Top tips for first-time snowboarders

Skiing is great fun, but it’s snowboarders who manage to look cool and effortless on the mountain. Appearing to glide across the snow, however, takes a lot of hard work – many argue that learning to snowboard is tougher than getting to grips with skiing.

We won’t lie; on your first snowboard outing you will fall over…a lot. To ensure you stay safe on the mountain, and don’t get overly frustrated with your efforts, we’ve listed the top things you need to know for your first time.


Don’t overdress

One of the biggest mistakes many virgin skiers and snowboarders make is wearing too many clothes. You’re right to assume it will be cold on the mountain, but remember you’re also doing a lot of heavy-duty exercise, which will warm you up. If the sun is out and shining on the slope you’re riding on, you’ll get even hotter!

We recommend sticking to the basics: a non-cotton thermal top; a lightweight, waterproof jacket; and some snow pants – that’ll do you just fine. The non-cotton aspect is vital – cotton soaks up your sweat, which can freeze in the cold weather.

Don’t forget to invest in some decent gloves either. As we mentioned, you’ll be falling over a lot. Your hands will get awfully cold and a bit banged up if you don’t keep them nice and padded.

If you’re worried about the temperate dropping later on in the day, take a hoody with you in your rucksack.

Decide whether you’re a regular or goofy rider

Unless you’re a skateboarder, you probably have no idea what the above means. This can be quite confusing when you walk into a rental shop to pick up a board, as you’ll be asked whether you’re regular or goofy.

No, they’re not talking about a Disney character. All they’re asking is if you lead with your left foot or your right. Left is regular. Right is goofy.

If you’re unsure what will feel most natural, imagine you’re putting on your trousers. Do you put your left or right foot in first? The one you naturally choose will more than likely be the foot you ride with.

Stopping and starting

Before you run off to the chairlift to go up to the top of the mountain, you’ll need to learn the basics of snowboarding; this includes stopping and starting. We recommend heading to the nursery slopes first, as this is where all the ski and snowboard schools go to practice. Even after you’ve learnt the basics, these gentle slopes will help you get back into the swing of things if you haven’t been on the piste for a while.

To get to grips with stopping and starting, you’ll need to head to the bottom of the nursery slope. This will ensure you don’t build up more speed than you can handle right now.

Start in a seated position and strap yourself into your board. Make sure you’re facing down the mountain. To get yourself going, stand up and point your front hand down the fall line. Let yourself come to a natural stop once you hit the flat part of the slope. Repeat this as many times as you need to; once you feel comfortable, you can try stopping yourself  before you reach the flat area.

To do this, try leaning back on your heel edge. Don’t move your back, just your feet – this should bring you to a stop. Keep doing this until you feel completely comfortable and you’re not falling over anymore. Next, you need to learn to stop using your toes. Repeat what you were doing before, just lean forward onto your toes.

Learn to turn

The next basic you need to learn is turning, so it’s time to head to the top of that nursery slope. Start as you did before, but this time use your heel edge to move across the slope. Come to a stop and then point your board so it’s facing down the mountain again. As you start to move, use your toes to come to a stop. Keep doing this until you no longer need to stop between turns. It will take a while, but you’ll get the hang of it eventually.

Right of way

No matter how confident a snowboarder you are you can’t just go tearing down the mountain – bear in mind that others are riding too! Anyone downhill of you has right of way, so if you crash into them, it’s your fault, not theirs.

However, just because you have right of way of those above you, be wary that they can’t read your mind. Don’t decide to ride across the entire width of the run without seeing who’s behind you first. Think of it like driving; you wouldn’t cross lanes without looking or giving fair warning.

Button lifts

Both skiers and snowboarders alike hate button lifts. They’re awkward, difficult to use and can appear frightening to virgin snowboarders in particular. Unfortunately, they’re designed with skiers in mind, and they’re a necessary evil. You’ll often find button lifts in the nursery slope areas.

To use them successfully without falling over, unstrap your back foot from the board and line yourself up so the board is pointing in the direction you’ll be travelling. Grab the button as it goes past and place it in between your legs. All you need to do now is hold on and let the lift do the hard work.

As tempting as it may seem, don’t put any of your weight on the button, or you will fall off.  Digging your edges in will probably cause you to tumble too, so don’t. Plus, you need to prepare for a bumpy ride – the lift may suddenly jolt you forward at times, and while this is completely normal, it may take you by surprise!

Snowboarding might be hard to learn, but it’s worth the effort. Not only will you look the coolest on the mountain, you’ll have great fun. Eventually, you may even be able to head to the snow park and learn some tricks! For now though, take it easy, and make sure you have the right insurance before set foot on the mountain.

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