Snowboarding, it’s amazing! If you are reading this then you’ve probably caught the bug, and like us, you’re hooked for life. But how do you get better? By now, you’ve more then likely had a few trips to your local resort, maybe you even have your own gear? You might even be a natural, and you’re hitting up the park on your second day. But inevitably, we all hit the plateau. When you’re starting out, a bit of guidance goes a long way. So we’ve put together this list of 7 easy steps to follow to get you riding better, faster. In order of importance…
1. Wear a helmet
This is a hot topic here at snowboard.com. Why is it that the majority of pro snowboarders (in their videos at least) not wear helmets? All the big contests make them compulsory. These comps feature the likes of Shaun White, Kelly Clark and Mark McMorris, some of snowboarding’s most popular athletes. So why the stigma against wearing a helmet?
For us it’s a no brainer. You can only get better at snowboarding if you’re alive and as you get better at snowboarding your helmet may, and probably will save you from injury more than once. The confidence that you get while wearing a helmet, and the severity of the consequences if you’re not, far outweigh any negatives that could be argued. Let alone any fashion issues?
Wearing a helmet is cool!
If you need any more testimony, check out pro snowboarder Xavier De La Rue’s post from March 2017.
“Today I was lucky, riding really mellow powder I hit a rock and then hit more rocks really hard with my head and blacked out for a while. Without a helmet the doctor thinks I could easily have died. In the photo you can see how much the interior absorbed the shock at the back. Thankfully just a concussion with a massive headache and a reminder to always wear a helmet…even on mellow terrain. Thank you, @smithoptics saved my life today.”
Save your brain and your beautiful face, wear a helmet.
2. Take a Lesson
This is a fairly obvious one but you’d be surprised by how many people try to work out their first snowboard turns on their own.
Then after a very long, painful first run, they book them self in for a lesson. Once they have the basics down, they then hit the hill and work out the rest on the fly.
The reality is that it doesn’t matter what level of snowboarder you are, you will always get better with professional lessons. Almost all resorts offer accredited, skilled instructors that will asses your form and correct any bad habits you’ve picked up in your technique. Most resorts offer specialised park and guided backcountry lessons on request.
We recommend that you do at least one lesson per season, or better still, one lesson per snow trip. Grab a bunch of your mates and book a private group lesson to make sure you can focus on what you need to improve.
Stomp that spin and dial in that rail with a lesson.
3. Get the Right Gear
After you’ve snowboarded a few times, you would have noticed that there is a massive corporate machine that greases the wheels of the sport. Although the phrase “All the gear and no idea” has some weight, the truth is, if you want to get better, faster, you’ll need the right equipment.
Buying a board will be your hardest and most expensive decision. First you’ll need to decide what kind of riding you want to do, and be honest with yourself. No point forking out a fortune for a high end freestyle board because you like to watch the guys riding the park but you are terrified of jumps and rails.
Do some research before you buy. Try to learn some of the lingo, and talk to the guys at your local store. Check out our Beginner’s guide to buying a snowboard for some help. We suggest that if you’re at a beginner or intermediate level that you should look at an all-mountain board.
Whatever you choose, make sure you buy something with a graphic that you like because you’ll be looking down a lot. Also try to stick to your budget. If you’re serious about getting better, that things going to get a thrashing!
Boots are as important, if not more so than your board. The aesthetics of the boot are not as important here, as most of them will be covered by your pants. Look for lightweight boots that fit well.
If you’re just starting out look for a medium flexing boot that will offer more stability. As you add some tricks to your resume you may want to look at a boot with a softer flex so you can manipulate your board more.
After you have some boots, you’ll need a set of bindings that fit your boot. Bindings come in freestyle and freeride styles. Look for simple designs that use quality materials. The less things that can break, the better. Make sure the straps and ratchets are sturdy, and fast and easy to use.
Other than your set up, the essentials are a helmet, a pair of goggles with decent anti-fog and warm waterproof gloves (gore-tex is best). The rest of your kit is personal preference.
It’s very important in snowboarding, if you want to get better, that you start from the start. Get the basics right. From carve turns to front side 5’s, it’s all about steady, smart progression.
You wouldn’t start on 360’s unless you have your 180’s dialed, and you shouldn’t start on 180’s until you can ollie and straight air. A lot of tricks and snowboarding techniques have a natural progression. If you can master the sequence of progressive moves then the trick will come more easily.
