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Is Snowboarding Hard? 10 Things Beginners Need To Know
Want to learn how to snowboard but find yourself second-guessing if you have what it takes? You’re not alone! Every snowboarder was once a beginner, and doubt is universal. Even after decades of sliding on snow, I still feel like I’m a new rider some days.
Is snowboarding hard? In my opinion, no harder than any other outdoor activity you may try as a beginner. Just know that progression in snowboarding- as with any sport- takes time, patience, determination, and above all, a good attitude.
With the right mindset and access to snow and equipment, though, anyone can learn how to snowboard! As a snowboarding instructor, I’ve seen everyone from middle-aged dads who’ve never seen snow to screaming four-year-olds strapping in and making it down a mountain.
Ready to hit the slopes? It helps to know these 10 things before embarking on your snowboarding journey. Read on so you feel prepared, confident, and ready to charge.
10 Things Snowboarding Beginners Should Know
1. Snowboarding Isn’t Harder Than Skiing
It’s the question on most beginners’ minds: is skiing or is snowboarding harder to learn?
There is no easy answer. While both entail attaching snowboarding boots or ski boots to slippery sticks and sliding on snow, the fact is, each sport is unique. Some feel more comfortable with both legs attached to one piece of equipment, so snowboarding comes naturally. Others like the freedom of legs moving independently, so they connect more with skiing.
Whether snowboarding or skiing feels easier in initial stages varies from person to person. The age they start learning also plays a role. I recommend people try both snowboarding and skiing to see what clicks for them!
2. Snowboarding Doesn’t Have to be Expensive
I learned to snowboard on a small county park hill, beat-up board and borrowed boots in tow. While snowboarding can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. There are ways to make it fit your budget with a little foresight.
Beginners can heed these tips to cut costs:
- Borrow a board and gear. If you can’t borrow, rent before committing to a board purchase.
- Buy used. You don’t need a new snowboard or new gear to learn and progress.
- Research free lessons and discounted beginner programs in your area.
- Learn at smaller ski resorts. They’re cheaper and often have more beginner-friendly terrain.
3. You Might Already Have Cross-Over Skills That Help
Snowboarding relies heavily on lateral balance. If you’ve tried skateboarding or surfing before, snowboarding will probably feel very natural. Don’t have experience in board sports? Fret not! Anything with balance and stance as a foundation will help you when learning.
For instance, if you practice yoga, chances are you have rock-solid balance and a great sense of bodily alignment. That definitely comes in handy! If you play basketball, you’re used to low, stable stances when on defense. Skiers can attest that’s a great cross-over skill, too. Big on cycling or mountain biking? Your leg strength and spatial awareness do wonders for snowboarding. So tap into those cross-over skills!
4. Being in Shape Helps Your Snowboarding
It feels like gravity does most of the work when snowboarding, but the truth is, you need strength, good balance, and stamina. In every stage of progression!
There’s a good reason snowboarders are training for winter year-round. From balance boards to weight training, stronger bodies mean longer rides.
When getting in shape for snowboarding, focus on:
- Leg strength. Strong leg muscles, like quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and hip flexors, are everything. Squats and lunges do wonders!
- Core strength. Strong, stable core muscles mean better balance and breathing. A strong core also stabilizes your movements, helping prevent common injuries.
- Endurance. Aerobic exercise like running or cycling builds stamina and provides full-body conditioning. Endurance is needed for long runs and long days.
5. Snowboarding Lessons Will Make Things Easier
Oh, how I wish that I had taken lessons when learning to snowboard! It took me weeks to nail down basic techniques that I probably could have mastered in a couple of days with a skilled instructor.
Learning from someone that’s not only experienced in snowboarding, but experienced in reading movements and the learning process, is invaluable to progression. A professional instructor offers student-tested practices to build snowboarding basics and proper form efficiently, and safely.
Even just one group or private lesson makes a big difference. You’ll receive instant feedback, consistent support, and address common mistakes and poor techniques before they become bad habits.
6. Make Sure Your Snowboard Is The Right Size
Having a snowboard that’s way too long, too short, or the wrong riding style makes learning far more difficult. It takes more effort to nail the basics down, and prevents novice snowboarders from adapting proper snowboarding techniques.
Keep these points in mind when choosing beginner boards to learn on:
- Try to be within a board’s recommended body weight range.
- Aim for a shorter board. Unless you’re taller than average, then opt for a longer board that accommodates a wider stance.
- Make sure your board width fits your snowboard boot size.
- Avoid specialty boards, like splitboards, powder boards, or freestyle “park” boards when learning.
7. Skating Is An Important Skill To Learn
Skating, but on a snowboard? Yep! It’s when your front foot is strapped into your binding, and your back unstrapped foot pushes off and propels you forward on your board.
Skating is an important snowboarding skill for beginners to master, because it’s needed to get on and off a chairlift, and to get to where you’ll be strapping in. As you progress, you skate to get past pesky flat sections, too.
When skating, aim for long, gliding, stable motions. Also, practice pushing off with your unstrapped foot both in front of and behind your snowboard. Get comfortable with snowboard skating, because it’s something you’ll be doing often!
8. Practicing Falling Will Make Things Easier
Spoiler alert: when learning to snowboard, falls will happen. Luckily, beginner riders can adopt certain falling techniques to make tumbles smoother and prevent common injuries. I suggest “practicing” falling so reactions become second nature.
In general, keep knees bent and stay low to the ground if you feel yourself going down.
When falling forward, avoid reaching out with your palms and landing directly on your wrists. Instead, bend your knees and shift weight onto your forearms.
When falling backwards, tuck chin to chest to protect your head. Keep arms inward and fall butt first, avoiding direct impact with your tailbone and wrists. Distribute weight carefully across your back.
9. Sit Down While Strapping In
Even with decades of snowboarding experience, I still take a seat when strapping into my bindings. It’s a rookie mistake not to!
Sitting down is the easier and safer option for beginner riders. When standing, a steeper slope can propel a rider forward before they’re ready; an easy way to get injured. When you sit, you stay in one spot as you adjust your boots, bindings and gear. Simple!
What’s more? Strapping in provides a moment to focus your intentions. I personally take a few deep breaths and give myself a goal for the run. It makes the most of every trip down the mountain, and helps progress faster.
10. The Right Snowboarding Gear Will Help
Your jacket’s print, snowboard’s brand, and pant color will not make you a better snowboarder. While they may make you feel good, “the right gear” refers to the right protection.
You’ll be spending hours outside learning to snowboard, often, in very cold weather or severe weather. Staying warm, dry, comfortable, and above all, safe, should be a priority. Focus on these pieces of gear:
- A MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection) helmet. Head injuries are no joke.
- Quality gloves & snow goggles.
- Warm, breathable base layers and mid-layers.
- A water-resistant jacket or outer layer with airflow zippers.
- Snowboard pants with a minimum waterproof rating of 10,000 mm.
- Protective gear, like padded “impact shorts” and wrist guards to prevent wrist injuries.
Ready to hit the slopes?! Hopefully you’re no longer wondering, “Is Snowboarding Hard?” and feel confident that you, too, have what it takes to start learning how to snowboard.
Every moment won’t be easy for a beginner snowboarder. But if you put in the work, keep a positive attitude, and heed these tips and takeaways, you’ll get the hang of snowboarding in no time. Believe me: once you experience that incomparable feeling of gliding down a mountain on fresh snow, you’ll be hooked. So get prepared, and get after it!
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.