Snowboarding is my most favorite sport and it makes me smile all year long just thinking about playing in the powder and learning new tricks. In fact, I am also a snowboard instructor and I spend a lot of time in the winter introducing newbies to the sport. I have seen many new snowboarders on the mountain and there are a few bits of information I think are really important for any aspiring snowboarders to know.
Winter is winding down, but it’s not too late to get out and try a new winter sport. If you want to get started snowboarding, here are some good things to keep in mind for your safety and fun on the slopes.
Welcome to Snowboarding 101
1. You’re never too cool for a helmet. Often times when on the mountain I see younger people than me going into the parks with slouchy beanies or just goggles. Doing tricks in the park is the face of snowboarding so it’s a place you’re probably going to find yourself more than once and it really is a ton of fun. It’s also the number one producer of snowboard (and ski) injuries. In any extreme sport remember to protect your head. You can recover from a broken leg but if you break your head you could be permanently injured, paralyzed, or dead. That’s really not good, so find a helmet you feel you can rock and wear it. I promise you’ll actually look more like you know what you’re doing than those people with the slouchy beanies and you’ll be glad you’re wearing a helmet when you inevitably crash… a lot.
2. Learn to fall. You may or may not know that breaking or injuring wrists is a pretty big issue with snowboarding. This is why. Think about when you fall what you do with your arms and hands. You probably reach them out in the direction of your fall to catch yourself, yeah? This one is a tricky skill to learn-it’s really counter-intuitive–but when you fall, tuck your arms in to your body and tuck your chin in too. You’re probably going to have to fall a lot and practice this every time to make it a habit. It’s better to let your shoulder or side take the impact of your fall than your wrists and if you tuck your chin you’ll save your head too.
3. Learn your limitations and don’t be afraid to act accordingly. There is no shame in sitting out a run or trick you don’t feel ready or willing to do. It’s OK to take it slow and learn at whatever pace you are most comfortable with. Don’t let people push you into doing something you aren’t ready for. Just own your level wherever you are and don’t feel self conscious or weird about it.
4. Get a cool hat. One of the best parts about snow sports is the cool head ware for after you’ve been shredding all day. You’re probably going to have some gnarly helmet hair you want to cover up, so for the chill times in the lodge and the drive back home you’re going to want a snazzy cap to cover up your shaggy mop.
5. Dive in and don’t give up. Sometimes, especially when you’re new to the sport, snowboarding can be scary and intimidating. You will fall a lot. You will get very sore and it will hurt. What is important is that you get back up and then you get up again and again and again. On average it takes three or four times for people to ride and not fall every ten feet. If it takes you way longer than that, that’s totally fine. If it takes you less, then that’s awesome. Everybody learns at their own pace and that’s how it should be. The point here is dive in to the sport and have fun. Keep getting back up and keep pushing yourself to learn. You’ll be really happy you do.
6. Never forget to have fun. No matter what happens on the mountain, you can have a lot of fun. I mean, seriously! You’re on a snowboard learning how to do cool stuff, you’re probably on top of a gorgeous piece of nature and you’re all up close and personal. There’s good cocoa in any ski lodge, and good company on every lift and at every corner people are smiling and using words like gnarly. There’s guaranteed to be at least one 70 year old dude shredding harder than everyone else and no matter the weather it seems like everyone is grinning from ear to ear talking about the snow. This is a huge part of why we do winter sports. Becoming a snowboarder means you are joining something of a tribe of people–people who like to play outside and have a good time and get some exercise too. There is a definite culture that goes along with winter sports and it’s always happy to welcome new people. I promise it won’t be hard to have a good time.
Snowboarding is a blast and it is well worth any time and energy you put into the sport. It can be learned pretty quickly if you dive in. Once you do, a whole new and awesome world will open up to you! Maybe in four years you’ll be on the US Olympic team! Go forth and ride and welcome to the family!