When you initially pick up a hobby you learn and improve fast. At some point, you may feel like you aren’t improving anymore. If you’ve been snowboarding for a couple seasons and you can carve comfortably on groomed runs, this post might have some tips and tricks to help you get to that next level.
Your top priority while snowboarding is to not get hurt. Snowboarding can be dangerous, and while you’re trying to improve you need to be pushing the limits of what you are comfortable with. It is important to do this gradually as to not end up in the hospital. As shown by the graph above, the only other thing left to do is to put in the time.
If you don’t like your boots you will have a miserable time on the slopes. Here are the main things to keep in mind when picking out boots in order of importance:
- Comfort. This is like picking out regular shoes
- Bring a pair of socks you will snowboard in when trying boots out
- Make sure boots are not too small or too big
- Run in them. Do some lunges and box jumps. Walk up and down stairs
- Keep them on for at least 15 minutes
- Identify any pressure points (check around the ankle bone and shin)
- Lean forward in the boots. Given the choice, get a pair with stiffer flex. It will offer you more control
- Heel lift
- Lean forward in your boots. Given the choice, get a pair where you don’t feel your heel moving off the sole of the boot. It will offer you more control.
- Lacing. There are a couple different lacing styles.
- Traditional laces. These offer the most control in terms of customizing boot pressure areas, but are the hardest and slowest to lace up in the cold.
- BOA systems. Super convenient. You can do these with gloves on. These will break on you though. Don’t get these.
- Quick pull lacing. Also convenient enough to do with gloves on, but won’t break as easily.
- Get laces that give you a way to adjust tension for the upper and lower parts of the boot separately. Lace the lower (foot) part of your boot as tight as you can. This will give you the most control. Lace the upper part of your boot as tight as you can get away with without cramping your calf muscle.
As an intermediate snowboarder, your bindings and board are not that important. Pick bindings and a board that you think look cool. If you need help narrowing down options, get a pair of ratchet bindings of medium flex. Get a symmetrical/twin snowboard of medium flex. Pick a snowboard with a length between 80-90% of your height.
On the slopes, the easiest way to hurt yourself is catching an edge. This happens when you accidentally lean onto the edge opposite to the one you are currently carving on, while not going in the direction parallel to the board (“ploughing”). When you catch an edge while ploughing, the entirety of your forward momentum gets transferred into the ground. This will hurt a lot and may cause unintended side effects such as broken collar bones and concussions.
The easiest way to avoid catching an edge is to always go in the direction of the long edge of your board (“carving”). You can lean on either edge of your board without catching an edge. Moguls and bumps don’t feel as bad either, because the board’s natural flex absorbs some of the impact for you.
As long as you are carving in a parallel direction to your board, you won’t catch any edges. This is then a good time to push your comfort zone and ride fast. Lean into your turns more aggressively and see how close to the ground you can get.
If you don’t like doing moguls as a snowboarder, it’s probably because you are bad at them. Nobody dislikes doing something that they are good at, so you should push yourself and do more moguls. Doing moguls on a snowboard involves being agile and able to turn fast, jump-turning if necessary .
On softer, powdery snow I typically like to stay in the valleys of the moguls. However, on icy days or days when I find the snow in the mogul valleys too compact to slow myself down properly I will try to ride around the midway of the moguls.
When doing park it is important not to hurt yourself. Park snow is typically packed hard so it is important to know how to fall properly. Be ready to fall at all times. When falling forward, stick your forearms out1. When falling backward, keep your chin tucked in and roll on your back. On flatter terrain, you can practice buttering and pressing.
Never overshoot a jump. Overshooting a jump may lead to hospitals. You want to land every jump in control and on your feet, even it it means not clearing a ramp lip. Make sure to check your speed by carving into every jump, but straighten out and set your feet for balance before you take off. As you get comfortable getting air, progress by getting more air, doing 180s, and then 360s .
Do them. Remember to keep your balance centered on a box and don’t try to turn. If you try to change your direction you will fall. Once you’ve become comfortable with boxes you can try to hit rails, which are basically really really thin boxes.
The more you do something, the better you will get. Snowboarding is a lifestyle. Just like learning a new language, you are not going to truly achieve mastery without full immersion. Start incorporating words like “gnarly” and “shred” into your vernacular. When you greet people, close your hand into a fist, stick out your pinky and thumb into a shaka sign and shake it (snowboard culture intersects a lot with surf culture). Toss out your Tory Burch wallet and get one from Burton.
My editor claims I should tell people to wear a helmet. Also to put a disclaimer here because sticking forearms out is how you “pop an elbow”. If you want to protect your elbows when falling you can always break your fall using your face. ↩