Learn to Snowboard Guide

If you’re learning to snowboard you’ve already made a good choice, snowboarding is awesome! But there are still a bunch of other decisions to make, which is where this page (and site) come in.

This page is a resource for learning to snowboard – and I hope that it helps you with any questions you might have. If you do have further questions,please feel free to contact me.

How will you learn?

It’s very common for new snowboarders to take lessons with an instructor. Lessons are great fun and they should get you going with snowboarding – linking your first turns, ready to explore the mountain. However, snowboarding lessons can be expensive, so you should at least consider your options:

  • Do it yourself: get to a hill and teach yourself
  • Get a full on lesson: instructor training on the hill
  • Learn from other tuition: books and/or video coaching

Personally, I don’t really recommend the first option. Maybe if you’re a strong surfer, skateboarder or freeborder, you might pick it up solo. Even so, winging it with no pointers at all isn’t smart, a small amount of help could save you a lot of time.

Getting lessons on the hill. This is the default option and there’s nothing wrong with it at all. An instructor will know the local mountain, know the lifts, know the best slopes to learn on, and they’ll give you confidence on the hill. But if you’re feeling adventurous, it is worth considering learning without any expensive lessons.

Video coaching. Can you learn effectively from video coaching, without the direct, one-to-one feedback that an instructor gives you? As you’ll see in the article linked above, I think the answer is yes, for some people. I know a few snowboarders who have done this, and others who would have been capable of learning from a video with some pointers from friends. This might feel like a riskier option, but it will save you a lot of money.

When it comes to instructional videos, I highly recommend the Learn to Ride program from Snowboard Addiction. If you’d like to know more about why I think it’s so good, read the review. If you do check out the Snowboard Addiction website, the guys at SA have set it up so that afterbang readers can get a 10% discount by using the code “afterbang”.

How hard is it?

Naturally, different people with find learning to snowboard easier/harder than others. There isn’t a single guideline that will work for everyone. The most important element here is fun. If you’re having fun as you learn to snowboard, that’s exactly what you want. With good instruction, there are very few reasons why you won’t be able to progress to linking turns, which will open up the mountain for you to explore.

Things that might make snowboarding easier for you:

  • You’re fit and healthy
  • You’re a sporty/active person, and often give things a good go
  • You like to go fast
  • You’ve done a related activity, like skateboarding, surfing, freebording…

Things that might make snowboarding harder for you:

  • You’re a nervous person, wary of physical or extreme activities
  • The thought of falling over scares you (note: you will fall over, a lot)
  • You’re thinking you might be better suited to skiing

As mentioned above, these aren’t hard and fast rules, but they may help you out. For a lot of people, the primary hurdle to get over is linking one turn into the next. The reason for this is because the part in the middle, between the two turns, has your snowboard pointing straight down the hill (or “straight down the fall-line“). So you will pick up speed. The crux of this problem is that if you’re not confident or effective with the turning part, you’ll gain more speed and feel out of control. For a small number of people, it’s a stumbling block…

Me, falling.

You’re going to need snowboard equipment

You can’t snowboard without boots, bindings and a board – but you probably already knew that. The question is, should you rent your gear, or buy it?

There are advantages to both:

  • For renting, your initial holiday will be cheaper because you won’t have the lump sum cost involved with buying. That doesn’t mean that renting is cheap; it isn’t. You also reduce the risk of buying the wrong kit before you know what you really want
  • For buying, you’re gonna have a better choice of gear, you’ll most likely have better quality gear, and you’ll be all sorted before you go. If you get the right stuff, then you’ll save on the rental cost in the long run

If you’re pondering over the decision to buy or rent, read this article as it goes into more detail, and also includes some tips for renting gear. If you decide to buy, both Dogfunk and The House have great selections for beginner gear.

Safety equipment worth considering

If you’re learning to snowboard there are a few items of protective gear that are definitely worth considering: wrist guards, impact shorts and a helmet. Some people really benefit from knee pads too, but I’d say they’re less universally helpful than the others.

Wrist guards – you’re going to have lots of little falls, and as a beginner it’s difficult to fall well, it’s temping to put your hands out to stop yourself. To help you decide if you should wear them, check out this article on wrist guards.

Impact shorts – similar to the wrist guards, a lot of those falls are going to have you landing on your butt. Seriously, it’s very common when learning snowboarding. Impact shorts will provide padding where it’s needed, enabling you to sit down for a drink at the end of the day. If you intend to buy some, make sure they fit under your snowboard pants. To help you with the decision, read this post asking who should wear impact shorts? Here’s an idea of the type of impact clothing available.

Helmet – a lot of snowboarders are wearing helmets these days, the numbers are around the 50% mark in terms of helmet adoption. The safety argument isn’t totally clear cut, especially at higher speeds. As a beginner, you’re quite prone to “catching an edge”. If that happens to be your heel edge, there’s a good chance you’ll bang your head. Take a look at this post on snowboarding helmets, and read what people have said in the comments.

8 targets for the progressing beginner snowboarder

If you’re starting to get to grips with the snowboarding basics, or you’d just like to have something to challenge yourself, then consider the following targets:

  1. Linked turns
  2. Confidence using all lift types
  3. Mountain awareness – flat sections
  4. Learn to ride switch
  5. Flat-boarding
  6. Ollies
  7. 180s
  8. Carving

If you’d like to know more about these challenges, I wrote the full article as a guest on the SnowLife site, check it out here. If you’re feeling ready for freestyle, be sure to take a look at the Snowboard Tricks page.

UK snowboarders: when to learn?

If you live in the UK, more so than other places, your next snowboarding trip is probably a holiday abroad. In which case, you have the option of learning at home, before you go.

Getting lessons before you go is a great idea. It increases the chance of you “getting it” while you’re away, and if you’re linking turns before you go, you’ll have more time in the real mountains to explore and progress your skills. That freedom around the mountain is what makes snowboarding so much fun.

The main downsides are time and money. You may not have the spare time before your trip, to get lessons. Or perhaps the nearest slope requires too much travel. Lessons now also mean more cost, although there is the potential that you won’t need lessons when you’re away, so that might be cancelled out. To read more, take a look at this article: Should You Get Lessons Before Your First Snowboarding Holiday?

If you are thinking about taking lessons in the UK, dryslope tends to be cheaper than a snowdome. But what are they like to learn on? Read Dendix Dryslope Can Have Its Uses.

Additional resources

There are a lot of useful resources on this site – you may benefit from these:

As mentioned at the top, if you have any questions or comments, please drop a comment or contact me.