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Snowboarding beginners guide | Ridestore Magazine

So, you’ve just booked your first snowboard trip with your friends or family, and now it’s all getting a bit… real. If you’ve been checking out social media, watching some YouTube videos, you might be starting to understand the scale of the world you’re about to enter into. It’s only natural to be a little nervous as well as excited. And we’re sure you’re probably itching to get to grips with things before you go — you are here, after all.

Ack, your first snowboard holiday! What do you pack? What do you wear? Where do you go, how does a binding work, what boots do you need, what size snowboard will you ride? There are a million questions to ask, and luckily, we’ve been there, asked them, and left human-shaped prints in the snow to prove it. And we thought, what better way to impart the wisdom we’ve learned [the hard way] than to put it all together into one handy beginner’s guide to snowboarding?

We’re sure you’ve already been planning your dream outfit for the slopes. And while it’s only one part of the whole experience, looking good definitely contributes to feeling good. So if you’re still in need of some inspiration for looks this coming season, check out our awesome range of snowboard jackets and snowboard pants.

Right, let’s get to it then!

table of contents

Table of contents

Things to consider before going on your first adventure

Before you set off on the trip of a lifetime, there are a few things to consider, and let's face it, you'll be hooked by day 3 and already looking up details of your next trip. Preparation begins long before you actually reach the resort, and isn’t simply limited to booking. It’s vital to ensure you go in with the right mindset, knowing what to expect for your first snowboarding trip. 

things to consider before you go on your first adventure

Fitness

Maintaining a good fitness level is an excellent rule of thumb for life in general, and it certainly applies to snowboarding. But don’t worry, you definitely don't need to be a pro athlete to take your first snowboarding adventure. 

However, it is important to be realistic about the aches and pains your muscles will face for the first few days, much worse than the dull ache in your muscles from an insane leg day at the gym. Therefore, you might consider doing a few exercises to prepare your body for the snowboarding shock, which will also mean you're less likely to sustain an injury.

Aim to focus on overall stability and body strength; you want to learn to control your muscles so you can control your board.

Planning & booking

Planning for a snowboarding adventure is half the fun. We know there’s a lot to do, but don't panic! It's just about preparation! Booking a week-long snowboarding holiday with a well-known tour operator is a popular way for snowboarders to experience their first holiday and for a good reason. It's so much easier to pay one fee for everything, knowing all the snowboard holiday aspects, such as flights, accommodation and transfers, are taken care of. This takes a lot of the hassle out of planning a holiday, leaving you to enjoy the mountains to their fullest.

Choosing a suitable resort is also really important. Resorts are often set up for different abilities. For example, as a beginner, you might want to avoid resorts like Nendaz or Verbier as these resorts are steep, with lots of challenging terrains. Instead, opt for resorts with plenty of green (sometimes known as bunny slopes, beginner slopes, or nursery runs) and blue runs. Look for a resort with fewer drag/button or T-bar lifts and plenty of ski schools. 

It's also helpful when the ski lifts are in the centre of town, meaning you won't have to get a bus or anything to the slopes — as carrying everything for miles can be really inconvenient. There’s so much more to say here, but these points are the top-level tips to keep in mind.

planning and booking

Liftpasses

If you have chosen to organise your own lift pass, it's worth considering pricing and where to pick your pass up before you leave. Of course, if you booked with a tour operator, your ski pass was either included in your booking package or they can organise it for you. Otherwise, this should be one of the first things you book before you leave- where you might be able to pick up early-bird discounts;  or indeed when you arrive at the resort, head directly to the lift pass office and speak to the agents about which ski pass works for you. For example, some resorts offer beginner passes that only work on the nursery slopes, saving you money.

Lift passes can also get you discounts on other facilities in the resort and allow you to use the ski buses for free in some cases. Be sure to ask for all the information in the lift pass office — the staff are there to help. 

Ridestore Recommends: Speaking of "the first thing you do when you get into the resort", don't forget to sort out your snowboard equipment as soon as you arrive. You don't want to waste valuable mountain time. This way, you can wake up and head straight to meet your instructor on the first day.

