Snowboard Park Etiquette
The snowboard park can be a lot of fun – but it can also be a little daunting if you’re new there. Are there rules that you need to follow? A code of conduct? What it considered park etiquette? This article describes some of the general dos and don’ts for using the park.
If you’re inexperienced or new to this park
Safety first A good place to start is with your own safety. Although this isn’t strictly behaviour that will affect other snowboarders, directly, being safe in the park yourself contributes to everyone’s enjoyment and safety, so think about the following.
Difficulty ratings. It’s very common for snowboard parks to rate features according to difficulty. It should be pretty self explanatory: the green kickers are for beginners, blue kickers will be bigger and reds for more advanced riders.
There may be a sign similar to this one from The Stash in Avoriaz (click to enlarge). It’s based on the US grading system and has the same goal as rating features by colour: to let you know how difficult something is. There’s nothing wrong with stopping to read the sign!
If you’re new – start small. Starting small doesn’t mean you can’t progress quickly, it just makes sense to ease your way in.
Take a run through first. Upon your first arrival, riding through the park without hitting any features is a good idea. Get a look at the landings, at the size of the tables or the distance from the kicker to the knuckle. Sometimes you can’t see the drop-off from a rail or box. Scope it out so that you know what you’re hitting – before you hit it.
Communication is key
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be that communication is key:
- Let others know what you’re doing
- Watch and listen for what others are doing
Signalling what you’re doing. If you’re about to go, the accepted method to let others know is to shout “dropping”. If the park is busy, this can be important, so although you might feel conscious about shouting out – you should still do it.
Putting your hand up. If there are quite a few snowboarders bunched up for a feature, it can sometimes be difficult to tell who’s next and is ready to go; some people kind of wait around. It’s common for people to put their arm up as an indication that they’re getting ready – you can do the same. Just remember that “dropping” is the ultimate signal.
Remember, some people will be riding with music playing, so be alert, look around and use the hand signal to help.
Being snaked? If someone makes a mistake and sets off at the same time, or they snake you on purpose, don’t be stubborn and say “well it was my turn, I’m going anyway”. Back out, it’s not worth someone getting injured.
Someone has fallen or is hurt. Be aware of how people signal “not to use a feature” – they will place crossed skis/poles, or lay a snowboard down, in front of the jump or rail. If you see that a feature is blocked, absolutely do not use it – there’s a good chance that someone is injured on the landing and you can’t see them.
If you notice that someone has fallen in a bad spot – don’t leave it to someone else to block the feature. Even if you’re the least experienced rider in the park, be confident in signalling to others to “wait” until it’s safe. If you’re below the feature, on the lift etc. you can signal for people to wait by crossing your arms above your head – before someone has had the chance to block the feature.
If you fall, try to get out of the way as soon as possible. You don’t want to hang around in a blind area. Get to the side where you can see what’s going on, and can be seen yourself, before setting off again. If it’s a line of features don’t just carry on without knowing if someone is coming – it could end up in a collision.
Waiting on a take-off or landing. Maybe you fell, maybe you’re waiting for the next feature, you might be trying to get a shot of your friends… Don’t stand infront of a jump or in the landing area and make others wait. Even more stupid is to hang around in a blind spot…
Riding or cutting under landings. You might be riding through the park without hitting features, you might want to move from the kicker line to rail line, maybe you want to cut across to the lift. That’s fine – just don’t ride under a landing when you can’t see that it’s safe to do so.
Messing up the take-off. Try not to degrade the take-off for park features. Kickers are the most obvious when it comes to a take-off ramp, but the same is true for rails, boxes, wall-rides, jibs, etc. Doing a heavy speed check, carving across the take-off to jump sideways instead of forwards, going too slow and dropping over the lip… if it’s an accident, no worries, that can happen to anyone. Just try to not cut-up the take-off.
Bypassing a feature that’s part of line… If there’s a kicker line that you want to hit, but the first kicker is that little bit bigger, avoiding that jump is ok. But make it clear what you’re doing. Call your drop and ride in a way that makes it clear you’re using the kickers.
Similarly, if you’re off to the side of a feature line and not at the top, don’t “join” the feature line in the middle. You’re asking for someone to not notice what you’re doing, to not know that you’re intending to use the jump. Plus – you’d probably be skipping the queue!
Queueing and waiting
Remember, the basic concept of “wait your turn” applies. More confident riders tend to move through the park more quickly than others. If there are people ‘confidently’ making their way to the front, don’t be afraid to take your turn, if it is indeed your turn. Just be clear and call your drop.
Similarly, if you’d prefer someone else to go first, that’s cool too. Just tell them that they can go right ahead. If there are people infront of you and they look like they’re just chilling, don’t be afraid to ask if they are going to drop. Remember, communication is key.
When to go for a line of features. Parks will often have a line of features, and kickers in particular can produce a number of blind spots. If the situation is such that you can’t see once you’ve set off you need to consider you’re ability to “know” that someone has fallen ahead.
Other people can act as spotters. If the park is busy there will be riders stood around, lift people, snowboarders riding up the lift, etc. If the park is quiet let the rider in front clear a few of the jumps, or all of them. If the park is busy, but there are people down hill of the features, let the rider in front go two jumps before you set off, maybe three. There isn’t a hard and fast rule here. Take into account your own ability to react and the vibe in the park.
Hiking a feature. Some riders like to hike a feature, you may find yourself doing so too. If the feature is part of a line (more likely with a rail or box), be aware of riders coming down from further up the line. Just because someone/you is hiking a feature doesn’t mean they automatically get to go first. Take your turn and communicate
The same general approach applies to riding the half-pipe. People will raise their hand and call “dropping” when they go. Do the same. Be aware that there will be riders dropping in from both sides of the pipe, meaning there could be two queues. Look across to the other side as well.
It’s best to always drop in from the top of the half pipe at the entrance; don’t cruise down the decks and drop in half-way down. Your intentions may be confusing to other riders and you might end up jumping the queue.
When to go. If the pipe is busy expect there to be multiple riders in there at one time. You can’t wait for the person in front to get to the bottom! Let the rider ahead to do at least two runs up the pipe wall before you go yourself.
Different people progress through the pipe at different speeds. They may be travelling faster or make shallower/steeper turns. Take this into account and apply your judgement. Don’t drop into the pipe expecting to overtake someone.
People will fall over. It’s only natural, and if the pipe is loaded with riders you need to be careful. If you happen to fall you’re better off staying still in one place. Let a rider go past – it’s easier for them to avoid you if you’re not moving. Once it’s clear, get out of the way. Don’t continue your run by setting off slowly toward one of the walls – you’re asking to be caught up.
Snowboarding and the park is all about having fun. Relax, be nice to people, help someone up if they’ve fallen and hurt themselves, keep an eye on safety and don’t be afraid to talk to people, especially when it comes to letting people know what you’re doing. Communication is key.
Related snowboard park posts
If you’re new to the snowboard park there are a few pages that might interest you. Don’t Be Put Off By The Crowds And Cliques At The Snowboard Park, discusses the nervous state that we sometimes find ourselves in when there are other, better snowboarders around, and we don’t want the feeling that people are watching.
Very topical for park etiquette – When is it OK to snake? takes a look at the act of snaking – jumping the queue in the park. Is it ever ok to snake? Pushing in sucks, right? It maybe of interest.
This article is part of the afterbang Guide to Learning Snowboard Tricks, in the Snowboard Parks: The Basics section. The guide has information designed for riders starting out with, developing, and honing their freestyle skills.