Snowboarding is one of the most thrilling winter sports. It’s a way to blend skill and creativity while deeply connecting with the mountains and snowboarding community. Plus, it gets you super fit and looks good, too. But how do you get started? From choosing a board and gear to making your first turns, here are my tips for beginner snowboarders.
1. Choose an all-mountain snowboard
There are a lot of snowboards on the market. Initially, you might be attracted by the colors and designs, but picking the right snowboard will make learning a lot easier. The two main types of snowboards are all-mountain boards and freestyle boards. For beginners, you’re better with a mountain board because it will allow you to take on early snowboarding challenges in a smoother way. It will also provide you with better stability and control.
2. Go for a medium-flex snowboard
The flex of your board is also important when you’re snowboarding for the first time. While stiff boards are overall the best because they’re quick to react and maintain control at speed, they are only for experts who can handle themselves in any situation. As a beginner, you’re better looking for a medium flex snowboard that is somewhere in the middle of the soft and stiff spectrum. It will give you the best compromise on balance, stability, control, and versatility.
3. Choose the right snowboard profile
Snowboards have a profile, meaning the shape and camber of the snowboard between the bindings (where you clip your boots). The camber can impact stability and edge control and is an especially important choice for beginners. A flat profile means flat to the ground. Camber means the board goes up a little in the middle. Rocker means it goes down a little in the middle. A hybrid camber is a combination of rocker and camber.
While full camber boards offer the best stability and control, they are harder to keep on top of the powder as you’re more likely to catch your board. That makes them tricky for beginners. Either flat boards, flat-to-rocker or hybrid boards are best for beginners.
4. Get the right length and width snowboard
Length and width of your snowboard are others factor to consider and there are various snowboard charts available that will help you choose the best size. Pop in your height and weight, and you’ll get some suggestions.
5. Consider renting a snowboard first
Renting a snowboard is a great option for beginners. That way, you haven’t invested in a board that might not work for you. All the ski resorts have rental shops. If you don’t like what you try, take it back and try another one. The staff at your rental shop will be super-well informed and will be able to steer you towards a better style of board if the one you have isn’t working for you.
6. Get the right snowboarding gear
Wearing the right gear is essential. Spending all day falling onto the snow can leave you wet and cold if you don’t dress properly. Waterproof ski pants and a jacket are essential as is a good base layer. I travel to both warm and cold destinations all around the world and snow gear is the one time I invest in good quality brands. I love Helly Hansen and The North Face for clothing and Sorel for winter boots. Do go for a specific ski jacket rather than just a winter jacket for features like a snow skirt to stop snow getting in the bottom and a RECCO avalanche detector sewn in. Here’s a list of essential snowboarding gear:
- ski pants
- ski jacket
- base layers (minimum 2)
- pair of socks
- wrist guards
- snowboarding boots
- goggles (snow lenses) with UV protection
- sun block
- cozy socks for your cabin
- warm clothes for the resort
You’ll wear your kit every day so pack multiples of items that will get sweaty or wet, like socks and base layers. Ski pants and jacket you just need one. Helmet and snow boots are good to rent as a beginner. I have a longer list of what to pack for a snow trip.
7. Ensure your boots fit well
There’s nothing worse than blisters from snowboard boots. Choosing a good fit is vital. If you’re using rentals, the staff will help you out. If you’re buying boots, try them on while wearing thick socks. As well as length and width, other things to look out for are:
- laces – styles include traditional, quick pull (pull string in the middle), or boa (dial system, usually most expensive).
- flex level – from soft to stiff. Soft is generally better for beginners as they have more give and control.
- heel lift – the less your heel lifts in the boot, the more control you’ll have.
- ankle support – you want good support around your ankle and calf without your boots being too tight.
Generally, modern snowboard boots are more comfortable than hard-shell ski boots but it’s always a good idea to pack some gel blister bandages.
