There are plenty of reasons why snowboarding has become such a popular activity over the last few decades. Not only does it give you a huge adrenaline rush, but it gets you out into amazing scenery, is a great way to keep fit and can be a great way of socialising. Whilst there are certain costs involved, it is probably more affordable than many realise, especially if you plan ahead and make clever choices. This article takes you through the equipment you need, where you should look for lessons, exercises you can do to help, and ends with a rundown of the key snowboarding terms and their meanings.
To help keep costs down, it is recommended that beginner snowboarders initially rent rather than buy equipment. The very minimum you will need is a snowboard and boots. However, there are lots of other pieces of kit that make snowboarding safer and more comfortable, including helmets, wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads.
Snowboards and boots are available in many sizes and styles, and all good snowboard centres should be able to advise you on sizing when you get kitted out for the first time. The following advice should also prove useful:
- When you are standing up straight, your toes should have wriggle room, and they should not graze the end of the boot.
- The boot should be tight enough to prevent your heel from lifting, but loose enough to not restrict the blood flow.
- Snowboard length is usually based on height, weight, ability and terrain, but a general rule is that when stood on end, the top of the board should be just beneath your chin. Shorter boards are more easily manoeuvrable, whilst longer boards give more stability and therefore tend to be the preferred choice for beginners.
When it comes to suitable clothing, you are going to need gloves or mittens, waterproof trousers, a waterproof coat, a jumper, long thick socks, a t-shirt and a woolly hat.
Even if you have booked a holiday at a resort where you intend to go snowboarding, it would still be highly beneficial to get some basic lessons in the UK first. To find your nearest dry ski slope or real snow slope, take a look at the useful map on the Ski Club of Great Britain website.
Many of these centres will offer snowboarding lessons that are aimed at beginners. Lessons on dry or artificial slopes tend to be cheaper than those in indoor domes or real snow. Lessons are usually available as part of a group or on a private one-to-one basis - the private lessons will understandably be more expensive, but you will almost certainly progress at a faster rate.
A typical first group lesson will involve learning how to put your snowboard on, how to move up slope, how to perform a heel and toe edge slide, the falling leaf technique, and other basics.
If you are planning to have your first snowboarding lessons at the ski resort that you are holidaying in, you will probably find that the lessons tend to be split into morning and afternoon sessions. Some will offer a full day of lessons, whilst some will have the option to take instruction in the morning and then practice in the afternoon. As well as having the technical knowledge and teaching experience, most resort instructors will have an abundance of knowledge about the slopes and the local area, including good places to eat, drink, and party!
If you haven’t yet selected a resort to go to, then as a beginner, you should really look at those with lots of green (beginner) runs, snowboard schools and plenty of off-snow facilities. The website https://www.sno.co.uk/ski-resort/best-snowboard-resorts/#Top10 has a list of what it rates as the ten best snowboard resorts in the world.
Snowboarding is a fairly strenuous physical exercise. Therefore, before you begin any lessons, you should make sure you are in reasonable physical shape - any extra strength will be beneficial to developing your technique. The main muscle areas used when snowboarding are the thighs and the core (front, back and sides of the mid-section). Exercises that will help strengthen these areas include squats, wall sits, sit-ups and planks.
Balance is a key element of snowboarding, and to improve this, you can practice standing on one leg for a couple of minutes at a time.
As with any sport, before starting any lessons or practice sessions, it is important to have a proper warm up to make sure that your body and muscles are ready to go. This reduces the probability of muscle strains. Traditional warm-ups include stretches, star jumps, press ups, and squats. Also, always remember to warm-down after your session.
Due to its nature, snowboarding comes with its risks. Falls will be commonplace, but the impact of these can be lessened by wearing protective gear.
- Piste/Slope/Run: the groomed designated areas to snowboard in, which are graded for difficulty using a colour coding system.
- Off piste/backcountry: any area to the side of a run or out of bounds Après ski: translates to ‘after ski’ in French and usually involves dancing and partying Piste basher/groomer/snowcat: large caterpillar-tracked machines used to smooth bumps in the snow and create a 'corduroy' pattern on the top layer
- Powder: fresh soft snow
- Switch: snowboarding backwards (only for the accomplished!)
- Slash: a sharp turn on your board
- Bluebird: a sunny day with no clouds
- Magic carpet: a conveyor belt that takes you up the hill
- Whiteout: heavy snowfall making it hard to distinguish between the horizon and the sky.