Snowboarding 101

Snowboarding 101: Advice from an Instructor

Knowing the basics of snowboarding sets you up for an awesome trip.

I have worked as an instructor for over a decade. My experience tells me that people who do some basic research always learn faster.

Snowboarding 101 lays out the basic foundations. You will learn about technique and understand what equipment you need.

I have also included tips about how to choose the right resort.

Let’s ride.

Beginner Snowboarding Technique 101

Find your stance

The first step is to decide if you are regular or goofy.

  • Regular stance is with your left foot facing forward as you slide down the slope. Right-footed riders usually choose this stance. Because you want your dominant foot behind.
  • Goofy stance is with your right foot at the front of the board. Left-footed riders usually choose this stance – so their dominant foot is at the back.

These rules are not set in stone. You need to find what feels most natural to you and roll with it.

Get the right posture.

The way you stand on your snowboard is important. Balance is everything in this sport.

You need to maintain a balanced posture at all times.

Stand on the board with your weight balanced evenly across both feet. Bend your knees so you’re in an athletic position. These are your shock absorbers.

All of your joints should feel relaxed. Loose and flexible is the name of this game. You can absorb bumps and react when necessary.

Always look where you are going. It’s a rookie mistake to look at your feet.

Put your arms out parallel with the board. This helps you balance.

Don’t skip past this crucial step. Getting the foundations right is snowboarding 101.

Set yourself up for success long term.

Learn how to skate

Skating is going across a flat with one foot strapped into the board.

Your front foot is the one that stays strapped into your snowboard. And your back foot is used to push you along.

The back foot propels you along the snow. You can put it back on the board and glide along once you have some momentum.

This is a skill that is similar to skateboarding. And very useful if you can do it well.

I recommend practising this skill many times. You will need it to get around the resort and use the lift system.

I suggest spending at least 20 minutes skating before you get onto a slope.

Slide down your first hill

Start on the shallowest hill possible. You will be surprised at how fast the board slides.

Strap both feet into the board and allow yourself to slowly slide down the hill. Make sure you maintain your stance.

Remember to look where you are going.

Gently come to a stop at the bottom of the slope by squatting down and shifting your weight onto your heels.

Allow the board to come perpendicular to the slope and sit down on the snow.

Congratulations – you just did your first slide and stop.

Snowboarder

Fall with style

Falling takes a certain level of skill. Especially if you want to avoid injury.

Snowboarding is a dangerous sport. You can easily break a wrist or shoulder if you don’t know how to fall.

Try to fall onto your butt when possible. This will cushion the blow and save your face.

You can even buy padding for your backside which will make this more comfortable. Here is the padding I have recommended to students in the past (link to padding).

Try not to put your hands out if you fall forwards. This is how you injure your wrist.

Keep your arms tucked in front of your body to shield your face. And land on your forearms and elbows.

Embarrassment is part of the learning process. Embrace your falls and laugh it off.

Learn how to stand up

I have seen so many students stand up with the board facing down the slope. And thirty seconds later they’re back on the floor.

Make sure you stand with the board perpendicular to the slope. Then you will not slide down.

Push up from a seated position using your hands. And find your stance again before you start pointing down the slope.

Do not rush. Most people stand up too quickly after falling without taking time to calm their adrenaline.

Take a snowboard lesson

Disasters happen when people try to teach themselves.

Articles like this give you a great head start. You now know what to expect when you get on a snowboard.

But you still need to take a lesson.

A good instructor will keep you safe. And make sure you are using the right slope.

You will be amazed at how much you can learn after a few hours with a good snowboard instructor.

It’s worth the investment.

Snowboard lesson

Snowboarding Gear 101

Here is a list of items that you need to buy for snowboarding:

Snowboard clothing list

  • Jacket
  • Pants
  • Socks
  • Mid layer
  • Base layer
  • Thermal underwear
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Helmet
  • Goggles

Should I buy my own snowboard clothing?

I recommend buying all of your snowboard clothing.

The items on this list are not expensive. Even technical items like snowboard goggles can be found on a budget.

And the total of all of these items should be less than $500. And they will last you for many winter seasons.

The only item on this clothing list that you should consider renting is a helmet. This is probably the most expensive item and rental shops will lend you one for a very small fee.

Snowboard Jacket

Snowboard Equipment List

  • Snowboard and bindings
  • Snowboard boots

What snowboard equipment should I buy?

I recommend renting snowboard equipment for your few couple of trips.

Snowboards and boots are expensive. And your equipment needs will change as your ability improves.

There is no point in buying a beginner board and boots if you reach intermediate after a few trips.