8. Improve your balance
Good snowboarders have excellent balance. Thankfully, it’s something you can improve. I know this because had to do it a lot after I tore my ACL. By the time I was back on the mountain in Verbier (Switzerland), my balance was better than ever. Exercises for improving your balance include standing on one leg. Too easy? Stand on a cushion or pillow or even buy a round balance board. You can get them with fun maze games to help practice your control as well as your balance. Other sports that will help improve your snowboarding include surfing, which has a lot of similar moves, and yoga or pilates, which is great for balance, core strength, and stability.
9. Practice in your bedroom
It may sound silly but practising in your bedroom can help you learn to snowboard a bit more quickly. Try putting on your boots and strapping yourself to the snowboard. You can also practice full transitions and weight shifts from heel to toe side (more below) which will help you to balance the board in a better way when you are out in the snow. It is also important that you quickly learn the balance points and flex of your board which you can do at home.
10. Try an indoor ski slope
If you don’t live near a ski resort, you might have an indoor ski slope closer to home. While they are more common in Europe, they can be found around the world (I found one in the middle of the desert in Dubai, and even ski countries like Austria have them!). While it’s not the same as being on fresh powder, it’s as close as you’ll get and ideal for beginners who want to practice before hitting the slopes for real. It can also be a more affordable way to learn.
11. Learn your stance – regular or goofy
The basic snowboarding stance, which will also be your main riding stance, is with your knees slightly bent, weight evenly centered over your board, and your feet shoulder-width apart. It’s also important to know if you’re regular or goofy. Don’t worry, it’s not an insult. It’s simply which foot you put at the front of your board. Usually, you have your dominant foot at the back. In a regular stance, your left foot is your lead foot, with your right foot at the back. In a goofy stance, it’s reversed – your right foot leads with your left foot as your back foot. I’m goofy and proud!
12. Learn how to stand
Learning to stand up is something you’ll practice a lot as a beginner since you’ll have to do it every time you fall down. When you get started, you’ll be sitting down to put on your snowboard. From there, shift your upper body weight forward, use your hands on your knees, and push yourself up. It can feel clumsy until you get the hang of it. Practicing off the slopes can help.
13. Learn how to fall safely
The fact is, you’re going to fall. So, one of the most important safety tips is learning how to fall safely. I get it – in the moment, it can be hard to think quickly enough, which is why practicing can help develop your muscle memory. Ideally, you want to fall to the side. This prevents major impact zones – head, knees, and feet. Failing that, if you do take a tumble forward, program yourself to fall onto your knees and forearms rather than onto your hands and wrists. There’s a chance you’ll continue sliding once you hit the powder. In that case, try to slide on your butt rather than uncontrollably tumbling. If you do practice falling at home, do it on your bed rather than a hard floor! And most of all, wear a helmet. Not wanting to terrify you but brain damage and death are real risks on the slopes.
14. Buy your ski-pass
Don’t forget to sort out your ski pass (otherwise known as a chair passes as they give you access to the ski lifts and chairs). Each resort will differ but generally, you’ll be able to buy a choice of day, multi-day and group passes. Many ski jackets will have a pocket in the arm where you can keep your lift ticket. Wave your arm over the barrier for quick entry to the chairs and slopes.
15. Master the ski chairs
A ski lift is great – a cable-car style lift that you walk on to and ride up the mountain. Ski chairs – where you sit in the chair with your legs dangling, can be a bit more daunting for beginners. I found getting on and off the chairs the hardest part at the beginning. Don’t worry, with a little practice, you’ll get it. When you get to the loading area, get your lead foot strapped into your snowboard, leaving your back foot free. There are usually loading attendants ready to guide you to the right spot. Skate along on your snowboard until you’re in position. Keep an eye out for your chair coming around. When it’s close, face the front and when you feel it touch you, sit naturally and it should scoop you up. Don’t worry, they are reasonably slow – it’s not a theme park experience.
16. Consider using a stomp pad
A stomp pad is a bit of grippy rubber that’s glued to your board between the bindings. It gives your rear foot extra traction when it’s out of the binding but you want to place it on the board. Stomp pads can be useful when getting on and off the chair lift and when skating on flat surfaces. They’re mostly popular with beginners.
