Winter break was right around the corner and all my friends were gearing up for an upcoming snowboarding trip. I had never snowboarded before, but I really wanted to learn and I didn’t know where to start (sound familiar?) What gear did I need? What mountain is good for snowboarding beginners? Should I take a training class before hitting the slopes solo? What should I wear? What size boots should I buy or rent? Am I goofy or regular footed (and what does that even mean?) What is heel edging? Will I fall? A lot? I watched hours of beginner snowboarding tutorials online, but was I prepared? Definitely not. But in reality, you’ll never be fully prepared and the best way to learn is to simply get out there and start riding.
If you want to learn how to hit the slopes for the first time like I did, make sure to be prepared, be safe, and to have fun. I have listed tips and tricks below that will help you get started for your first snowboarding experience. You will be zipping down the mountain in no time if you check out these top 10 tips on how to snowboard now.
Get some snowboard gear
Layers, layers, layers. It really is cold up there, so make sure to dress warm. Wear breathable thermals under your jumper and definitely wear multiple shirts if you can. Also, look for snowboarding jackets and pants that not only are comfortable, but that will protect you from getting cold or wet on the slopes (tip: avoid cotton materials as they stay wet and cool). Look for materials that are water-resistant and warm).
Similar to your choice of clothes, snowboarding gloves that are waterproof are essential. Especially if you are learning to snowboard. New riders are more prone to falling and having gloves to protect you is key.
You know what they say, keep your toes warm and your body will follow. Proper snowboarding socks can be a game changer for you. I promise you will be a happy camper with warm socks for your first ride. Not only does a good pair of snowboarding socks keep your toes toasty, but they last for years! (Remember not to invest in cotton socks because they soak up sweat which will keep your toes cold).
Last but certainly not least, snowboarding boots should be at the top of your list and remember, comfort is key. I grew up skiing, and boy, those ski boots uncomfortable. When I began snowboarding, my boots felt like clouds and that was a relief. When trying on rentals or purchasing your first pair of snowboarding boots, your boots should feel like heaven. Your toes should have enough room to wiggle around and your heel should not lift much. Grab a friend and make time to go to a snowboard shop to try on different pairs until you find your perfect match. There are also an awesome collection of boots online that you could check out, too.
Take a snowboard lesson
I recommend signing up for beginners snowboarding lesson. Experienced snowboarding instructors will provide you with helpful beginner snowboarding tips to make your first ride more enjoyable. Instructors educate you on how to position your body, how to turn, and most importantly, how to stay protected (I learned how to board by gripping onto my partner’s arm for dear life and trust me, I should’ve signed up for a class).
Protection is key
Snowboard goggles, helmets, wrist guards, knee pads, impact shorts (aka “save-your-bum shorts”). When you learn how to snowboard, you’ll also have to get to know the different types of equipment. If you want to learn how to start snowboarding, make sure you understand that just like any other sport, it can and will be dangerous. Protecting yourself from falls are key. As a newbie rider, you might fall on your hands, elbows, knees, head, and your bottom. Wear the right protective gear and you won’t mind the falls as much. Make sure to get in the habit of wearing a helmet to protect your noggin! Wrist guards, knee pads and impact shorts will literally save your butt, wrists, and knees, too.
Goofy or regular snowboard stance?
You’ve heard these terms before but might not understand what they mean. That’s alright, I will explain. You need to figure out which is your front foot on the snowboard and which is your back foot. There are a few ways to determine this. One is by figuring out which foot you feel more comfortable kicking a soccer ball with. Or another way of figuring out if you are goofy or regular footed is by the following:
- Step 1: Stand up
- Step 2: Have a friend gently push you from behind
- Step 3: Determine which foot automatically jolted forward to keep you balanced
- Step 4: That foot is officially your “front foot” on the board
If you ride with your right foot in the front of your snowboard, then congratulations you are officially goofy footed like me! If you feel more comfortable riding with your left foot forward, you are regular footed. Now that we figured that out, let’s move on.
Falling the correct way
Yes, falling happens (especially when you are a brand-new rider learning to snowboard). Just understand that it is okay, and that it is normal — you are trying and that’s what matters. But learn to fall the right way and you will have a more enjoyable first few rides. When you feel like you might be losing control, or you feel like to are about to fall, try keeping your arms and hands near your body, preferably crossed over your chest. This will prevent a broken wrist or injured elbows.
Here’s something that no one warned me about: snowboarding is a workout and I was extremely sore the first few times I rode, but it was so worth it. Snowboarding is a pretty amazing sport, but your muscles will be in pain for a few days after (ladies, if you want to jump on the squat bandwagon, just take up snowboarding — my quads and bottom were on fire). I recommend stretching out a bit before your first couple rides to loosen your muscles.
Skating with your board
The first time I “skated” with my snowboard, I felt very silly. It’s an awkward movement, but it will help you get around on flat land with your board and will allow you to properly get on and off a chairlift. To skate with your board, strap in your front foot to the board. Make sure your foot is latched in tightly. The back foot that is not strapped in will stay behind the board. With that back foot, push your board with little glides, or you can have your back foot in front of the board and you can try to skate around that way as well. It’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it, but make sure to practice, practice, practice.
Slopes and symbols to learn
When learning how to start snowboarding, definitely take a look at the symbols before attempting to ride a new slope. You are a beginner and the more intermediate/advanced hills might be dangerous for you. All mountains will color coordinate their slopes, green being the easier slopes, and red, blue or black runs will be more advanced. Avoid the black slopes (at least for now) as they are the hardest, most steep runs on the mountain for more experienced riders.
Open your eyes and respect the snow
Take it from me, open your eyes while riding. It was really easy for me to shut my eyes when I felt like I was losing control, but don’t. Closing your eyes can cause an accident. Keep your eyes forward and pointing in the direction you want to go in.
Your first time snowboarding might be a breeze, or you might find yourself gliding on your bottom the whole way down the hill, either way there are more experienced riders all around you (and going a lot faster than you, too). Make sure to try your best to respect the road. If you have fallen, take a breath and get right back up. You got this.
Body positioning and heel edge
Heel edge and body positioning is very important during snowboarding because it is what controls your speed and balance on the hill. When you start to glide down the beginner hill, stay in tune with what your body is doing.
You will begin learning to snowboard on your heel edge. Apply pressure with your heels into the snow and make sure your body is facing forward or downhill. If you begin to lift your heels to point your toes and body more forward, you will notice your board accelerating. To “brake” or stop, dig your heels back into the snow. Lift and drop your toes slowly and calmly. Have a friend or trainer hold your hands so you can get a hang of the motion.
Enjoy the ride and view
Snowboarding is a really fun sport to enjoy alone or with friends. It’s exhilarating flying down the mountain on a board and feeling the cool crisp air breeze through your hair. It’s exciting hitting a jump and landing it like a pro. If your goal is to just reach the bottom of the hill without falling on your bum, then be prepared. If your goal is to be the next Shawn White hitting 360s like a pro, then be prepared. Whatever your snowboarding goals may be, remember to be prepared, practice, and enjoy every moment of boarding because it really is so fun (and the view is usually not bad either).
Now get going, have fun and be safe, the mountains are calling your name.