Costs

Managing the cost of a snowboarding holiday adds to the stress of it all, so it's good to keep a few things in mind. First, booking in low season: ‘low season’ weeks (which are weeks that aren’t during school holidays, half-terms, Christmas, and Easter) are often cheaper for accommodation, lift passes, and flights, especially when you book as far in advance as possible to get the best deals. 

Another reason why package holidays and catered chalets are a great bet for beginner snowboarders is that they offer good discounts and include most meals (and alcoholic drinks). The more the merrier too! The more people you go with, the cheaper it is per person when booking as a group. 

Eating on the mountain can be expensive, so save your money for big dinners. Go to the resort supermarkets and make your own pack lunches to eat on the mountain (plus you will save yourself the lunchtime rush in the slopeside restaurants).

expectations and before you leave

Expectations & before you leave

Now, we don't want to rain on your parade — as snowboarding is meant to be fun—  but it's vital that you be realistic about your expectations. There are a few things that we simply can't go without mentioning. 

Firstly, snowboarding is expensive, there’s no getting around that. The good news is that it's 100% worth every penny. You will ache — boy oh boy, will you ache big time. At least for the first 3 days, maybe more, and then definitely for a week after. Everything feels like a lot of effort: carrying your equipment around, trudging to and from the lifts. You'll spend a lot of time giving your knees and wrists a battering. It will feel relentless as you learn to find your balance. You'll also either be far too cold or far too warm. And last but certainly not least, you'll be hooked. It will only take a few days and believe us, once you are, you won't look back.

Snowboarding clothing

Okay, now onto the snowboard clothes! This is where we can get creative and regain some street credibility points, the points you may have lost when trying to initiate a turn and face planting. As long as you look amazing, keep warm and cosy and comfortable, you'll be back on track. Again, the priorities are to keep you warm and dry, allow free movement and wick away perspiration.

Snowboard clothing

Snowboard outerwear

Snowboard outerwear should have a wind and a waterproof shell. Your outerwear should also be comfortable and breathable, which means it will allow sweat to disperse and keep you warm. Remember, while on the hill, the weather can change quickly so invest in outerwear that helps with temperature control. When your body touches the snow, good snowboard outerwear will prevent water from seeping through and making you cold and wet. 

Thermals / base layers

Base layers are fundamental; in fact, one could argue that they are the most critical layer —  it's a controversial topic! If you don't wear suitable technical fabrics, this will be the difference between you falling in love with being on the mountain or never trying snowboarding again. On icy, bitter days, proper base layering is crucial to staying warm. You want to avoid cotton products because they are surprisingly neither breathable nor waterproof. Synthetic materials or wool are effective with wicking sweat and maintaining a comfortable body temperature.

On freezing days, try adding a mid-layer on top. Mid-layers are fleeces, hoodies, sweatshirts, or other everyday clothing items that add warmth.

Accessories

Don't forget to consider the accessories. Here is a quick-fire list: 

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Goggles: Make sure you get the right lenses for the weather. 

Gloves/Mittens: Make sure you get highly waterproof gloves that also fit correctly. 

Helmet: Everyone should wear a helmet, always! Safety first. 

Socks: You can't wear any old socks; you need skiing/snowboarding socks. They are thinner, technical fabrics that encourage blood flow. 

Comfortable shoes: Bring a pair of good sturdy outdoor shoes. Walking around a resort in sneakers is not going to cut it in the snow, you need a comfortable, warm shoe for apres ski.

Snowboarding equipment

Snowboarding is an equipment-heavy sport. But when you're a beginner, you need to make sure you understand the most essential items. It all starts with the boots, the board, and the bindings. 

Snowboard

The humble snowboard is so much more than a plank of wood. Not only is it an infinite source of joy, but it's a surprisingly innovative and high tech piece of equipment. Snowboards are shaped in a particular way to enable them to push into the snow. This shape means that when the rider is on the board, the ends of the snowboard will always have a force propelling them, keeping the entire length of the edges in contact with the snow, allowing for precision movements and speed. 

The size of your snowboard will (as a beginner) depend on your height and confidence level. Be sure to ask your equipment hire store, they'll be able to point you in the right direction.

