General Overview

 

No matter how you discovered this wonderful sport we affectionately refer to as snowboarding, one thing was thing was for certain, you knew that you had try that! Or maybe you haven’t taken that bold leap yet, but you are seriously considering it. You want to know the experience and that is why you’re there reading this now. Riders new to the sport and veterans a like all have something in common. There is a sense of rebelliousness that is inherent in snowboarding, a spontaneity and feeling of adventure. But before anyone ever gets started on a snowboard, and to be successful as a rider, they must have one single important ingredient, the desire to ride.

Many people will try snowboarding because they think that its trendy, their friends all do it and they want to fit in with the right people. Some of these types might succeed due to natural talent and ability. Many more will fail, because one thing is for certain, no matter who you are, and no matter what you ability level, if you are going to snowboard, you will fall, and sometimes it is going to hurt. Those people who want to ride because they think that its cool, will not think that it’s so cool when they fall, and they will quickly retire. If you truly, truly have the desire to want to conquer your demons, your fears of falling, of failing, of sailing down from the mountain top, through the trees, off the rocks, over the table top or the rail, if these things are what you truly desire, then it will not matter if you fall one time, or ten or hundred, because guaranteed you will fall more than that. Then you will get up, and taking in the cool clean mountain air, you will try it again and you will succeed.

History

As long as any one has strapped their feet onto a board there have been snowboarders. The first snowboard in recorded history, however, was not even called a snowboard, but a snurf board. The snurf board was invented by Sherman Poppen, who bolted a pair of skis together so that his daughter could ‘surf’ the snowy hills near their home in Michigan. In 1966 the first snurf boards went into production, and were seen as mostly a toy for children. Poppen began to organize snurf board competitions where one of the earliest competitors, Jake Burton, became interested in making his own brand of snowboard. Burton is one of the leading manufacturers of snowboard products to this day and a common household name. In 1972 the first ‘snowboard’ went into production. Dimitrije Milovich started his company Winterstick which produced unidirectional boards that had a ‘fish tail’ design that was conducive to riding in powder conditions. Winterstick gained exposure in ‘Powder’ magazine and ‘Newsweek,’ and although no longer in production, the Winterstick board is viewed by many enthusiasts and a collector’s item. Tom Sims, who was an avid skateboarder, read the articles on Winterstick and became obsessed with snowboarding. He made his first snowboard in shop class by gluing plywood together and putting carpeting on top for traction. Sims is also one of the biggest manufacturers of snowboard and skateboard gear around.

In 1981, the first publication called ‘Snowboarder’ went into production. 1982 saw the first National Snowboard race in Suicide Six, Vermont. The race was held on a steep, icy downhill run, called ‘The Face’. In 1985 only 39, of the approximately 600 ski areas allow snowboards. The same year one another magazine called ‘Absolutely Radical’ came on the scene.

Snowboarding was finally allowed as a legitimate competition in the 1998 Olympics for the first time. The sport brought a new life and vitality to the age old tradition. However, when Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati failed a urine analysis showing that he was positive for marijuana, the International Olympic Committee revoked his Gold Medal. Rebagliati claimed that he had not smoked any marijuana, and since there was no clear stance on the use of marijuana in the competition, his medal was reinstated. However, for many people their suspicions were confirmed, now that snowboarders were a bunch of pot-heads and troublemakers. Two years earlier Mike Hatchett releases his video ‘TB5.’ The film features riders Noah Salasneck and Johan Olofson, who performed the most advanced tricks at that time. Filmed in Alaska, ‘TB5’ remains a snowboarding classic. In 1998, snowboarding contributes almost 50% to all winter activity, and most of the ski resorts now accept skiers and snowboarders. The sport is at its peak in popularity to this day and remains to be a growing and promising industry.

