phone get reception — so keeping in touch on all sides of the mountain is possible — and premier voice activity detection keeps the conversation going swimmingly without interruption. You can also answer phone calls without issue and each piece is both water and shock resistant.
Homeschool Foundary Pant
A pair of snowboard pants that are built to last, the Foundary Pant is designed to look good on the slopes without cutting corners on performance. Each pair features a Continuum two-layer shell with fully-taped seams to keep the moisture at bay while internal boot gaiters provide a tight connection between the pants and your boots. A pass-dedicated pocket also keeps it secure and at the ready to seamless lift entry.
K2 Maysis Snowboard Boot
Thanks to an Endo 2.0 shell construction, the K2 Maysis boots are hard-charging and incredibly lightweight — not to mention comfortable compliments of an Intuition Control Foam liner that heat-molds to your foot. Additional features include a Pro-Light Vibram outsole and full Boa lacing for ultimate board control.
Flylow Colt Down Jacket
A heavy-hitting snowboard jacket is necessary for continued warmth throughout the day. Here, the Flylow not only hosts a 600-fill down to fight against those cold days, but also features a DWR coating, a powder skirt to keep out the snow, and a helmet-compatible hood for extra protection.
Yes Standard Snowboard
Positioned for the all-around rider, this reliable and well-built board is made for the park, free-riding, and the occasional off-piste cliff line when the time comes. It features a loaded tool belt along with a true twin shape for switch riding, MidBite for fast edge-to-edge control, and a Slamback Stance option for those heavy powder days.
The Best Snowboarding Gear for Every Rider
Once you get the basics down it’s hard to not want to upgrade. We totally get it. Which is why we put together this roundup on the best snowboarding gear for every rider — from the mountaineer to the park rat.