Snowboarding equipment

Bindings

Snowboard bindings are a vital piece of a snowboarder's riding experience. Your bindings act as your line of connection to your snowboard, transferring your muscle movements and power to your board. For a better riding experience, match your snowboard bindings to your board and style. 

Boots

Choosing a pair of snowboard boots is a critical decision. They're an integral part of your snowboard set-up, affecting your performance and comfort significantly. It could mean the difference between progressing rapidly and impressing your mates or a day of misery on the hill. 

As a beginner, it'd be best to start with a soft boot. This is because a soft boot has a more considerable range of tolerance. Essentially, a movement will result in the board turning without catching an edge, basically, much more forgiving of mistakes. In addition, this leeway allows novices to learn to control their board without being punished by small mistakes as inherently, a lack of precision comes with being a beginner.

Snowboarding basics

We have to talk about the snowboarding basics. This is a daunting subject to approach, and so far, we've been keeping it casual, talking about what to wear and pack, etc., but now we have to get down to the details. But never fear; we have broken it down into the most important aspects to help you master the basics. Of course, your instructor will do all the hard work, but we have put together some pointers to get you started

snowboarding basics

Stance

Now for the question of what stance you are, this simply means the direction you face when heading down the slope. This is the first aspect of snowboarding we need to clear up. There are a couple of simple ways to find out.

Essentially, your snowboarding stance is how you position your feet on your board, with either your right or left foot forward. There are two different types of stance: regular or goofy. You want your dominant foot to be at the back as your dominant back foot will do most of the work, guiding your steering and rotations, while your less dominant front foot will lead in balance and direction. Goofy stance is with your right foot forward, and regular stance is riding with your left foot forward. This will become a character trait by the end of your first day! Therefore, it's imperative to find out your natural stance as soon as possible. You will pick up snowboarding much faster if you do.

Strapping in

Once you've sorted boots, bindings and snowboard, you’re now on the slope and ready to begin, but how do you strap into your snowboard? First, start on a flat snow area and position your snowboard perpendicular to the slope. Next, try bumping the heel edge of the snowboard into the snow a few times to keep the board from moving by creating a small shelf. Alternatively, you can sit down with the board in front of you and place your lead foot in the binding, pushing your heel back. Next, put the toe strap on and tighten it until snug. Do the same for the ankle strap. Do this on both feet then you're ready to ride. 

strapping in

Stopping

Stopping is probably the most critical skill, right? Of course, stopping when you feel in control is easy, but it gets a touch more challenging as soon as you build a little speed. Before you leave the nursery slopes, you'll need to learn how to stop on both your heel and toe edges.

First is a heel-edge stop. While riding straight, turn your head to look to the side of the slope over your leading shoulder. Allow your shoulders to turn a little, which will turn your hips too. Open your leading knee out towards the nose of your snowboard, which transfers your weight forward a little. This will start you turning, and will unweight your back leg, keeping your heel edge in contact with the snow. From here, it’s just a case of bringing your back foot around (make sure to keep your weight on your heel to keep your toe edge free of the snow!). Your board will naturally begin to slide and square up to the slope. All you need to do then is apply more pressure to the heel edge and you should come to a stop! Though you’ll probably fall the first few times and that’s only natural!

For your toe-edge stop, you’ll need to mimic that movement, but in reverse. While riding straight, turn your head to look at the side of the slope your chest is facing. Allow your shoulder to turn towards where you’re looking, and your hips should follow. Then, turn your leading knee in and apply pressure to the toe edge of your board. Unweight your back foot, keeping your toe down and your heel up so it doesn’t catch, and begin to slide it around like with the heel edge stop. Then, just dig your toes in and you’ll slide to a stop! Again, you’ll probably fall, but don’t worry, it’s all part of the process.

Leafing

Leafing is where it all starts —  well, once you manage to master the balance of standing up, of course — but leafing will become your safe space. Leafing is a crucial part of the snowboarding progression. Leafing is the motion of moving side to side across the slope while facing directly down the mountain. By staying on your heel edge and traversing slowly across the slope, you’ll be able to tackle most gradients quickly! Once you get to the far side, simply go back the other way, staying on your heel edge without turning. This not only lets you move around the mountain without having to make a turn, but also introduces the basics of another key skill — riding switch! But that’s a topic for another day.

