Maybe you stumbled on this article because you’ve never tried snowboarding and would really like to learn, or maybe you’re here because you already tried once or twice and it didn’t go so well. Either way, I can help. I’m a former snowboard instructor and avid rider who has taught well over a thousand people how to snowboard. Over my years of teaching and riding, I’ve seen just about every mistake there is to be made learning to ride, and even made a few of them myself. So I’ve compiled this list to help you have the best first day of snowboarding possible, and leave you wanting more.
Step 1: Dress the part
One of the best ways to ruin your first snowboarding experience can happen before you even leave the house to hit the slopes. The way you dress to go snowboarding can make or break your experience. When you’re first learning, you’ll likely spend a lot of time rolling around in the snow, and if you’re not dressed for it, you’re gonna have a bad time.
First off, dress in layers. Start with a waterproof outer layer (jacket and pants) and work your way in depending on how cold it’s going to be while you’re out there. I usually go for a light base layer, a warm middle layer, and a thinner, but waterproof outer layer. That way you can shed your middle layer if you get hot later in the day without sacrificing your waterproofing. Also, if your chosen ski area uses paper lift tickets, be mindful of where you attach your ticket. Attach it to something you plan on wearing all day. Pants are typically a good option, but I won’t tell you how to live your life. Make sure you have a good pair of waterproof gloves as well. Trust me, your hands will get a lot of time on the snow on your first time out, make sure they stay warm and dry. Now I know I just said dress in layers, but that does not apply to socks. Wear a single pair of medium weight boot socks. I don’t expect anyone to head to the local shop and spend north of a thousand dollars to get decked out in high end snowboard gear when you’re just starting out, but snowboard specific socks are 100% worth the money. So now that you’re up to your neck in warm waterproof gear, you’re probably thinking of a nice warm hat, right? Wrong. I’m not trying to sound like your mom here, but always wear your helmet. Helmets are warmer than hats and it’ll keep you from scrambling your brain, so it’s really a win-win. Nearly every resort offers helmet rentals and most include it with your board rental, so take them up on the offer. Goggles are great for keeping snow and sun out of your eyes, but sunglasses will work in a pinch. If you do go with sunglasses, maybe go for the cheapos and leave the designer shades at home. Face masks are also good to have, and almost mandatory if you’re going somewhere where they’ll be making snow.
Step 2: Get in shape
Alright I know this isn’t going to be a popular one, but snowboarding is a pretty physical sport, and being in somewhat decent shape before you get there will greatly increase your chances of success. We’re not training for the Olympics here (yet), but some baseline cardio and being able to stand up quickly will go a long way towards learning to snowboard.
The first part is easy, and hopefully something you already do every day. Walk! You can definitely run too, but I don’t want to ask for too much too fast. Just make an effort to get up and get moving more. Walk around your neighborhood, take the stairs to the office, walk to the next bar instead of catching an Uber, anything to get your heartrate up a little. There’s a million different ways to train cardio, so pick a few and get going. You’ll be doing a lot of walking at the ski resort even before you actually hit the slopes, so be prepared. Also, the higher elevations of most resorts will cause you to get winded more easily, so getting ahead of it with a little bit of cardio will go a long way. The next thing you can work on is standing up from sitting or lying on the ground. Start just by doing that: Lay on the floor and practice standing up as quickly and as smoothly as you can. If you want to take it a step further, while laying on your back, place your feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart and try to stand up without moving your feet. Once you figure that out (or even if you don’t) roll over to your stomach and repeat. Doing this will not only get you used to the motions of standing up on a snowboard, but also begin to strengthen your core for the sport. Of course the more strength and cardio training you do, the better off you’ll be for snowboarding (and sports in general) but the exercises I’ve listed above should get you off to a good start.
Step 3: Find your front foot
This one wastes a lot of valuable time in beginner snowboard lessons, and if you figure it out at home, you’ll spend more time on the board and less time standing around. Have you ever tried to write with your non dominant hand? Trying to snowboard with the wrong foot forward feels a lot like that, especially when you’re first starting out. So let’s try to get that right before you get out there.
First, think of any other board sports you’ve done in the past; skateboarding, surfing, wakeboarding, even that Razor scooter that ruined your ankles when you were a kid. If you remember always having one foot in front of the other doing any of those things, great! That’s your front foot for snowboarding too. If you’ve never done any of those things, don’t worry, grab a pair of socks and get ready to do your best Risky Business impression. No really, sliding around in socks is the best way I’ve found to find your front foot for snowboarding! Get a little bit of a running start, and get a slide going (lip syncing is optional). When you come to a stop, look down and see which foot is in front. There’s your front foot! If your left foot is forward, your stance is “regular”, if it’s your right foot, you’re a part of the 30% of riders with a “goofy” stance.
Step 4: Get a Lesson!
By far the most important and most overlooked step to learning to snowboard is learning from a professional snowboard instructor. Sure it’s expensive, your friend promised they’d teach you, you watched a few YouTube videos, you even read this article! So why bother paying for a lesson? I promise it’s worth it. Let me explain.
There’s a big difference in knowing how to do something versus being able to break it down to fundamentals, formulate a lesson plan, and communicate it to someone else in a way that they can understand and learn from. Yeah, it’s possible. But you’re here because you want to learn how to snowboard fast, and if your teacher is learning how to teach at the same time you’re learning to ride, it’s going to be slow going. Your instructor has had professional training and likely taught hundreds if not thousands of people before you and knows exactly what you need to be successful, and you get to skip their learning curve of figuring that out. That’s what you’re paying for. Still not sold on a lesson? Let me tell you a secret about learning to snowboard. It’s frustrating. Not only for you, but for the person teaching you too. Tensions can sometimes get high during a beginner snowboard lesson, especially if things aren’t going great at first. Professional instructors are trained to deal with and work through those tensions. Plus, they’re basically a stranger you’ll probably never see again, so there’s no pressure to impress them or to try to look cool, so you can just focus on learning.