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How to Snowboard: A Prep Guide for Starters

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“Do you play hockey? How about ski? snowboard? skating? But you’re Canadian!” Yes, I got that a lot. I ice skate too btw.
It’s not that I didn’t want to do it or I wasn’t interested. It’s quite the opposite actually. I really wanted to learn it but I didn’t want to do it just once, say that I did it, and never do it again. I had this strong gut feel inside that if and when I try it, I’ll actually like it.

That’s an understatement now. I LOVE it.

I’ll talk about how I started, how I prepared for it (all things even before going to a ski resort), and my first few experiences, attempts (and butt falls). If you’re interested in snowboarding, learning to snowboard or better yet it will be your first time snowboarding, this article’s for you.

Most people get scared and never try it. I say do it! It’s actually fun and it’s one of the few exhilarating things in life, not to mention luxurious. When I say luxury, I don’t mean it’s expensive (well, it is..due to logistics) but rather, it’s an activity where it’s rare. There are only so many ski resorts globally and there are only so many cities/countries that have easy access to it. If we also don’t play this global warming right, the sport might get extinct.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most of the time they’re coming from a voice of concern, so let me help you by answering some questions:

“Isn’t snowboarding expensive?”

I’ll tell you what, to start it, and just try it once: No. You only need around $40-80CAD to rent gear and have access to a bunny hill (the beginner section/slope). Most ski resorts even bake in lessons in the price tag already which I think is nice and smart. It makes sure that people learn safe practices, which in turn is safety for everyone around, and you get to learn how to do it properly which gives you more chances of enjoying it even more! Also, It promotes the sport in general.

It is expensive in a sense that..there are lots of things involved to enjoy any winter sport. It’s not like they’re going to charge you $1.000 to rent a helmet. It’s like this: imagine you’re into the sport already. First you have to fly/drive there (own a car, gas, insurance / flight ticket). You also need to buy your gear (the snowboard, etc) then your outer gear (jacket, snowpants, etc) then food on breaks, etc. Get the picture, right? You don’t need to concern yourself of these when starting. But the act of gliding on snow with a plank of wood at least once? Affordable (not to mention priceless).

Do I need to own a snowboard?

No. As I’ve said, you can rent. In fact I’d say it’s the smartest move to rent first before you buy your first board even if you’re committed.

Do I need to own snow pants/snowboard jacket/etc?

Another yes and no. No because I’ve seen people start even with denim pants. Not the warmest, most comfortable, and most appropriate but it works!

If you live in a four seasons country, you probably have the winter jacket already. That’s more than enough to start. I would say the gloves and snow pants are useful to have ( you can get a snow pants in Walmart for $25). You want gloves because you’ll probably be on all fours when you start. You want snow pants too for the same reason. Also you have to sit and rest (on snow) from time to time. You’re probably wondering why I’m considering jacket as the least priority. You need one, yes. But it doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be specific (aka an actual snowboard jacket). It doesn’t even have to be super warm (what?!). Well you want it warm, but when you’re snowboarding, you may not know this now but you will be generating A LOT of heat and sweat. By the way, water-repellant versions of these as much as possible. You will touch snow. You’re warm-blooded. You get the picture. Actually, most ski resorts have this available for rent too now by the way.

“Will I fall a lot?”

Yes you will fall a lot for sure and it’s not a bad thing! Like when you were a baby starting to walk, you’ll fall from time to time because it’s your first time walking! Well, it’s exactly the same concept. This is a “new way of walking” and you’re doing it for the first time so…yes. This is given and normal to snowboarding though so this should be non-issue for you. Even later on when you’re experienced, you’ll still fall from time to time and it’s not a sign that you’re bad. It’s natural.

“Will it hurt?”

Definitely not as much as you’re expecting. You’re only falling from a standing position, not from a sky dive. In the same baby-first-steps analogy, it’s the same amount of pain when a baby falls on their butt I guess, but of course proportional pain. Don’t forget you’re falling on snow, and you have layers of padding with your leggings/pants/snow pants/etc.

“Aren’t I too old to try it?”

Nope. I’m some late twenty hum-hums when I started it. I wasn’t lucky to be born into the sport but I did it. My dad who was around late 40s even did it years before I did. It’s just a matter of “Do you want to do/try it or not?”. Life’s complicated already, you don’t want to complicate this one too.

Preparation (before even going anywhere)

First let’s do the “preparation of self” as I’d like to call it. You don’t have to be an olympian but it definitely helps to physically prepare. Snowboarding requires leg work, core muscles–and when you’re starting the first few times–arm workout. This is because you will probably push/pull yourself up when you fall, and on some bunny hills you have a beginner lift mechanism (that thing that carries you up a slope) by holding onto it. These physical preparations are not required but it would definitely make it more enjoyable for you later on. You don’t want to wear out twenty minutes in right? When I started I was going at it hard for 3 hours. When you’re experienced, you’ll probably start around 9-10 and then you’ll be like “omg it’s 4/5pm already”. There are breaks in between of course.