To learn more about a tricks progressive sequence check out tutorials from the net. Snowboard Pro Camp is a good site, or you can check out our Tricks and Tips section here. Also you can ask your friends how they learnt a trick or get a lesson.
5. Ride with a crew
No, we don’t mean you need to form the next Wildcats, just ride in a group. Whether they’re your homies, your bros, sistas, mates or just some guys you met last night in the pub, a good crew will make you ride better.
Think of snowboarding like football, and your crew are your teammates. They’ve got your back, they push you to be your best and they show you different ways to ride. Most of all, they make your day on the hill fun!
When looking for a crew to head to the snow, there are a few tricks to make sure you learn the most from your peers.
- Try as much as possible to get with a group that is at your skill level. If you ride with a group that’s a heap better than you, you might end up spending your day filming your crews park laps. On the other spectrum, if you ride with your office mates that have never been snowboarding before, you’ll be riding by yourself by lunch time. They’ll be drinking beers in the lodge, guaranteed.
- Ride with a crew that is stoked on snowboarding. The guys you want to shred with to get better should be serious snowboarders. These are the guys that are frothing on first lifts, looking for fresh pow all day or walking the park to session that one sick jib. Their passion will be infectious, and before you know it, you’ll be the crazy guy that wants to hike death ridge for that perfect line.
- Ride with happy people. This sounds weird we know. Your at the snow, doing something you love, but this one is really important. You’ll get a lot better when you ride with an easy going crew that make you laugh. Snowboarding’s fun!
6. Get Fit
As with any sport, being fit will be a huge help in getting better. Long gone are the days of the lay about snowboarding bum. Smoking bongs on the couch has been replaced by pilates. Drinking all night has been dumped for a brisk morning jog. Ok, maybe not that drastic, but you should think about your fitness before your next season. Getting fitter may be the next step. It may get you out of that plateau of being a good snowboarder, to being a really good snowboarder.
Being strong and having general good cardio fitness will help a lot. When working on snowboard specific fitness, focus on building strong legs and a strong core. Try using body-weight exercises like lunges, squats and burpees instead of weights, to help preserve your joints. You can check out Pro Snowboarder Jussi Oksanen getting in shape here for some more exercise ideas.
Balance is also important in snowboarding, and for this you’ll need a strong core. As snowboarding is such a dynamic sport, there are some other fun things you can do to work on your balance in the off season. Go skateboarding, or better still, get a longboard that will better simulate snowboard carving. Surfing is a great way to get stronger while working on your balance. Also, stand up paddle boarding will give you great core stability and balance.
Trampolining gives you an amazing cardio workout, works your legs and core and helps give you better body awareness while you are in the air. You can work on your body position for rotations, flips and corks on the trampoline. If you really get into it, you could get yourself a tramp board to strap on while you jump. They give you a better feel for landing and spinning on a real snowboard.
7. Do a season
If you have a real passion for the sport and an undying urge to see how good you can get, then you will need to do a Season on snow. Take a shredding sabbatical to really push your snowboarding knowledge. Whether it’s at your local hill or some far off exotic resort, a season away will change your life.
Resort life is like no other, and everyone is there for one reason, the snow! You will meet plenty of like minded shredders and make new friends that you will snowboard with for life. It won’t take long after you immerse yourself in a season that the culture and passion of snowboarding will flow through you.
You’ll be snowboarding every day, even if it’s just from work to staff housing. You and your crew will party all night with the mantra of, “Last drinks, first lifts” to drive you. You will recognise faces in the park and high five them when you dial that gnarly step set. Everything you do will be before, after or during snowboarding.
You will get to know every corner of the resort. You’ll have your favourite park, your best line and your sweetest hit. Your snowboarding buddies and you will know all the spots for the day after it’s snowed, and for when it hasn’t snowed for weeks. As the season goes on your snowboarding will progress more than you could imagine.
But be careful. Doing a season is highly addictive. You will become so good at snowboarding, and so wrapped up in the lifestyle that you may never want to leave the resort. Maybe you will end up chasing winters around the globe, living out of your backpack and never saving money? Maybe you will work the lift line every day for the rest of your life, drinking hard liquor and slaying snow bunnies every night? Or maybe you’ll become a pro, and waste your life in snowboard parks and eating gas station burritos in the back of an R.V?
Oh well…..that’ll always be the dream.