Got the snowboard. What now? Its time to board the snowboard! Now, now now, how do I get on the snowboard? Which leg do I keep forward? Which is correct stance? And how do I ride it? These and more are what that runs in your mind. Right? Let us try to address them all one by one…
Whatever one is comfortable is the right stance is for the beginner. Technically speaking there are basically two stances- regular footed and goofy footed. Regular footed is with left leg forward and goofy footed is with right leg forward. To be regular or not to be. That is the question! We can know our preferred stance by snowboarding downhill and finding which is most comfortable initially. Whichever leg instinctively moves forward to balance when falling forward, or the leg that leads when trying to slide on smooth floor while wearing socks can indicate what the preferred foot is. However, we should master both stances if we are to excel in snowboarding though we still will have a preference and use one stance more than the other.
The front foot is angled at 10 to 30 degrees. This is called front binding. There are values mentioned for different styles and terrain but the most comfortable angle is the right angle for you. This applies to the back leg too whose toes are technically said to point between -15 to +10 degrees. This is called rear binding.
How wide is just right and how wide is too wide?
Next issue with stance is the separation of the feet! How wide should I place the feet apart? Again, the same answer- As wide as comfortable and balanced. There are tables which give values for a person’s height and the preferred separation. Others give value to be slightly more than the shoulder width when one is comfortable. It is good to start with separation of 19” to 24” and then adjust by trial and error at the most comfortable position. What is grand about the beginning stance is that your stance is like you! In other words, the riding stance is UNIQUE like you! The exact stance for me is when I am completely comfortable and balanced.
Standing up and strapping in.
The stance deserved such an extensive discussion and now we move on to the real action. To strap in to get ready for snowboarding fun. We find a flat place with soft packed snow and low traffic, attaching a leash to the snowboard and to the front foot. This is just to prevent the snowboard from slipping and sliding off! After stabilizing the board using the other foot or the knee, we strap the ankle strap and then the toe strap for the front foot. Once the foot is strapped, we should “get used” to the snowboard by moving the front leg up and down in front and lifting it at the back with the other foot (back foot) on the snow. The rear foot is NOT strapped until we are accustomed to the various maneuvers to save time and energy.
I have strapped and stood up. Now what? Skating is the basic skill that we should master before we try all others. Skating is simple skill. We skate from one place to another with one back foot used as the “propeller”. Obviously the back foot is NOT strapped. By bending the front knee a little and putting in most of the weight on the front foot, we achieve a balanced position. Now, the back foot is used to push us forward with small steps initially. The back foot is never allowed to lead the front foot. Slowly we can increase the step length and push with the foot to gain more speed. That is skating… simple isn’t it.
This is traveling down along the slope line in a controlled manner. The sideslipping can be done on “toe side” or “heel side” and we can choose either first (preferably heel-side), master it and then proceed to the other. We begin by sitting on the ground on a gentle slope with the heel side of the board digging into the snow. Now we should use hands to support the body and slowly rise up from the ground with balance. Finally we are standing but in an awkward position and with practice we can find the right position of the knees and body to be balanced. Now, we begin! It is like using the accelerator of a car. We press down and we increase in speed. Similarly by decreasing the angle of the snowboard with the snow, we can increase speed or accelerate or in simpler words by “pushing down” we accelerate. By increasing the angle of the snowboard we can slow down eventually coming to a stop. We slowly lower our body and come to the initial starting position at the end.
It is just the reverse of the previous maneuver. Here, we are facing the slope and the heel side is the leading edge. We accelerate and slow down just as described above in the “car accelerator” manner.
Traversing is traveling across the fall line or slope. After placing the board across the fall line you should get into kneeling position with body uphill from the board. Then you should get into standing position by pushing yourself up with your hands and balance on the toe edge. Now you are ready to traverse. You can traverse now by looking in the direction in which you wish to traverse and shifting some weight on the front foot. Maintaining your balance and by steering the board so you move across and slightly downhill. With practice we can slowly increase the angle of attack. To stop, you should just push downward with your rear foot so that the board is across the hill and tilt the board higher on its edge. Once completely across the hill, kneel, roll over and stand at the heel edge. Again look in the direction you want to move and put the weight on your front foot and traverse to the other side.
