Part 1: Snowboard Gear, Stance, and Strapping In
There are several things beginner snowboarders need to know before they even set foot on snow. In the first section of our beginner’s guide to snowboarding, we will cover:
- How to properly put on your boots.
- The basic parts of a snowboard.
- How to strap in and out of a snowboard.
- Figuring out your snowboard stance.
- How to carry your snowboard.
So let’s get started! Making sure your boots fit properly is one of the most important things to master as a beginner snowboarder. When trying on boots, only wear one pair of socks and make sure there is nothing else in the boot. We often see beginners who wear multiple pairs of socks to stay warm, but this is unnecessary. Modern snowboard boots are designed to keep your feet warm and comfortable with just one pair of socks. Also, make sure your heel is in the very back of the boot to ensure a snug fit. If you are unsure if your boot is on properly, ask your snowboard instructor or rental shop employee to help.
When it comes time to try on your snowboard, the first thing you will need to do is determine your “stance.” Your stance is the direction you face while sliding downhill. There are two snowboard stances, regular and goofy. A regular stance means that your left foot is forward, while a goofy stance means that your right foot it forward. There is no correct snowboard stance, it is all about what feels good to you.
It is important to understand the basic parts of a snowboard so you know what your instructors are talking about. The front of the snowboard is called the nose and the back of the snowboard is called the tail. There is also the heelside edge (the side edge closet to your heel when strapped in) and the toeside edge (the side edge closet to your toes when strapped in). Bindings are another essential component to a snowboard, these are what attached your feet to your snowboard. They are typically made from plastic or metal and feature a ratcheting strap system to secure your fit.
To strap into your snowboard, find a flat service. You don’t want to be on a hill because this will only make things more difficult. Place one foot into the binding, feed the “ladder” into the ratchet and crank the ratchet to tighten. To release, simply pull the buckle away from the ratchet.
It might sound silly, but it’s also important to pay attention to how you carry your snowboard when you are not riding it. Watch the above video to find out why.
Part 2: Skating, Gliding, Standing Up, and Moving Uphill
Now that you’ve got all of your gear and you know how to get in and out of your snowboard, it’s time to start learning some of the basic movements on snow. This section will cover:
- How to skate and glide.
- How to get up from the ground (while strapped in).
- How to move uphill
When you’re not going downhill, it is most common to get around with your front foot strapped in and your back foot pushing you forward. This is called skating and it is how snowboarders get onto chairlifts and how they move around on flat surfaces. But unlike skateboarding, the back foot typically pushes with your rear foot behind your heelside edge. The above video goes into more detail about how to skate and glide on snow.
When you are just getting started, you will probably be spending a lot of time on the ground. That is why it is important to understand how to stand up from a seated position with both feet strapped in. From a seated position, bend your knees and scoot your board towards your behind. Now, lean forward with your upper body and stand up using your quads and core. Try this on the flats a few times so you don’t have to worry about sliding downhill. You can also stand up by flipping onto your knees and your toeside edge. Watch the above video to see this in action.
The whole point of snowboarding is to glide downhill, but sometimes it is necessary to actually move uphill while strapped in. To do this, face uphill and dig your toeside edge into the snow. Then, continually hop forward like you’re jumping rope.
Part 3: How to Stop, Turn, and Ride a Chairlift
Once you’ve mastered the basics of navigating flat surfaces, it’s time to move on to the fun part: going downhill. In the final section of the beginner’s guide to snowboarding, professional snowboard instructor Chris Rogers explains:
- How to stop.
- How to turn.
- How to get on a chairlift.
- How to get off a chairlift.
Before you learn how to go straight downhill, you need to learn how to stop and control your speed. Start on your heelside with your board across the hill (perpendicular), try to find the balance point where you slowly move downhill without moving side to side. You should be in a mid-squat with your toeside edge slightly off the snow. You can also stop and slow down while you’re facing uphill by balancing on your toeside edge with your heels off the snow. Chris Rogers demonstrates exactly how to do this in the above video.
Once you’re comfortable controlling your speed on both your toe and heel edges, it’s time to learn how to turn. Rogers recommends starting with “garlands.” A garland is a half-turn that utilizes the same skills you mastered when learning how to stop. After you have made plenty of garlands on the hill, you can move into full C turns. For a full C turn, you will learn how to shift your weight from your toes to your heels (and vice versa). Once you can link together some full C turns, you’ll create a full S turn. Congrats, you’re officially snowboarding!
