The 2018 Winter Olympics took place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and they attracted a massive worldwide audience.
One of the reasons why the event was so popular with viewers was the presence of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events. In Britain, there was excitement about a new generation of stars who were winning competitions around the world, and who were featured among the favourites for their events.
The growing interest in winter sports is also being fuelled by the investment of UK Sport, which doubled in the four years up to the 2018 Games. It is due to see a further massive increase over the next decade, in an attempt to push Britain up the list of alpine sport nations.
The success and exposure at the Olympics resulted in more people wanting to take up the sports, including younger skiers attracted by the thrills and spills of the events. The cool image of stars such as Katie Ormerod, Katie Summerhayes and James Woods has boosted interest.
Watching the stars perform can whet anyone’s appetite for snowboarding, but given that the spills almost equal the thrills, it can be quite intimidating. As in all sports, preparation is everything, and choice of kit plays an important part. Knowing what you should buy, or hire, and what you will need on the first trip to the slopes, will help along the way.
Choosing the discipline you are interested may dictate some early choices. Snowboarding offers three disciplines - freestyle, all-mountain and racing. Different equipment is needed for each and techniques differ across these three styles of snowboarding. At your introductory sessions on the slopes, you should find out more about the disciplines and find the one that interests you and suits you best. You can always change your mind, of course, as you become more familiar with the various techniques.
In terms of clothing, you will find plenty of advice on what to wear and what not to wear when snowboarding, both from the pros and from your fellow boarders. In fact, the boarding clothing sector is a mini boom industry in its own right.
Once you have made the decision to try snowboarding, lessons are a must. The best advice is, of course, to book lessons with an experienced professional instructor. Information on instructors and schools can be found via the British Association of Snowsports Instructors website.
As in all sports where equipment is important, prices can be varied. If you are a beginner, you do not need the kind of board and boots that the pros are using. Remember they normally have these provided for them. Your instructor will be able to advise you on the best starter equipment. Although you may soon be spending every spare moment on the slopes or at an indoor venue, there is also the chance you may not take to the sport. If that is the case, you do not want thousands of pounds worth of kit in the attic, alongside a set of unused golf clubs.
There are lots of outlets online, in the High Street and at your local ski slope or resort. So, regardless of where you are going to shop, you must have a basic knowledge of the choice and what is suitable for you.
Firstly, it is important to follow the rule that the three Bs must match your level and style of riding - that’s your board, boots and bindings. Prioritise a comfortable pair of boots. Generally, a beginner should opt for a soft flex boot, as these will be more forgiving when attempting tricks. As you become quicker and more focused on speedier jumps and quicker turns, a stiffer boot will offer more support.
Turning to your board next, flex is again a key factor in choice. This decision will also be influenced by experience and discipline choices. As a beginner, more flex suits learning basics and tricks, especially rails. As you advance and maybe concentrate on piste or perhaps pipe, a stiffer board is preferable.
The final B is for bindings. This should match your boots and board choice. If you are focusing on freestyle, then you will want a softer binding. A freeride setup will require a rigid binding. Whichever discipline, your bindings must be compatible with your board.
You do not have to stick to the same brand for board, boots and bindings, but you might consider doing so in the case of boots and bindings.
So, you are ready to take up your new sporting challenge. Or are you? At this point, it may be the time to sound a note of caution about getting ahead of yourself. The thrill of snowboarding brings with it the danger of injury. You will be keen to learn some tricks once you have mastered the basics. If you are a fan of Katie Ormerod, you will be aware of her daring and be keen to follow in her board tracks.
At the age of just 16, Katie became the first female rider to successfully execute the stunning backside double-cork 1080. Caught on camera, Katie’s trick became a YouTube sensation. You will not be trying this anytime soon, but even the simplest trick can lead to injury.
The tale of freestyle skier, Katie Summerhayes, is a sobering one. In 2012, two years before the Sochi Olympics, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Full recovery was only completed two weeks before the opening ceremony.
This is a sobering reminder of the dangers of snowsports. ACL injuries can occur alongside cartilage, meniscus or other ligament injuries, from the most serious tears to sprains which are graded on a scale of severity.
Should you be unlucky enough to suffer one of these injuries, you may wish to look at a knee brace such as the CTi. Summerhayes uses one, and they can be used to simply aid recovery and add confidence, or as an aid whilst snowboarding.
Now you really are all set…good luck.