Equipment

The first snowboards, and older equipment, were heavy, primitive, and cumbersome. Equipment now is highly advanced due to a better understanding of the dynamics of the sport. There is a lot of good gear out there that can be picked up at high discount prices during post-season sales, and Ski Swaps. I wouldn’t suggest going out and buying all the equipment right away, unless you’re absolutely sure you want to dedicate yourself that much. The point is this though; you can’t ride a bike with out wheels, and you can’t go snowboarding with out a snowboard. Most resorts and board shops rent gear, so shop around and find the best deals. In order to be successful you do need proper equipment. One thing is almost always certain: groms (someone who is a beginner) will pretty much guaranteed to come to the mountain unprepared! You would be surprised how many people show up in blizzard-like conditions without proper equipment; gloves, goggles, a hat, a nice warm jacket! It is very important to make sure you get to the mountain ready for cold weather. If it gets too warm you can always lose some layers!

If you’re going for to rent, the people in the rental shop will be more than helpful on what board, bindings, and boots are right for you. There are a couple general things you should know before you rent, or purchase snowboarding equipment. The board length when it is standing upright should be between your shoulders and your nose, give or take. You can choose between two general types of bindings, strap-in or step-in. Step-in bindings require special boots and are the kind that many resorts offer due to the convenience of not having to strap-in every time. Strap-in bindings are for the most part a little more stable, reliable, and out right old-school. Your boots should be snug, but not too tight! Give your feet a little breathing room. If your boots are too tight your feet will start to hurt badly, if they’re too loose you won’t have the stability you need. Comfortable feet are paramount to having a great snowboarding experience.

Once you have your boots, bindings and board all straight, you will need to make sure that you keep yourself warm while in the elements. A hat, goggles, and a nice pair of warm gloves are a necessity. The gloves should be waterproof, as well as a waterproof jacket and pants. Long-johns, sweats, scarf or neck-gator, t-shirts and any other layers underneath to keep warm is also a good idea, but don’t where too much! More than likely you will get warm and need to shed some layers, snowboarding is hard work!

So let’s make a check-list of what we need to get started:
•boots
•board
•bindings
•waterproof pants
•waterproof jacket
•warm waterproof gloves
•warm hat
•goggles
•scarf or neck-gator
•warm layers underneath

Where to go?

Many are not so fortunate to live close to a ski and snowboard resort. If you have a long ways to drive it’s always a good idea to pack as many friends in the car as possible to share the gas costs! Be sure to have a vehicle that can handle snowy road conditions. You’ll need snow tires, 4-wheel drive (or at least front-wheel drive) and always carry chains for you tires! Often schools will organize trips, and get group discounts, to ski resorts. If there isn’t a club like this at your school, start one! Who knows where the nearest resort is in relation to you? If there’s not one close by and you still want to ride, any hill with snow on it will work. You can hike up, or do shuttle runs by driving up as far as you can go and having one person drive back down. It’s always fun to hike a hill with your friends and build kickers, and have fun hanging out and learning together.
When to go?

Although some resorts are open year round, the best time to go would probably be during the winter season, preferably after a big snowfall, with clear skies, known as a blue-bird morning. Those are prime conditions for an epic day. Powder can be difficult to learn in, so the best conditions for a beginner learning to snowboard is late in the season with spring conditions. Spring time at most resorts usually provides sunny conditions, and the snow is fairly soft (so it doesn’t hurt when you fall), which leads to a very important outcome, fun! Powder is the general preferred conditions of many snowboarders, but for the beginner it is a lot of work, and hard packed, cold conditions leave many people hanging up their boots for good. Obviously the weather can be unpredictable and sometimes you don’t really have a choice when you can go, but try to go up the first couple times on a sunny day, it will be much more conducive to your learning experience.
Potential Hazards

While you are learning to ride it is very important to be aware of what is going on around you. Anyone downhill from you has the right of way. Look out for areas that may be roped off, and pay attention to what all the signs say, they’re there for your benefit and good health. Also, watch out for unmarked obstacles, such as rocks and trees, you don’t want to ding your board up, or yourself. If you have to stop, put a lot of pressure on which ever edge you happen to be riding on at the time. Your edges determine direction and speed, and they are your friend.
How to avoid looking like a grom

There is no one way to one way to becoming an expert rider. The learning curve is huge, and everyone abilities vary. Some people learn by watching others and trying it out for themselves. Some people learn by hearing specific instructions on techniques. The only way to get better is to get out there and do it. There is etiquette while on the mountain that everyone should know. Things like being aware of your surroundings, the person downhill from you always has the right of way. Avoid snaking, or cutting someone off, while in the park and pipe. Always call your drop, this is to make sure other’s no that you’re taking your turn on the jump, pipe or rail. Simply calling out “DROPPING” will suffice. One thing to remember, its not how many tricks you can do, but how you look when you’re doing them. One trick that looks good is better than ten flails.