Turning is essentially traversing, changing edge and traversing again. But while learning it is ideal to learn the basic turn and then learning to link the turns later.
The choice spot is a place with gentle slope and less traffic. Get into the traversing position with toe/heel edge and putting weight on the front foot looking in the direction you wish to turn. You should use your feet and legs to steer in the direction with the front foot twisting in the direction you want to turn and the rear foot in the opposite direction. As the turn is executed, we approach the fall line angle and then one should roll gradually to the other edge and steer across the hill. This exercise should be repeated and with both toe edge and heel edge. Once this is mastered, then it is time to start learning how to link turns.
For linking turns, we should be able to rise to upright position and then sink down to flexed position again while traversing. This movement will be incorporated into the turns. During the middle of the turn and towards the end of the turn we should flex the body, continue traversing while flexed and rise up again to begin a new turn. Rising just before the beginning of the next turn makes steering easier to move to the next turn. The cycle repeats again and again.
Stopping is the most ignored skill while teaching snowboarding whereas it is the most essential skill while snowboarding. The principle is simple-breaking the line of gravity. In other words, one just needs to turn horizontal across the slope to slow down. You should learn to do this stopping in both toe-side and heel-side turns. The maneuver itself is simple-> turn by steering with the front foot and pushing with the rear foot and slowly the board comes to stop. To turn on heel-side is tricky but essentially the movements are the same as above with the difference being that the opposite edges are used than in toe-side turning and stopping. The heel-side turning and stopping is useful while the rear foot is strapped in.
Using the lifts
There are many types of lift systems, the most common in Australia are:
- Chair lifts
- Rope tow
- T bar
The first is the most simplist so we wont even go into this one, a gondola is a small capsule that runs along a wire. Get in. Sit down. And enjoy the ride.
The Chair Lift:
Learning to get on and get off the chair lifts is a crucial skill. It is important to do so safely and properly. The chair lift usually slows down at the loading area which is usually marked well. Standing at the marked area, waiting and looking for the chair lift over the shoulder as it approaches, is the start.
Getting on:Skate toward the loading spot when instructed to by the lift operator. As the chairlift approaches you from behind, you should reach out with one hand to grab the chair and slowly settle down into the seat. After sitting, the snowboard tip should be pointed up.
Riding the chair lift: It is very important to keep the safety bar down. Safety bar, as the name suggest is for “safety”. Again, the snowboard tip should be checked to be up. And enjoy the scenery!
Getting off: Getting down is much easier than getting up. 1-2-3….
- Raising the safety bar COMPLETELY. Look for the signs as to when it is safe to do as opening early can be dangerous.
- Slowly shuffling to the edge and adjust your board or ski’s into a position as if you were riding down a hill.
- At the indicated point, stand up and slide away from the chair. Boarders you will only have one foot strapped in (your front one) so make sure its sturdy up against your back binding and resting on your stomp pad for traction.
This is simply a rope loop that pulls a person uphill. One just grabs the rope and skate along the lift trail until reaching the top of the slope. Then gently letting go off the rope loop and skate away. Boarders you can take your back foot out of its binding but its generally easier to keep it strapped in.
Given its name thanks to its physical “T” shape, often these are riden in pairs. If its your first time, go it alone! Basically you grab the T-Bar and get pulled along the ground. T’s are often shorter distances than Chair Lifts. Boarders you can ride this strapped in or back foot out, your choice. I found it easier to learn with my back foot out.
This is the same concept as the T-Bar only a different shape. Same rules apply though, grab on and be pulled up the hill.
Now get out there and enjoy your riding!