Turning

It's time to begin to master turns on a snowboard. Turning requires a unique rhythm led by your front foot, followed by your back foot. It helps if you roll your hips to pressure your front foot into the turn first, then your back foot immediately tilts in and follows, move your body as a whole, try to avoid initiating the turn with your shoulders or knees. Eventually, that technique will become natural, but when you're starting out, it's essential to put your weight on the front foot as you start to lean into the turn, and then consciously place your weight on the back foot to bring you through the whole motion. That is a quickfire paragraph to get you acquainted with turning, now all you have to do is try it.

turning

Falling

We need a section on falling; you might be surprised to learn falling is a skill in its own right, and lucky for all beginner snowboarders out there, it's a skill we can all master right away. The bad news is you will fall a lot when you first start learning, and it can be painful; if you fall wrong (by wrong, we mean down the mountain), it could lead to injury. The good news is, you can start practising right away. 

The number one rule of falling is to always fall up the mountain. Whether your back or your front is facing it, falling up will be significantly better than down. As the mountain is sloped, it’s less distance to fall up, and less distance means less speed, less energy, and less impact. So if you feel you’re losing it, just throw yourself up the mountain! It’s a thing, trust us.

If you can’t fall up the mountain, be aware of the fact that snow isn’t actually that soft — especially if it’s groomed. If you find yourself out of control and falling down the mountain face first, resist the urge to put your hands out straight. You can hurt your fingers and wrists doing this! If you’ve ever been on a water slide, you already know how to cross your arms across your chest in an ‘X’ shape. This is a really good go-to move when you begin tumbling as it’ll basically prevent you from breaking everything. Your hands will be against your chest so you won’t break your wrists, your arms will prevent your collarbone (easiest bone in the body to break!) from hitting the ground, and your arms won’t be able to move at odd angles, which prevents shoulder dislocation. It’ll also lock up all your intercostal muscles as well as your lats and shoulder muscles, helping to prevent broken ribs, shoulders, and other nasty spinal stuff in a lot of situations. So keep it in mind!

If you fall backwards down the slope (scary, but it’ll happen) — again, make the ‘X’ across your chest and keep your teeth together to keep that tongue nice and safe. There’s really not much else you can do! Sticking your hands out behind you is the easiest way to break a wrist or dislocate a shoulder, so keep those arms crossed and hope. Sorry to not have better news on this front! If it’s any consolation, you’ll only do this once before you promise yourself it’ll never happen again.

Some other tips here are to try to fall onto your butt if you can. It’s fleshy and is relatively safe to land on in most situations! We definitely recommend wearing crash pants while you learn, however. They will have padding and protection on your hips, coccyx, and your butt bones. These will 100% help with falling, which, let’s face it, you’ll be doing a lot when you learn! Hell, I still wear them and I’ve been boarding for years! They’re worth the money and have saved me from some nasty bumps and bruises.

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Slope best practice

Skiing or snowboarding on the slopes isn't quite like Mad Max, a world with no rules and just sheer chaos. There are rules and regulations on the slopes, just like driving a car on the road or a boat at sea. 

There are also rules to ensure your safety and encourage you to be the most conscientious rider to others around you. It's a good idea to read the FIS code of conduct before you leave and make a note of the emergency numbers you could need on the mountain. Most resorts have a dedicated emergency line for ski patrol and first responders, so make sure to have that to hand before you head out. A few of the most important etiquette points pertain to stopping. When you stop on the slopes, try to stop at the side and never around a corner, in a blind spot or under a lip/roller. 

Always remember, you and your friends are not the only ones on the slope; everyone should have the space to enjoy the area, be sure to be observant, look around as you stop and take off, and be courteous of others. Never try to avoid a faster skier as they overtake, it’s their responsibility to go round you. Remember to give beginners a wide berth too as they’re liable to change directions quickly and without looking! Don’t charge down beginner slopes as it’s just dangerous — mostly because of the point above. Plus they’re likely filled with children who can be difficult to see sometimes. And if you see someone who’s taken a fall, stop and check if they’re okay! You’d want someone to check on you, right?