One often overlooked, but extremely important, part of learning how to snowboard is how to ride a chairlift. To get to the chairlift, skate up to the area that tells you to wait. After a chair passes and it’s your turn, skate up to the loading area. Move your back foot over to your toeside edge to make it easier to sit down. When the chair comes, simply sit down and scoot to the back of the chair. Once safely seated, put down the safety bar and enjoy the ride up.
To get off of a chairlift safely, point your snowboard straight. You want the nose of your snowboard pointing directly at the unloading ramp. As the chair enters the unloading area, place your board down and stand up with your back foot on your snowboard between your bindings. Glide away from the chair to clear the unloading area.
Part 4: Balance Fundamentals
Basic balance fundamentals will help you get better at snowboarding faster. Here are some basic balance fundamentals:
- The two-footed hop
- How to ollie
- How to nose press and tail press
- How to 180
To practice the two-footed hop, flex your ankles and knees and jump straight up. Flex again as you come down and think about a soft landing.
With an ollie, move your weight toward your back foot and then pop off the tail like a spring. You can this with your front foot and spring off the nose, this is called an ollie. Again, think about landing softly with both feet.
Part 5: Movements on a Snowboard
This section will cover the four basic ways to move on a snowboard:
Tilt is how you control your edge angle – the more you tilt your board the more you engage your edge through the turn.
By flexing one ankle and extending the other you create a twist on the snowboard. A twist helps you start turns smoothly.
Pivot is the rotation of the snowboard and it helps the board skid through the turn.
By shifting your weight between your feet, you can control pressure of the snowboard. Keeping your weight centered over the front foot is one of the most important parts of learning to turn.
So how do these moves make you a better snowboarder? Tilt lets you start carving turns to control speed and also lets you explore freestyle carving tricks like the euro-carve. Twist lets you start turns more smoothly, big or small, and is essential as you get better and start exploring the mountain. Pivot helps you shape your turns and is the foundation to spins like 180s and 360s on snow. Pressure is how you move on a snowboard to shift your weight and is the building block for nose-presses, tail-presses, butters, and jumps. Basically, these four movements make up everything you do on a snowboard – from your very first turns, to a double cork 1080.
What to Wear
A good day on snow starts with a good set of skivvies, so here is what to wear on the mountain. Wicking base-layers keep you warm and comfortable by moving sweat away from your skin. Avoid cotton layers at all costs, they do the opposite. Also, be sure to wear one pair of ski or snowboard specific socks, and only one pair. They are designed to keep you warm.
Make sure your snowpants are waterproof, breathable, and appropriate for the climate that you are visiting. And underneath you only want to have on base-layers.
Mid-layers depend on the weather and your personal preference. Layering is great – as the day’s weather changes, so can your outfit. A little cold put one on, a little warm take one off.
For jackets, you’ll want to make sure they’re waterproof and possibility insulated depending on the climate that you are in. If it’s cold, you’ll want a neck gaiter to keep your neck and face warm.
You should wear a properly fitted helmet designed for skiing or snowboarding. A bike helmet won’t do. You’ll also want ski or snowboard googles to protect your eyes from the sun (snow is very reflective), keep the elements out, and help you see where you are going.
The choice between gloves and mittens is a personal preference. In general, gloves allow for more dexterity while mittens are warmer.
And now you’re ready to go outside!
How to Get Off a Chairlift
Here are some helpful tips to help you get off the chairlift successfully. Start off by getting comfortable standing up and practicing unloading, you can use a bench or chair.
You can start by practicing on a bench sitting with your butt angled on the chair and keeping your board straight. Stand up with your weight on your front foot and place your back foot on the board on the stomp pad or against the back binding. Keep your head up, look forward, stand up, and push off the chair to glide away.
Now it’s time to ride the chairlift. When you’re riding up, make a plan with the other people on the chair and plan to unload in different directions.
Remember to sit with your butt angled on the chair and to keep your board straight. Stand up with your weight on the front foot and place your back foot on the stomp pad or against the binding. Keep your head up and look forward, stand up, push off the chair, and glide away.
Wait until you are away from the chair and other people before you skid to a stop. If you fall while unloading, the lift operators will slow and stop the chair so you can safely get out of the way. Follow these tips and you’ll be getting of the chairlift like a pro.
So that wraps up our five-part series on learning how to snowboard. We hope we answered some of your basic questions. If you are a beginner snowboarder, there is no better way to learn than to take a lesson from a professional instructor. Visit the Take a Lesson page for more tips or watch more videos.
Have fun, and see you on the slopes!