How to avoid looking like a grom

There is no one way to one way to becoming an expert rider. The learning curve is huge, and everyone abilities vary. Some people learn by watching others and trying it out for themselves. Some people learn by hearing specific instructions on techniques. The only way to get better is to get out there and do it. There is etiquette while on the mountain that everyone should know. Things like being aware of your surroundings, the person downhill from you always has the right of way. Avoid snaking, or cutting someone off, while in the park and pipe. Always call your drop, this is to make sure other’s no that you’re taking your turn on the jump, pipe or rail. Simply calling out “DROPPING” will suffice. One thing to remember, its not how many tricks you can do, but how you look when you’re doing them. One trick that looks good is better than ten flails.

Your Boards Anatomy Your Boards Anatomy . There are a few things you need to know about your board before you get started, so now’s the time to get acquainted. You should know about your binding by now, and how to operate them.

Now the bottom of your board is essentially simplistic in design, but inherently complicated by its very nature. There are three basic components to the bottom of a snowboard: the base, which makes up all of the flat surface area that you familiarized yourself with when learning to glide in a strait line; the edges, there are two sharp, metal edges that run along both side of the board, one runs along your toes, or ‘toe-side’, and the other runs along your heels, or ‘heel-side’. So you have a toe-side, and a heel-side edge.

Now you have the gear, you’re at the resort and you’re ready to go right? So the big question now is, are you goofy-footed or regular? If you’re a goofy rider that means that your right foot will be in front, regular means your left foot will be in front. Most of us have at some time ridden a skateboard, so a good way to tell if you’re goofy or regular is which foot is first when you skate? If you’ve never skated before, and you just don’t know which foot is first, then here’s a little test: Take a friend (that you trust) and have them give you a little shove from behind, not too hard, just enough to make you have to take a step to gain your balance. Which ever foot you stepped forward with is going to be your front foot. (This test is not 100% but it works pretty well. If you discover later that you tend to be more comfortable riding the other way, then just switch your bindings around and ride the other way!)

So now we know which foot we are, goofy or regular, strap that front foot in to the binding. This foot will stay strapped in pretty much all the time. While loading on and off the lift, and generally getting around, the back foot will remain free. This is so you can skate, or push your self around. You can skate with the board in front of you, or behind, it’s all personal preference. Try skating around a little bit and get comfortable with it. Find a nice little gradual slope and skate your way to the top of it. Once at the top of the slope, give a few pushes to get yourself going, and then position your back foot up against your back binding, and just glide along. Try this a few times until you’re comfortable gliding a strait line. Remember to keep your knees slightly bent, back straight and head up at all times, watching where you are going.

Once you’re comfortable gliding a strait line, skate your way through the lift line and once you’re at the front of the line, follow the next chair that comes around and stop at the little sign that says ‘Stop’. IMPORTANT: BE SURE TO KEEP YOUR BOARD POINTED UP THE HILL! When your chair comes around grab it with your hand and gently ease yourself into the chair, keeping your board pointed strait up the hill. I wish I could say that there was one sure way to position your board comfortably while riding the chair, but there’s really not. Your front foot is going to hurt for a while until you get used to it. You can try crossing your free foot under your front foot, or propping the board on the toes of your free foot, but it’s always going to be a little uncomfortable. The price we pay for glory! Some chairs have foot racks that you can use, and those are always a nice relief.

As you approach the top of the chair lift there will be a little apprehension about unloading, but have no fear! Remember the exercises you practiced making strait glides? That is what you must do now! As you approach the top of the lift there will be a sign that says ‘Unload Here.’ There you must point your board strait, stand up and put your free foot against the back binding, and make a nice strait glide down. Remember: keep your knees bent, your back strait, your head up and watch where you’re going. That was easy. Just be sure to skate out of the way of other people who are unloading behind you.

