Snowboarding is just sooo cool. Surfing on snow looking cool and performing spins, jumps and other tricks. Or just carving the piste looking good.
Skills – Strength: 5, Balance: 7, Flexibility: 6, Agility: 7, Coordination: 9
Time needed: 2 hour or more, Cost to try: £10 for a taster lesson
Fancy cruising down a snowy alpine slope at speed, looking seriously cool whilst performing a few stylish moves? Snowboarding is an extreme sport where you can perform similar manoeuvres to those with a skateboard or surfboard, but on snow. You can cruise at high speeds down the piste, play around in deeper snow, descend steep slopes or perform tricks on a half pipe.
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Snowboarding requires a range of equipment that you may not have thought of.
The most obvious bit of kit is the snowboard. You will need to decide whether you want to buy or rent your snowboard. If you want a high performance board, you will bee looking at paying out 400 or more. You can rent the same board for a fifth of the price. So, if you like it you may well want to buy.
You could always get yourself a second hand snowboard. If you do consider getting a used snowboard, make sure that it is in good condition. Check the condition of the base for minimal scratches and hopefully no gouges. Also check that the laminate layers have not separated. Once you have used your board for a while, you will know what you want when you go and buy yourself a brand new snowboard.
Choosing a snowboard requires a little bit of research. The most important aspect is the length of the snowboard. The length of your snowboard depends on your height, your weight, your skill level, and also what you intend to use the snowboard for. There are a variety of snowboard length calculators online. try out more than one, and also ask in a reputable snowboard shop.
Snowboards are made from different materials. The best usually have a wood core, although newer designs use all sorts of composite materials. the stiffness of the snowboard affects your riding style. A stiffer snowboard provides more stability at speed, but is less manoeuvrable.
To attach yourself to your snowboard you need bindings. These are screwed into the snowboard and allow you to attach your boot to the snowboard. There are different types of binding with different release mechanisms. Different snowboarders have different preferences for snowboard bindings
Snowboard boots differ from ski boots in that they have more flex. Ski boots are designed to lock your ankle in place and support it. For snowboarding, you need much more flexibility in your ankle to turn the snowboard. Make sure that your boots are comfortable. Also make sure you dry them out after use to prevent them from smelling.
A snowboard leash connects your leading snowboard boot to your snowboard. This prevents your snowboard running off down the slope before you are ready. A snowboard leash is compulsory on some resorts. If your snowboard is left on the ground it will soon slide away from you and can cause all sorts of damage. You may get sued if it hurts someone. Always leave your snowboard upside down resting on the bindings when you are not using it.
Snowboarding Protective Gear
You will need a helmet, knee pads, wrist guards and possibly padded shorts with a tailbone protector. Make sure that the helmet fits properly. It is best to try it on in a shop. Wrist guards are an absolute must. It is an instinct to put your hands out when you fall over. Over half of all snowboarding injuries are due to broken wrists. If you have lessons, you will be shown how to fall by rolling with it without putting your hands out.
You should also wear sunglasses or goggles (for sun) to prevent the sunlight reflecting off the snow from burning your retina. Goggles come in different grades for either sun or low visibility. Make sure you know the difference. You will also need gloves to prevent not only damaging yourself when you fall, but incase somone else runs over them.
Wax and Tuning Your Snowboard
To keep your snowboard performing in tip top condition, you will need to service it. It needs to be waxed. If you see the underside of your board begin to go white or can see white fibres begin to appear, then you definitely need to wax it. You can pay £25 for a service, or you can get the satisfaction of doing it yourself. Waxing your own snowboard is very satisfying, and you can tune it exactly how you want.
Video following a snowboarder down a slopestyle course
Basic Boarding Skills
Straight or Goofy?
First you need to work out which is your front foot. You can do this by standing on the floor with your feet sholder width apart. Lean forward until you start to fall over. Whichever foot you put out first to stop yourself is your leading foot. Left is straight, right foot first is called goofy.
With your front foot strapped to the snowboard, use your back foot to scoot along. This is used for moving on flat snow.
Step up slopes
To go uphill on with your snowboard, you will need to step up with your back foot. Stand with your snowboard lying across the fall line of the snow, with your toes pointing uphill. Angle the side of the snowboard into the slope. Then step up alternately with your snowboard and your back foot. Your back foot should be uphill of your snowboard.
The first move you will learn on your snowboard is the slideslip. You can do this on the toe edge or heel edge of the board. This is used to descend any slope however steep in a controlled manner.
Performing falling leaf moves on a snowboard is like a leaf fluttering down from side to side. This is done by remaining on the heel edge or toe edge only. By moving your weight towards the front or back of the board, you will cause the board to move in that direction as you side slip. When you get to the side of the slope, lean the other way and you go back again.
Garland Turns or J Turns
The next step of turning your snowboard is to perform a Garland turn. This is where you start on your heel edge, begin falling leaf in one direction, and then stop. Your turns progressively point the front of your board down the slope, and then ease back again.
Once you can do Garland turns on the toe and heel edges of your snowboard, you can begin C turns. This will lead to linking your turns. You may find it easier to do C turns by flexing the sides of your snowboard. If you are facing downhill and want to turn right, you can twist the board so that the toe of your front foot goes down and the heel of your back foot goes down. This will make the toe edge grip more and the rear of the board to slide round more.
Using a Chairlift or Ski Tow on a Snowboard
Whatever you do, only strap in your front foot! This way, if you lose your balance you can use your back foot to recover, or at least stop yourself from sliding down the slope.
For ski tows, you need to have the front of the snowboard pointing in the direction you will be going. Grab the ski tow pole and put it between your legs. Lean towards the back of the board with your back arm out straight pointing to the back of the board. This will help you when the ski tow starts to pull you.
For chairlifts, You need to point the front of the snowboard in the direction you will be going. When the chairlift comes round, sit in it sideways. Stay like this until you are clear of the ramp. Then pull the safety bar down, and then twist round to sit properly. To get off, reverse the process.
The Challenge of Snowboarding on the Piste
One of the best resorts in France for beginner snowboarders is Morzine. While you are learning to snowboard, there are a few challenges for you on the piste. There are different types of snow, and also different types of slope.
In the morning, there is usually a thin crust of ice on top of the snow. This makes it a bit harder to grip when you turn. Thicker ice is really hard to turn on! You will find good snow further up the piste, so if you can try to use the lifts to keep going down the upper parts of the mountain. Only go to the bottom at the end of your session.
As the weather gets warmer, the bottom part of the piste becomes a bit softer. This leads to the piste becoming lumpy and bunches up into a mass of snow like big molehills. This can be tackled quite easily using falling leaf. Try not to use sideslipping as this pushes the snow downhill and makes the piste worse for others.
Piste Slope Types
One of the most annoying parts are inks between pistes. These can be flat or uphill. You will have to step up of scoot to get along these.
Green runs are great for learning on as long as they are wide. If you get a narrow gentle slope, you have to ride it with the front of the board leading. This can be scary for a beginner, as it is not easy to stay on an edge of the board. This means that you cannot regulate your speed. Also, quite a few of these narrow sections have big drops to the side. I let the board run and then perform a hockey stop to slow the board, then continue on again.
Steep slopes can be descended using sideslipping or falling leaf.
Wide slopes are an absolute dream for snowboarders. You don’t need to worry about drops. You have plenty of space to practice your turns and will soon be carving. Find a gentler slope to begin with, and work your way up to something steeper.
Whatever you do whilst snowboarding, look after yourself, and stay safe. If you know how to fall over properly, you can always fall over before you find your snowboard taking yourself you don’t want to go.