The very best advice from a snowboarding instructor. “What should I know before learning?”

I started snowboarding when I was about 10 years old. Ironically, I think I only got away with learning at this age because I was scared of skiing after being injured 2 years before.

Snowboarding is not exactly the easiest sport to learn. On an average day to day basis you don’t usually kind yourself falling on your backside a number of times – but this isn’t bad, nor does it have to be painful. That said, no matter how much of a struggle snowboarding may seem early on it is totally worth it.

Last winter I officially became a certified snowboarding instructor. This is something I deliberated over for about 3 years before I actually had a chance. I first needed to acquire a car to travel up to the ski resort where I could be trained, and then I needed to acquire the necessary time. Snowboarding is by far my favourite sport and I would like to make it easier for those of you who are interested in trying out the sport with a few of my recommendations.

#1: Rent or Own

Try snowboarding first, rent a board/boots for the first time or two before buying a board. Snowboards cost a lot of money. You might get up there and realize that snowboarding really isn’t your thing, and that could occur even if you believe the sport is probably the greatest sport known to man, which I can cheerfully agree with (along with curling, figure skating, hiking and hockey).

Until you know that

  1. A) Snowboarding is amazing as a general concept and an actual sport and lifestyle that you wish to participate in and that
  2. B) (The important condition) that this amazing sport is really something that you enjoy doing

Then you should rent your board and boots.

Also, if you have some super hardcore friends who inexplicably own extra boots, boards and bindings, then yes, borrow their stuff and save a few bucks. Though, I am not sure how likely it is that people own stuff that will fit properly. Personally, I have one of everything because I am a student; if I can afford my lift tickets then I have accomplished a great feat. Just make sure that the stuff actually fits. It is most important that the boots fit, if a board is a little to long or short, that can be worked with, of course, within reason. The boots can actually cause a lot of stress to your feet and make it harder to ride properly if they are too big or small. I had boots that were a mere half size to large and my feet and ankles paid for it.

Rent at first. If you like it, buy a board later

 

#2: Helmets

Yes! Just yes! 10 years ago helmets were kind of lame, but today most people wear helmets. Don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t common to wear helmets. No one is proving anything to anyone else by refusing to wear a helmet. Unless what you want to prove is your willingness to acquire brain damage, which is something I take seriously. Even a minor fall can lead to concussion. It’s not that I want to scare anyone – you won’t necessarily get injured and even so, injuries can happen in hockey, figure skating, dancing, curling, horse back riding and so on – but it’s just that no one is winning by refusing to wear a helmet because accidents happen. It doesn’t make you “cool” or anything like that. Play it safe and protect your noggin.

Get a helmet. It’s just a good idea.

#3: Actually Learning How to Ride

This is one of those hazy areas where I guess you have multiple options. I know plenty of people who learned to ride from their friends. People such as myself mostly learned from snowboarding instructors and fine-tuned on my own because at the time I was the strongest rider amongst my friends.

Just make sure your friend is a good teacher because being a strong rider doesn’t necessarily translate to strong teaching skills. Learning to ride could be made extra difficult if someone doesn’t know how to teach basic skills. No, you shouldn’t be able to ride down the green runs on the first attempt, but a good teacher will make sure that you aren’t discouraged by the learning curve.

So if you choose to learn from a friend make sure that they know to teach you to put your feet in the bindings the right way and all that. I know an instructor who had a kid put their feet in the bindings the wrong way, so that’s not a joke. You want someone who knows how to explain sliding, pushing, and a beginner turn and all that.

I would recommend getting a few lessons from an actual instructor. They are the ones who definitely know where to begin with someone who is just learning. This is expensive, yes, but it pays off in the end when you learn this way. If cost is a concern, you can get some pretty good deals at the ski schools on group lessons. Try to get it in groups with your friends. A group of 2-4 friends is a great way to learn because you guys can all spent time together AND get a cheaper lesson by being in a group together.

Learn from a friend who knows how to teach AND/OR get professional lessons.

#4: What you actually need

Snow pants. Even the best of us will get chilly backsides if we aren’t wearing good snow pants. We sit down on the ground to do up our bindings or just because we want to chill out mid way down a long run for a while. Keep your backside dry with some good snow pants.

Jacket. Seriously, this is self-explanatory because if you are snowboarding it is below freezing. Unless you enjoy all the thrills and pleasures of hypothermia, you are going to want a jacket

Gloves. You are probably going to want at least 2 pairs of gloves. They’ll get wet. On a warmer day when the slow is going to melt on your hands easier you might need a change of gloves mid day. If you will be snowboarding for 4 days, I would bring 4 pairs of gloves (1 per day) because some of the gloves might not be able to dry over night. This way you can wear 2 a day – if the firt 2 are drying over night, you can wear the other 2 the next day and the 2 pairs from the first day will be dry for the 3rd day (you see what I am getting at right?). Make sure the gloves fit, but it can’t hurt to size up if you plan to put Hot Paws in there or wear wrist guards, for me this still means I need a small size of gloves.

 

Boots, binding, board, helmet. Refer to my original points about helmets and acquiring gear.

Neck wraps, scarves etc. I recommend the neck wrap. They tend to be fuzzy like the inside of a sweater. Cooler options are available in most board shops. Scarves are just not the best choice – they get in the way, but if it is all you have then use it. You probably want a selection because on a warm day you want the lighter choices and when it is cold you want the fuzzy. They also tend to get damp because you were breathing on them, so if that bothers you, then you may want 2 of them just for that reason. You also have to account for wind, especially at the top of a hill, so if it seems warm, carry on in a pocket just in case.

Hair elastics. This is for girls, although I suppose some men have long hair and should take this to heart. I find that if I leave my hair down then my super fine long hair turns into a rat’s nest. The fix? French braids, specifically 2 of them. I find that it is the best hairstyle because normal braids and ponytails will come loose under my helmet and ponytails also get in the way of the base of my helmet. 2 French braids is more comfortable because 1 French because of how my helmet sits. Plus it is easy to take out a braid later in the day and change the hairstyle for the nighttime.

Wrist guards. This is a suggestion more than anything else. A lot of people don’t bother. I like them to protect my wrist, which is the one I injured skiing when I was 8. My wrist is extremely sensitive to the cold, so wrist guards keep them warm and help to keep snow out of my jacket. Wrist guards also have the benefit from protecting your wrists from fractures, which is the most common snowboarding injury. However, unlike helmets, wrist guards are not standard practice but it is a good recommendation for people who want a little extra protection.

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