You made it to the top. Sweet, that was the easy part. Now you can finally strap in that back foot! You got your feet strapped in and you’re sitting there looking down the mountain. Looks a lot steeper from the top than it did from the bottom, right? Right.

Now you’re sitting there all strapped in looking down the hill. So stand up keeping your heel-side firmly in the snow. Keep the pressure on your heels, and using your ankles and toes, keep your toe-side up, out of the snow. Your weight should be balanced over the center of your board, 50-50 on each foot. Now shifting your weight to about 60% on your front foot, you will notice the board starting to glide in that direction. Your heel-side edge will begin to glide. Now shift your weight the other way 60% on the other foot, and you will notice yourself starting to glide in the other direction. Keep doing this, back and forth, and you are now doing the falling leaf (named such do to the resemblance of a leaf falling), and you are now officially snowboarding in the very barest sense of the term.

Now that you have the falling leaf down, its time to start making turns. Start by shifting your weight back over your front foot again, but this time your going to keep going until your board is going strait down the hill. Keep your knees, hips, and shoulders parallel to the hill. Once the board is flat and going strait, put pressure on your toe-side edge and shift your weight back to the center. Now you will be standing on your toes with your back to the hill. Shift your weight on the front foot again, until the board is going strait, and then put pressure back on the heel-side. You’ve just made your first turns!

You have made your first turns and you are confident about riding and totally stoked! You’ve seen, from the lift, those riders getting mad air in the park, and you caught the bug. You want air! Ok, cool, everyone does. First try doing an ollie. This trick is named such do to the similarity of the common skateboard trick. A lot of snowboard terminology is carried over from skateboarding do to the similar ideologies of the sports. Lift the front of your board, called the ‘nose,’ while putting pressure on the ‘tail.’ Give a little hop, and use that pressure to ‘pop’ the board fully into the air.

Jumping is a natural part of the progression. You should perfect the strait air before attempting other, more advanced maneuvers. So find yourself a small hit to jib off of, and stop a little ways above it. It’s always a good idea to check out a jump before you hit it. See what the take-off and landing look like, maybe even just ride over the first time. Once you’re familiar with the jump, approach it from strait on. Keeping your knees bent and your board flat approach it with some speed. Your balance should be centered and as you take off extend your legs a little bit to boost off, reach down and grab your board, spot your landing, extend your legs out and stomp it down flat, you want the nose and tail to touch down at the same time. Flex your knees upon impact to absorb the shock, and you’ve just stuck your first landing. Bam, you’re on your way to pro status.

180 . The 180 is a solid, staple aerial maneuver to have under your belt. You now know how to ollie and do strait airs off of a jump, so the next progression is getting that rotation down when you’re in the air. The 180 starts at the lip of the jump, as you’re taking off. You’re going to lead the rotations with your head, and the shoulders, hips and legs follow. Timing is essential too. You need to know where you’re going to land, spot your landing, and making sure you have rotated fully 180 degrees when you land. Similar to a strait air, you’re going to land with your board flat to the surface and ride off switch, or fakie, meaning the opposite of your regular stance, be it goofy or regular.

360 . The 360 is a little more advanced, and requires more effort, than the 180. Essentially it’s the same move, only you’re going to rotate a full 360 degrees while in the air. Again, lead with the head and shoulders and rotate all the way around, spot your landing, and ride off in your regular stance. Many times while performing these rotational maneuvers, you may land on your blindside, meaning you will land (or approach, for that matter) ‘blind’ to the direction of travel. For this reason it is important to be aware of your surrounding and lead with your head so you can scope out the territory while in the air.

50-50 . The 50-50 is another common maneuver which derives its name from skateboarding. This is a simple, basic, and fun trick to perform on rails. Approach the rail from strait on (most rails have a ramp leading up to them). Give a little ollie and land flat on the rail, sliding the length of it. Once you get this trick down, try to throw in a 180 as you exit the rail.

Rail Slide . This is another rail trick where you will approach the rail strait on again, but just slightly on your heel-side. After you ollie, rotate your body 90 degrees, so that when you land the rail will be between your feet under you. Rotate back 90 degrees as you exit and ride away clean, or land switch and ride away fakie.