I suggest spending at least 3-4 weeks on snow before investing in your equipment.

Snowboard Boots 101

Follow the advice of professionals.

The rental shop assistant will give you the best advice if it’s your first snowboarding trip.

The most important thing is to get comfortable boots that fit your feet.

Every boot has a different shape. Some snowboard boots for wide feet have extra room in the forefoot and toe box.

Others fit more narrowly – which works great if you have a narrower foot.

You need to try multiple pairs and find which ones work for you.

Remember that these are not slippers. Your foot should be held tightly within the boot.

A sloppy fit will lead to poor snowboarding technique.

Snowboard and Bindings 101

I recommend renting these items for your first 3-4 weeks of snowboarding.

This will give you a chance to improve your ability. Then you can select an intermediate board that will last for longer.

You should buy your own board once you can turn and stop on basic blue and green slopes.

My recommendation is to start with the Burton Ripcord. This board is very flexible so it allows you to make mistakes. And has an edge that is not too catchy.

I recommend pairing this board with an easy-to-use binding. The Union Flight Pro is one I usually recommend to beginner-intermediate riders.

Snowboard and Bindings

Snowboarding Resorts 101

Beginner resorts

I recommend beginners start at smaller resorts. The lift pass will be less expensive and the slopes will be less busy.

You don’t need loads of slopes at first. Because you will only be using the beginner slope anyway.

Riders in the USA should pick their local ski hill. Find a good instructor and head up for a lesson every couple of weeks if possible.

Resorts like Winter Park in Colorado and Hunter Mountain in New York have great beginner slopes. And I have many students who have learned the ropes there.

Beginners wanting to visit a larger US resort should aim for Park City. It has got a huge amount of beginner terrain and highly rated instructors. But be prepared to pay more than local hills.

People in Europe should look for smaller resorts. And steer clear of the flagship resorts in France – because they get so busy.

A favourite of mine for beginners is Leysin in Switzerland. I have taught in many resorts across Europe and this has one of the best beginner areas I have encountered.

Intermediate-Advanced Resorts

This depends on what type of snowboarding you like.

The huge ridable areas in Vale and Aspen are obvious contenders. They have long, sweeping blues that suit intermediates. But the lift tickets can get expensive.

I love powder snowboarding. And for this, I would recommend Mount Baker. I frequented this mountain while working as an instructor across the border in British Columbia.

Mount Baker has a huge annual snowfall. And if you head there on the right day you will be waist-deep.

European riders should visit Verbier in Switzerland and Chamonix in France. Both of these have epic freeride terrain. And awesome snow parks.

No snowboarding 101 would be complete without mentioning Japan. I spent a year working there as an instructor. And I can tell you that the powder is awesome.

The benefit of snowboarding is amazing freeride. And Japan is the best place to experience this in my opinion.

Snowboard Resort

Types of Snowboarding 101

Alpine

Alpine snowboarding is riding on piste. Sticking to traditionally marked slopes on the mountain.

Everybody starts with alpine snowboarding. Everything from learning the basics to carving down black diamonds is classed as alpine.

Freeride

Freeride is anything done away from marked slopes.

This could be to the side of the piste – known as ‘sidecountry’. Or riding down huge powder faces – like you see in the videos.

Many freeride snowboarders like to venture into the backcountry. This means hiking far away from the marked slopes in search of untouched snow.

Freestyle

Freestyle is doing tricks.

Most freestyle snowboarders spend their time in the snow park. They could be hitting big jumps – known as kickers. Or grinding boxes and rails.

Most people start off in freestyle by hitting small jumps and sliding over boxes. The most advanced freestyle riders are riding halfpipes in the X Games.

Boardercross

Boardercross is a type of snowboard racing.

It’s performed on a course that includes bumps and jumps. Four to six competitors will be racing at any one time.

The competition is fierce as riders fight for position. The injuries can be series. But it’s a thrilling sport to watch.

Many larger resorts have boardercross tracks where you can have a go for yourself. If you’re brave enough.

Boardercross snowboarding

Advice from an instructor

This article gives you a basic knowledge of snowboarding. But there is so much more to learn.

I recommend immersing yourself in snowboard education.

Start by understanding your snowboarding skill level. Then work on finding the right lessons for your ability.

I have been snowboarding for over 20 years. And I still want to learn more.

But just start simple. New riders should not overlook basic technical skills like stance and skating.

The real snowboarding 101 is just having fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Make mistakes. Laugh at yourself. And learn how to do better next time.

I remember one of my first instructors saying “Smile. You’re on holiday!”.

I will never forget those words. They remind me that snowboarding is about being joyful and free.