Tips for beginners

Snowboarding can feel really overwhelming. It seems like fun in theory; however, when someone hands you a snowboard, boots and puts you on the snow, it all becomes a little too real. So where do you even start? This is the existential question we’ve tried to answer in this article, but we thought it might be good to have a little section dedicated to the top snowboarding tips for beginners as told by snowboarders. 

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It’s important to remember, every single snowboarder out there — the pros pulling the insane tricks included — were all beginners at some point. We all started out spending most of our time on our butts, wondering how we got there and if it will ever click into place. Perhaps these tips, both practical and holistic, might help start you off in the right direction!

Look where you're going

This might seem odd to include as a tip, but you'd be surprised how impactful it can be to simply look where you're going. In snowboarding, there are so many variables that it’s easy to find yourself looking down at your board, behind you, at the scenery, or even down at your hands. But there’s one strange thing about snowboarding, and that is that you tend to go where you’re looking! That’s why you can use your eyes to initiate turns. Turning your head to focus on a specific point will help your body naturally orient to that direction. So stay loose, and focus on your destination. If you do, you’ll probably end up there!

Be patient

Patience truly is a virtue. Even for the most patient and pragmatic person, snowboarding takes oodles of willpower. Your patience has to stretch to how long it takes you to find your balance but also how long it takes to progress. Stick with it and before too long the skills will be second nature and you'll be so grateful you pushed yourself beyond the frustration.

Laugh at yourself

Don't forget to laugh at yourself. You'll probably look and feel like a bit of a fool when you first try snowboarding, but if you know how to laugh at yourself, you'll realise it's all part of the fun. You and your friends, out of the mountain, horsing around and making mistakes, is all part of the journey. Nothing makes you look like more of a newbie (and let's face it, like a totally boring person) if you take it all too seriously and try to force progress. Instead, lean into the silliness of it all.

Follow the soft snow

This advice is as good for beginners as it is for pros. The soft fluffy snow is always the best. Although you might not be riding through waist-deep powder yet, if you try to stick to the sides of the slopes where all the soft snow stays with fewer tracks (plus, when skiers swish down the slope, they move the soft snow to the side) you'll find making turns to be much easier. This is because of the way your board glides over the snow — everything feels smoother and softer. Trust us; it's the best!

Going out on your own too soon

Even after a few lessons, believe us when we say it's still too soon to venture off alone. You'll get yourself in the worst, most awkward pickles if you try to head off on your own too quickly. It's both safer and more fun to build your basic snowboarding skills with others or, better yet, with a professional instructor.

The resort logistics

There is a lot to consider beyond simply hitting the slopes. First, there are the resort logistics to consider. This is about pretending you know exactly how the locals operate — little behaviours that help you blend in. For example, heading to the bar for apres ski, be sure to prop your board up outside the bar. If you can change your shoes before coming to the bar, that's ideal, but you'll see everyone in their ski gear, winding down from the day. 

No one uses their snowboard in the street, no matter how thick the snow is, as it's damaging to the board and the ground, and you'll look like a crazy person. So here are a few more "things you should know".

Resort logistics

Chairlifts & queuing

Queuing for the lift and getting on and off the chair lift is probably the most daunting part of riding. The panic sets in, then mistakes are made. But never fear, it's nowhere near as scary as you think. Firstly, queuing: there are a couple of universal truths when it comes to queuing. 

First, stay on the outside of the queue, it moves quicker, plus you have more space and control. Keep your front foot strapped in and keep your back foot out, place your back foot on the snow behind you for balance and manoeuvrability — this is known as ‘Skating’ and is another useful skill to pick up! Use your back foot to slowly shuffle yourself forward as the queue moves, and don't be scared to use your elbows and assert yourself — queues are mad places and you have to be confident. Or you'll never make it to the front.

When you do make it to the gate, try to stay on the outside as a beginner. Don't be afraid to ask people to swap with you if needs be, never be ashamed to ask for what makes you more comfortable or makes you feel safer. Use the side of the gate for balance, then place your back foot between your bindings on top of your board, with the outside edge against your back binding, nice and flat. Then push yourself gently forward and onto the magic carpet when the time is right. As the chair comes behind you, simply sit down as you usually would and relax. Take it easy, don't overthink it, and you'll be golden.

