So you want to try a new sport this winter? Before you graduate to ice climbing and snow camping, you should consider more standard entertainment activities such as skiing or snowboarding. The latter has been growing in popularity over the years. Many teenagers now are expert snowboarders but have never been on ski.
“The learning curve tends to be a lot faster than ski,” according to Mike Pierce from Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe in Nevada, who is both an avid skier and snowboarder. You just have to get comfortable with having your feet clamped together. The process is even quicker if you use ski poles for balance at the very beginning.
But what happens once you get rid of them? “Falling is almost unavoidable. This is an actions port,” Beau Brown, a snowboard instructor at the Jackson Hole Mountain Sports School, says. “And fear is the biggest challenge.” Falling is part of the learning process; but once you stand on the board the correct way tumbling over won’t be an issue.
Before You Get on the Snowboard
You can never over-prepare. Certain exercises you can do off the board are very helpful in ensuring your stability on it. “People in a better shape physically do better,” Pierce says. Biking, skateboarding and any other sport that involves a board, especially if you have to ride it sideways, is tremendously beneficial, he adds.
In addition, yoga, wall sits, and dancing help very much, too, Brown says. “Anything that involves balance is a good idea to play around with if you’ve never snowboarded before.” The most important basic in snowboarding is staying centered on your board, which means balancing the weight equally on both legs. “Beginners fall down because they are learning how to do that. It’s hard to stand up when your feet are not moving.” That’s a big reason why many newbies are afraid, Pierce adds. “You have to accept the fact that you will fall [in the beginning] because your feet are strapped to the board and that’s not natural.”
Once You Are on the Snowboard
First of all, congratulation on being brave. Now, let’s get you ready. “People don’t understand it but you have to stand on the board in a way that allows you to move,” Stevie Muise from Timberline Ski & Ride School and a snowboard instructor of 20 years, says. “Imagine you go to the gym and have to squat. It’s pretty much the same position.” You flex both of your legs evenly, your back is straight and your upper body is aligned with the lower. The difference is that your feet and shoulders are just slightly open. “If your stance is too narrow or too wide, you will fall,” Muise adds. “Flex your legs and get lower.” The lower you are to the ground, the less impact you will feel when you fall.
First thing’s first: Get low and bend your knees and ankles. “That’s give you the most range of motion,” Brown says.
You can let one of your feet loose so it’s easier to keep balance while on the board, Pierce says. “Don’t immediately put both feet in binding.” Once you strap both in, make sure you’re centered on the board with your knees bend and arms out. When you start moving, you must not lean back (or you’ll fall like a tree). “As you move, stay on edge. Don’t ride flat even if you look straight.” That’s another natural thing you have to forget about in snowboarding if you want to limit the falls. “You always have to be facing either the toe or heel edge,” Pierce adds.
When you stand up and your feet point down, that’s zero degrees, Muise says. The standard position is 15 degrees in the front and -15 in the back. The athletic position is ankle, knees and hips slightly bended. When they are flexed, centered mass is closer to the board. “If you flex one leg more than the other, more weight goes there, you lose your balance, and fall.” In order to keep the weight between your feet, in the center above the board, you need to flex evenly.
When slowing down get your bodies in a position like you are sitting in an invisible chair without sticking your butt out.
When You Are Turning
Naturally, you turn your body in the direction you want to go. You guess it – you can’t do that in snowboarding. Your upper and lower body must be aligned at all time. “Turn your neck and look over your shoulder in the direction you want to go,” Muise says. “Beginners always tend to look down and they fall,” he adds. Remember: Eyes up, over the shoulder (as if you want to look at someone but you don’t want to be seen).
There are two ways you can turn – edging with your heels or toes. With the former you have to turn only your head in the direction of your turn, get low with your hips and knees, and lift your toes. This is a much more effective way as opposed to just pushing down, according to Muise. To edge with your toes, you have to relax your calves, soften ankle joints, and extend your hips to stay balanced.
When a Fall is Inevitable
If you are absolutely going to fall, which will happen at some point, bring your arms as close to you as possible, Brown says. “Do not reach out. Take the fall with your full body to minimize the damage.” Punching the ground is always better than hitting it with a flat hand. Pierce adds. If you know a fall is coming, bend your legs, get low, never extend your arms, Muise says. “Bring your arms up to the chest to absorb the impact.” You will fall on snow, not pavement, so hitting it with elbows, if you’re falling over backwards, is OK. “It’s better to go home with bruised butt then a broken tail bone,” he adds.
The most common injuries are hurting the wrists and shoulders and breaking the collar bone. All of them are the result of not following these basic instructions during a fall.