So you're finally doing it. You’ve been talking about it for every and now is the time that it is really going to happen. You’ve saved up some cash and this winter you mean it… Your going to go snowboarding.
Well, before you venture out, we thought it would be a good idea to write a quick “Newbie Guide” to snowboarding. Although there is nothing like getting out there and actually doing it, we thought this might give you a little bit of a heads-up for what is to come. So here are the very basics in snowboarding.
First things first, you need to know the basic terminology and parts of the board.
Nose - the nose is the end that usually point’s downhill
Tail - the tail is the end that usually points uphill
Toe edge - the side of the board where your toes are
Heel edge - the side of the board where your heels are
Binding - the thing that binds your foot to the board.
Regular vs. Goofy
Picture yourself sliding downhill sideways. Which side is facing downhill, you’re right or left? Alternatively, imagine yourself sliding across the kitchen floor in your socks. Which foot is forward? If you answered left, you’re “regular”. If you answered right, you’re “goofy”.
On a snowboard, your feet are not perfectly pointed straight toward the toe edge, they are slightly angled either to the left (regular) or to the right (goofy). Your “leading foot” (the foot that goes down the hill first) for a regular person, this is the left foot, for a goofy person, it’s the right. The board pictured above is a regular board. On a goofy board, the nose is on the right and the tail is on the left.
Riding the Board
The first unusual factor you need to get used to thinking about is that you can face any direction while riding downhill on a snowboard. You can go down the slope backwards, that is, with your toes pointed uphill and your back in the direction in which you’re traveling. You can go down the hill nose end first or tail end first. You can go downhill facing downhill, or you can do anything in between.
The Uphill Edge
Bare in mind while you are snowboarding, always put pressure on the uphill edge of the board. So, if you are going down the mountain backwards, that is, facing uphill, your pressure will be on your toes. This way of facing the mountain is called “toeside” for obvious reasons.
If you are going down the mountain facing downhill, your pressure will be on your heels. This is called “heel side”. DON’T put pressure on the downhill edge. It will cause you to fall over. Think about it. If you are heel side (that is, traveling downhill and facing downhill) and you dig the downhill edge (the toe edge) into the snow, what do you think will happen? The board will stop and you will keep going, causing you to tumble over your board and fall flat on your face.
Similarly, if you are toeside (traveling downhill backwards) and your heel edge digs in, what is going to happen? Your board will stop and you won’t, causing your backside to slam into the ground.
This happened to me my first day snowboarding, it was before I was smart enough to wear a helmet. When the back of my head smacked to the ground I saw a white flash and had to lay there for a few seconds to get my bearings. Luckily it was my first day so I wasn’t going that fast.
The balance point is the center of your weight relative to the surface of the board. Try this: at a standstill, position the board so that it is perpendicular to the slope and you are facing downhill. Now, tilt the toe edge of the board up and down using your ankles, move yourself front and back until you find the spot where you won’t tip over. That’s your balance point.
The balance point changes with the softness of the snow because in soft snow, you’ll have to tilt your board away from the incline more so than you would on hard-packed snow. Try going heel side slowly down an incline by reducing the pressure applied by your heels.
For the most part, try to keep your weight evenly distributed between your two feet. You don’t want to put more weight on the uphill foot. Why not? The surface of the board under the leading (downhill) foot is largely what steers you.
Just think of a sled going down a hill. The steering is in the front; friction on the sides of these blades will make it turn. If that analogy didn’t work for you, then consider this one: Ever done a pop-a-wheelie on your bike as a kid? What happens when you steer while your front wheel is in the air? It has no effect on your direction, right? No control.
Same thing with a snowboard, if there is no pressure on the leading end (the downhill foot), you have no steering.
A stop is a lot like a hockey-stop on ice skates. You bring the board perpendicular to the slope and dig the uphill edge in. If you are heel side (if you are facing downhill) you stop by digging your heels in. If you are toeside, (if you are facing uphill) you stop by digging your toes in.
Slowing down is basically the same thing. It’s just that when you want to stop you apply a lot of pressure fast. At the same time, you’ll be balancing your weight (shifting your balance point) so you don’t upset your position to the point where you tip over. Practice stopping heel side. Then practice stopping toeside.
Okay, this part is important, so pay attention. Start with your board perpendicular to (that is, horizontal across) the slope and then apply less and less pressure to the edge and see what happens. The leading foot tends to go downhill. If you stay in this position, with the lead foot downhill and the board parallel with the slope, you’ll go fast.
To turn, start digging the heels in. What happens? You turn heel side. If you had dug your toes in instead, you would have turned toeside. WAIT UNTIL the nose of your board is pointed directly downhill BEFORE digging in the edge.
Always look in the direction where you want to go. You have a tendency to go where you are looking because your head is followed by your shoulders/upper body and then by your hips. It may help to stick your hand out in the direction you want to go. This will help get your shoulder to turn.
Avoid looking at the ground right in front of you, especially when you are toeside. Instead, when you are toeside, look over your shoulder in the direction you think you want to turn. When you want to actually turn, let your shoulder follow your head. Your hips and feet will follow.
You can read about doing things all you want but in the end there is no substitute for actually getting out there and doing it. That being said, we hope this “How-to” guide will give you newbies a little more of an advantage when heading out.
Nevertheless, with anything new, except that you are going to get banged up a bit. Your first day is always your most challenging, but will most likely be an experience that will change you, giving you whole new appreciation for the mountains, the amazing views you will see when you are up there and the new environment you are venturing out it there.
Above all, relax and have fun. No matter how good or bad you do, I can guarantee that you will have many entertaining stories to share with your friends.
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