7 Practical Approaches To Learning To Ride Switch

Riding switch is something that most snowboarders, at some point, aspire to. The process of learning switch however, can be a deterrent. Practicing switch is like being a beginner all over again, only this time, you can just turn around and rider perfectly fine in the other direction…

The nerves kick in when you pick up speed on the fall line. Lots of little falls. Then a nasty fall when you catch a backwards-edge. We all want to learn switch, but sometimes the investment required to do so seems a little high, especially as it eats in to our precious time away, and there’s fun to be had snowboarding normally!

Unfortunately there’s no quick-fix – making switch feel as natural as your regular direction takes practice. Here are 7 practical suggestions to aid the process of learning – to get you riding switch without it seeming too much of a drain on your snowboarding holiday:

1. Dryslopes and Snowdomes. For riding about, once you know what you’re doing, dryslopes and snowdomes are a little short and a little tame. Nothing like the real thing. They’re great for beginners though, and shredders all over the UK put them to good, freestyle use. And you can use them for switch, too!

The great thing about an artificial slope is that you’ll be using it when you’re not on holiday. Practice before you go. If you’re close to a dendix or snowflex slope, especially the former, you may be thinking that the surface is pretty hard to ride on. And you’re right, it is strange at first. But remember, if you can get your switch technique dialed on a dryslope, you’ll find it a lot easier on real snow.

2. Bad weather days – don’t waste them! Sometimes it’s tempting to not go up if the weather’s crappy. It’s a whiteout, it’s freezing, maybe even some dreaded rain? Don’t waste the opportunity to snowboard. Sure, you might not be able to blast around the mountain if the visibility is poor, but you can put the beginner slope to good use. Get up there and practice your switch.

The same principal applies to the time you’re thinking about heading down a bit earlier if the conditions aren’t great. If you weren’t going to be on the mountain anyway, you’re not wasting your time learning switch. You’ll get a sense of achievement, you won’t feel like you’ve lost time due to the weather, and that beer in the pub will taste even better!

3. Return to some instructional material. If you’ve been riding for a while it may have been some time since you last watched an instructor go through the steps of learning to snowboard. But this is exactly what you need to do when learning switch – learn from scratch, step by step.

Not only will some instructional material refresh your memory of some of the exercises to use – this is a good time to review a correct riding technique.

4. Make use of easy runs. Naturally the easy runs on the mountain are a good place to start when learning switch. But you can also make a habit of always riding switch when on a green or gentle blue. It’s a nice little rule to build some consistent switch into your riding; after all a green run isn’t stretching you, you would have just been cruising. And if it’s the type of run you would normally be jibbing around on, then it’s great practice to land all those tricks switch…

5. Try “Ribbon” turns. Ribbon turns can be a rhythmic stepping stone on the way to full, linked turns. Here’s an example:

  • traverse across the slope on your heel edge, in your regular direction
  • turn back up the slope on your heel edge, coming to a stop on the fall line
  • move onto your toe edge and continue the original traverse direction, now you’re riding switch
  • repeat the turn back up the slope, and move back onto your heel edge
  • when you get to the edge of the piste, start to traverse in the other direction and repeat the movements…

Ribbon turns are covered visually in the Snowboard Addiction Learn To Ride series. The good thing about practicing with ribbon turns is that you come to a stop on the fall line. So, when you transition to the next edge, you’re doing so from a slow speed – just setting-off speed. And, you can confidently build up speed on the traverse because you turn back up the fall line. It’s a great way to learn each phase of a full turn, and, half of the turns you make with this exercise are switch!

6. Race your friends! Racing your friends can be fun. Having a race where you all ride switch can be a lot of fun! The slight edge of competition is sometimes all it takes to give you the extra confidence required: to not keep your weight back; to tackle the fall line; to not side-slip when you come out of a turn before the next traverse…

It also means that the group is learning switch together. Remember to be safe. Don’t race around on a slope that’s too difficult, and don’t race around if it’s busy!

7. Learn switch early. This might not be applicable if you’ve already been snowboarding for a while. However, if you’re still relatively fresh, perhaps just graduating from your first set of linked turns (the normal direction), now could be an excellent time to learn to ride switch…

For those who have been riding a while, snowboarding in their regular direction is very comfortable. Their body is already programmed to ride that way, so changing to ride the opposite direction can be a big change. What’s more, because the gap between their ability to ride switch compared with their normal direction is so big – the temptation to turn back can be high.

Learn switch early because it can be easier! The steps required to learn linked turns are still fresh in your head and you’re body is not yet too set in its regular ways.

Progress fast with Freestyle!

If you’re interested in learning to ride switch you may also be interested in progressing your freestyle skills. Snowboard Addiction offer the best video tutorials out there, hands down. The guys at SA have set up a 10% discount for afterbang readers – all you have to do is use the code “afterbang” for any of their products.

Go check them out, they’ll help you learn new tricks, fast.

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