Carrying your snowboard

Post apres drinks or to and from your accommodation, you will need to carry your board around the resort. This is the prime opportunity to look cool whilst not actually on your board, so the key is to carry the board right and carry it cool. Hold your board with one hand, in the middle between the two bindings, with the bindings facing outwards. Be mindful your board will be sticking out in front of you and behind you, don't swing it around or stop without warning, as you may find some boards hitting the legs of angry pedestrians. When you stop somewhere, place your board standing up. Ski resorts can be bustling, so make sure to protect your board and those around you. 

Snowboard schools

When starting your snowboarding journey, it can be difficult and frustrating to learn a skill from scratch, so book yourself into Snowboard School and make things a little easier. We would always recommend taking lessons from the start, as you will be safe in professional hands with their knowledge and experience. Snowboard instructors will teach you the best tips and tricks to become a confident and safe boarder. 

Of course, snowboard school is an expensive addition to the holiday, but this is the best way to get good quickly. Your friends and family may be good boarders, but their back to basics tuition might not be the best advice — there is more to it than just heading to the top of the mountain and pointing downwards.

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Snowboard schools vs. private lessons

Snowboard schools have different options for lessons, with group snowboard lessons or private tuition on offer. Group lessons are a cheaper and more fun option, as you board with those of similar skill levels to you, and can learn and feel encouraged by your group.

Whilst private lessons are more expensive, you'll get dedicated time with your snowboard instructor. In addition, they will be able to give you personal and direct feedback, which may help you become a skilful snowboarder quicker.

Snowboarding FAQ's

Can I buy my lift pass online?

Yes, it's super easy to buy your ski pass online. If you type in " Beginner ski pass" into google, you'll be directed to the right place. Generally, you pay online and pick your ski pass up in the resort.

What's included in the beginner ski and snowboard packages?

It varies with which company you go with but generally speaking; you would book the accommodation, flights and transfers. Then additionally, a beginner bundle would include your lift pass, snowboard school for 4 or 5 days and all your hardware equipment like the board, bindings and boots. Of course, you'll need to bring your own clothes/outwear.

How do I get gear that fits?

Regarding the clothes, they just need to be the standard size you'd take in regular clothes, but your jacket should be big enough to allow layers underneath but still fit — otherwise, the wind will get between the layers. The best option is to let the experts in the ski hire shop help you regarding the hardware. Listen to their advice and let them point you in the right direction.

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Is it worth investing in the right equipment?

One hundred per cent! When you've had your first snowboarding holiday, and you inevitably feel hooked, you can look into investing in your own equipment as it will transform the way you ride. However, initially, for your first trip, just enjoy the simplicity. Allow the resort experts to help you. But when you're ready, all the advice you'll need is on Ridestore Magazine.

Can I expect muscle ache and fatigue?

Sadly, one downside of your first snowboarding adventure is that the muscle ache and fatigue will come as a bit of a shock. It's the same ache and soreness as when you do an epic strength workout, and the following day, walking feels challenging. It will feel like this for the first week as you use new muscles and move in unknown ways to your body. After all, snowboarding is an excellent workout for your muscles. As such, it's so important to stretch before and after the day, which will help with muscle ache and fatigue.

Should I be practising?

A good piece of advice to prepare for a snowboarding holiday is to practice by heading to an indoor ski slope if there is one close to you. There are indoor centres all over Europe, and it's a fabulous way to get used to the sensations of wearing the boots, bindings, and board and an excellent opportunity to gain some balance and familiarity. Though don't be concerned if you don't get that chance, your snowboard instructor will assist you with everything when you arrive.

Conclusion

So, that is all we have for you for the moment. It's important not to overthink this and fill yourself with worry before you leave. At the centre of everything is the fun factor. This is a true adventure and a chance to experience the adrenaline of true freedom. Everything will fall into place when you arrive at the resort, so for now, relax, and try not to daydream at work too much before you head out. So, over and out for now and have a fabulous time! 

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