Grab . The Grab happens when you grab your snowboard while in the air. There are many types of grabs (nose, tail, indy, crail, etc.) depending on where on the board you grab, with which hand, and how you grab it. The indy grab for example, is when you bring the board up while in the air, grab your toe-side edge between your legs, and put your other hand strait up in the air. Or to perform a method air bend your legs back and grab the board behind you while putting your other hand in the air. Be sure to let go and extend your legs to prepare for the landing before you land!

  • Chicken Salad – The rear hand reaches behind the front leg, grabs the heel side between the bindings while the front leg is boned. Also, the wrist is rotated inwards to complete the grab.
  • Canadian Bacon . The rear hand reaches behind the rear leg to grab the toe edge between the bindings while the rear leg is boned.
  • (at this point you might be wondering what boned is? Well boned is when a rider emphases the style in a trick. So if someone “boned out a method” they would grab hard and create an emphasis of the maneuver such that their legs or arms appear extended or stretched out all the way. To bone means you would straighten one or both legs.
  • Crail . The rear hand grabs the toe edge in front of the front foot while the rear leg is boned.
  • Iguana . this is when the rear hand grabs the toe edge near the tail.
  • Japan Air . the front hand grabs the toe edge in front of the front foot, both knees are bent, the rear leg boned, and the board is pulled up to the level of your head.
  • Lien . the front hand grabs the heel edge with your body leaning out over the nose. The lien was invented by skateboarder Neil Blender.
  • Mute . the front hand grabs the toe edge either between the toes or in front of the front foot.
  • Roast Beef . the rear hand reaches between the legs and grabs the heel edge between the bindings while the rear leg is boned.
  • Stalefish . the rear hand grabs the heel edge behind the rear leg and in between the bindings with the rear leg boned.
  • Tail Grab . the rear hand grabs the tail of the snowboard.

 

  • Rodeo – The rodeo is a highly advanced maneuver which requires incorporating a 360, while at the same time doing a full inverted back flip, and usually includes an indy grab. This trick is common in the half-pipe because the pipe provides adequate vert, and when combined with speed, riders can get the height they need to pull this one off. The rodeo is always a crowd pleaser.
  • Alley-oop – The alley-oop is a fun trick to learn in the pipe. This is where you rotate 180 or more degrees in the uphill direction. So you would rotate backside on the frontside wall or rotating frontside on the backside wall.
  • Caballerial (Cab) – A trick in the halfpipe which begins fakie, spins 360 degrees, and lands riding forward. It’s name after skateboard legend Steve Caballero.
  • Crippler – the crippler is an inverted aerial maneuver where the snowboarder performs a 180 with a flip. So the rider approaches the wall riding forward, gets airborne, rotates 90 degrees, flips over in the air, rotates another 90 degrees, and lands riding forward.
  • Disaster – the disaster is performed on the lip of the halfpipe. The rider gets “hung up” on the coping, similar to a rock n’ roll in skateboarding, with the board perpendicular to the coping, and does a 180 back into the pipe.
  • Eggplant – this is a one handed 180 degree invert where you put your front hand planted on the lip of the wall and rotates backside.
  • Eggflip – the eggflip is an eggplant but the rider chooses to flip over in order to re-enter the pipe instead or rotating 180 degrees.
  • Handplant (Backside) – this is a 180 degree handplant with both hands or the rear hand planted on the lip of the wall and the rotation is backside.
  • Handplant (Frontside) – this is a 180 degree handplant with the front hand is planted on the lip of the wall and the rotation is frontside.
  • McTwist – the McTwist is an inverted aerial maneuver that includes a 540 with a flip. So as you approache the halfpipe wall riding forward, become airborne, rotate 540 degrees in a backside direction while performing a front flip, and land riding forward. This trick was invented by Mike McGill.
  • Misty Flip – the misty is the freeriding version of the McTwist. It’s a partially inverted 540 front flip that is performed off of a straight jump.
  • Rock and Roll – this is a lip trick where you ride up a wall, balances on the lip with the board perpendicular to the coping, and renter the pipe back the way you came.