Growing up, my family went skiing at the local “mountain” (are there really mountains in western New York?) a couple of times a year. One year, we spent a week skiing in the Rocky Mountains. My senior year of high school I realized that I had two choices, I could try to compete with my brothers to be the best skier in the family or I could be the only snowboarder in my family and win the title by default. Naturally I switched to snowboarding.
I have to say that I have not regretted making the switch to snowboarding, but I wish I would have known four things before I switched.
1. Don’t try to go slow
The first time I went snowboarding, I started on the bunny hill and figured slow and steady was the way to go. BAD IDEA. I fell 15 times on my knees and face on a run that was shorter than 100 yards. When skiing, you can do the snowplow or the pizza slice to slow down or stop, when you snowboard, the only way to stop is to sit down. There is a minimum speed that you have to maintain so your momentum will keep you upright. Just like it is really hard to ride a bike at 1 mph, snowboarding requires less balance when you go faster.
2. When in doubt, Sit Down
When you are going too fast while snowboarding, sit down. When you are unsure about what trail to take, sit down. When you are waiting for those lame skier friends of yours, sit down. Don’t try to stop and stay standing, sit down. You will waste a lot of effort and energy trying to stand, and if you are just learning how to snowboard, sitting down is the ultimate reset button.
3. Watch the front edge
While Snowboarding on the first day, I must have caught my toeside edge so often that my knees wondered if I was taking vengeance on them for some past wrong they did to me. Turning your hips back to the familiar skiing “facing down the hill” position will spell doom. I was trying to teach my 40 year old brother-in-law how to snowboard and at one point in the day he was picking it up well. Unfortunately, he started going a little too fast and did not follow my previous advice to Sit Down. My brother in law panicked and went back to the familiar snowplow position, resulting in him catching a front edge at a higher speed and it was the last time he ever tried snowboarding.
4. Beware of flat areas
When you hit a flat area on the hill in skis, you can use your ski poles. When you hit a flat area on a snowboard and you stop, you take your board off and walk. Be aware where these areas are and the amount of speed needed to make it through them without having to hike it out. The rule of when in doubt, sit down does not apply unless you are ready to walk afterward. Walking to the downhill portion may not seem like a bad thing, but once you get unstrapped from your board it almost seems too easy to not put them on again.
The first day is the hardest day of snowboarding. I was told that and it is true. If you follow the advice above, you can make it past your first day and on to the moments that really show why so many people have taken up the sport.