The first time I saw a snowboarder slicing through the powdery snow, making expert swerves in the path behind him, I was convinced I needed to turn in my two skis for the sleek, cool design of a snowboard. Although I had learned to ski soon after I could walk and had become confident on the slopes, there was something elusive and unique about this new form of slope gliding I couldn’t resist. And so began my journey in learning the important lessons in transitioning from skiing to snowboarding. There are four tips I would give any friend in making the change, to help them build confidence in their own journey.
If you’re thinking of trying snowboarding for the first time after a life time of skiing, the first thing I would tell you is to get accurately fitted for your board in the shop. Not only will you have to make the decision to board regular or goofy (left leg forward), you will benefit greatly from the fit of your boot. Instructors can help you make this decision in the shop. To see which foot you will prominently lead with on your own, simply stand with both legs together, and pretend to fall forward. Whichever leg you step out with instinctively will be your leading foot. Before your ready to begin, you’ll need to adjust to feel of the boot compared to the constrictions of a ski boot. It feels like going from a steel trap into a comfortable pair of slippers. Although this is a welcome change to many, it can feel a bit disorienting to a skier who is used to the strict, supportive confines of the former boot.
Once you’re suited up with a good fit, it’s time to hit the slopes. I highly recommend signing up for snowboarding lessons for first timers. The snowboard instructors can offer you the best tips at staying on your board, and this is especially useful in a group setting. You won’t be the only adult in the lesson, and there is something about struggling with your peers that makes the experience more rewarding and comedic. Instead of going at it on your own, embrace the fact that others in your group will spend just as much time falling the first couple trips down as you.
Although I was tempted to plow straight down the hill to keep my balance, a better idea for first timers is to make several wide turns. If you’re starting on a bunny hill, which is usually a shorter, less steep slope, take your time as you snowboard to go across the entire distance of the hill. This will guarantee a slower pace, for when you inevitably fall. It will also give you much needed practice in making your very first turns, which is often when beginners tend to bite the dust (or, in this case, snow). Be aware of your peers on the hill in front of you and behind you. As your confidence and balance improves, you can begin to make tighter, more frequent turns and will have a much better idea of your speed.
The last, but perhaps most important tip for transitioning, is to develop a can do attitude. Falling down may not be something you are used to, especially if you are an experienced skier. Go in with the knowledge that you will fall several times on a single trip down the bunny hill. Take this as an opportunity to wave at your audience, those skiers who are passing above on the chair lift. Laugh at yourself, and have fun. In my first lesson, the number one difference I saw between those who eventually mastered the bunny hill and those who ended up back in skis after lunch was their tenacity. Not only will several falls help you get over the initial embarrassment, getting back up on your board without detaching your boots helps you become one with your board.
I’ll never forget the feeling at the end of a very tiresome first day of snowboarding. It was on my final run down the bunny hill that day that I managed (slowly but surely) to make it down the hill without a single fall. It made all the bumps and bruises worth it, and I felt truly accomplished. If snowboarding is something you are passionate about trying, follow these tips and never give up.