17. Start on the easiest terrain
On your first day, it’s a good idea to start your first few runs at the bottom of the slope, known as base areas. With a gentle slope that has a flat section, you don’t have to worry about losing control or building up too much speed. Start by strapping the snowboard on while you’re in a seated position. Stand up and point your front hand down the hill. This will slide your snowboard downwards and you’ll stop when you reach the flats. This might seem boring but you need to do this several times before building up to higher speeds. You should also try stopping the board on your toes.
Once you’ve got the very basics, you can explore the easiest slopes. Every resort is different but look out for bunny slopes (also known as nursery slopes), which are specifically for beginners with low angles and smaller bunny hills. Green runs are also for beginners – they are the easiest slopes on the mountain, usually with wide trails that make turning easier, and groomed slopes that don’t have bumps. All resorts have maps showing the runs.
18. Understand toeside and heelside
Snowboarding has a lot of jargon. Two of the main phrases you will hear relate to your board edge: toeside and heelside. Simply, heelside and the heelside edge is the side of your board closest to your heels. Toeside and toeside edge is the side of your board closest to your toes. Leaning towards the front of the snowboard (nose which points downhill when riding) helps you start a toeside turn. Leaning towards the back of the snowboard (tail which points uphill when riding) starts a heelside turn.
19. Get good at edging
The edge of your board is powerful. It’s on the edge of your board that you can control your speed and make turns. Shifting your weight between your toeside and heelside onto these edges is known as edging. Mastering it is an important step for beginners. Get onto some nicely groomed slopes and practice edging from there.
20. Practice the basic snowboarding moves
Although it’s tempting to try out all the jumps and moves you see other snowboarders do, it’s important to remember that snowboarding is an extreme sport and it’s easy to hurt yourself if you don’t learn to snowboard in the right way. As well as learning to stand and edging, you’ll want to practice controlled turns. Your first turns will be falling leaf (zig-zagging down the slope), progressing on to J-turns (going straight down and then turning in a J), full C turns (complete turns), and glide turns.
You’ll also want to learn sideslipping (sliding sideways down the slope), carving (turning using the edge of your board), slowing, and coming to a complete stop. Once you’re good at the basic moves, you’ll have learned how to ride and move your snowboard properly.
21. Face where you want to go
I got this same advice from my driving instructor and it works for snowboarding too – train your eyes where you want to go and your body will point in the same direction. That means, don’t look back if your friend is shouting for you, at least not until you’ve mastered the basics.
22. Watch for ice
You’ll understand how tricky ice is when you go over it on a snowboard. The best advice for beginners is to avoid it. Always follow the powder where it will be easier for you to make turns and improve your learning experience. If you’re not sure where, ask an experienced snowboarder who can guide you to the right, ice-free terrain.
23. Take a snowboarding lesson
I’d highly recommend taking at least one snowboarding lesson. Private lessons are going to be best but group lessons are still very good, and will be cheaper. You can usually buy a package of lessons, some with snowboard rental prices included. Snowboard instructors are very experienced and will have a lot to teach you. Typically, you take lessons for a few hours in the morning and then have free time to practice in the afternoon.
24. Be considerate of others
As a beginner rider, you’ve got a lot to think about and the location of others is pretty high up your list. Slopes can get busy with a lot of people and there is an etiquette to follow. Yield to those lower down the slopes, don’t become a hazard by stopping mid-slope, try not to cut up others, and apologize if you accidentally get in the way. Good behavior makes for a friendly and safe environment.
25. Stay safe but have fun
Always wear your safety gear (helmet, wrist guards, gloves, and goggles) even when you are learning how to ride a snowboard. It not only helps you stay safe, it means you can progress quickly with confidence. But above all, enjoy. Snowboarding can be a challenging sport for beginners but before long you’ll progress to steeper slopes and more difficult terrain. Keep at it and in no time you can be strapping on a Go Pro and making your own viral videos.
You can read more tips and advice on Extemepedia.
Images 1, 3, 5: Canva.