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See the line of people in the middle-left of the image? They’re in what we call “magic carpet”. It’s like that flat escalator in airports but rubber so there’s traction for your skis/snowboard. This is a bunny hill. There are sometimes some varieties of bunny hills in a resort. This one is the mid/high tier of a bunny hill that’s why it has these lifts as well. When you start, your slope is probably going to be much more gradual, and much shorter.

Mental Preparation

The mental part is the easiest to manage. It’s mostly just accepting all the things I talked about in the Q/A above. Ultimately, you want to have genuine interest or at least curiosity in the sport. If your heart’s not in it, you’re not gonna have fun. If you have any doubts, I hope i addressed them above otherwise ask me in the comments below.

Now onto the logistical side of things.

Logistics

First, find a ski resort closest to you. I hope it’s driving distance at least. If you’re lucky and you have multiple places from your location, look for the closest, smallest, most beginner-friendly ski resorts. The bigger the resort, the more expensive things are. You won’t need the entire mountain anyway, just a very small piece of the bunny hill. Check out reviews and user comments on how beginner-friendly it is.

Like I said I’ve always wanted to learn it but I just wasn’t able to because of logistics. To ski/snowboard, you need a mountain. Most established cities like Toronto are far away from mountains. I didn’t drive before too. Now I do. You don’t have to own a car but obviously you’ll have to find a way to get there.

Find a buddy!

I’ll put this one in here as well: it’s definitely much more worthwhile and more fun when you’re doing this experience for the first time with someone who is also doing this for the first time. When I did mine, I went with a friend. She was experienced but she was little the last time she did it and it’s been 10+ years. With that, she was ok to go to the bunny hill with me and re-learn things. You want the mutual support yet you don’t want to feel envious/discouraged/pressured (like with experienced people). Not only will this make your experience fun but if you one or both of you end up liking it, you are more likely to follow through

Let’s say you’re going tomorrow, you want to have the best sleep possible. When you wake up, you’d want to eat breakfast, but like action-ready breakfast. I’m talking about something like bananas, yogurts, etc. You know, the healthy stuff. You want to be in tip-top shape and you don’t want to be hungry or too full.

Lastly, I think the universal catch-all concern is, save up and get your money ready. Again, it’s not expensive to start, but at the same time you’re not just walking into a fast food joint to buy a burger. Factor in how much you’ll need to get there, accommodations and pocket money if you’re doing a ski trip with friends, etc.

Precautions

DON’T BE STUPID

I know I know. Snowboarding is cool. We all know that. Skiers know that (LOL). But don’t be stupid, don’t jump the gun. If you’re doing this to impress someone, DON’T. Guaranteed someone’s going to get injured. If you’re going on a ski trip (like a university social event) sure go for it. All the things I’ll talk about will probably be present in the destination ski resort you’re going to. But what I would suggest is again, go with a friend or two who’s in the same skill level as you and don’t let your experienced friends bully/pressure you to do anything else that you’re not comfortable with

Don’t go on the lifts

If it’s literally your first time, don’t go on the lifts (you know, those metal carriage things that carry you to the top of the mountain). Don’t go even if your friends say it’s safe, or “I’m there to help you”. You’re the one strapped and locked on your board, not them. They can’t do squat if you start speeding down the mountain uncontrollably. Besides, that’s bad ski mountain etiquette when you’re willingly putting yourself in danger (and in turn, others around you).

You are also not supposed to be there. You should be just in the bunny (beginner) hill. If you risk it, that’s how stories like “I snowboarded, tore a ligament/ACL/etc and I’m never the same since” happen. When I started I was just in the bunny hill. Guess what, I didn’t even use any of the beginner lifts. Actually when they teach you, you won’t even use that. Walking up a couple of steps up an open space with a very very small incline is more than enough to practice. That’s how I did it too.

Don’t underestimate safety

Don’t underestimate safety gears/instructions/etiquettes – Pretty obvious why and this is for you and the people around you.

Day 1: Walking from ski resort parking lot to rental office!

When you’re at this point first of all, “WOOHOO CONGRATULATIONS! YOU’VE PASSED A GREAT HURDLE ALREADY! GET READY TO EXPERIENCE SOMETHING NEW, HAVE FUN! (and maybe fall in love with the sport 😉 ) “

You’re about to start your adventure and I’m about to finish this blog. When you get there, I hope you had a good sleep and breakfast. There’s not much to say at this point really. Once you get to the rental office, I’d suggest getting lessons as well (I did). If you weren’t considering that…I’d suggest getting lessons as well. If you have an experienced friend to teach you, that’s cool too but if your friend is smart and great one, s/he’d suggest you just get a proper instructor at least for the very first experience.

Advice: Get a ski/snowboard instructor

I’d talk about the mechanics or how to actually snowboard, but that’s for another article. This one’s more for the preparation side of things. Also your instructor on site is more qualified and they can better explain things in person.

Going back to my own experience I went home with a big grin on my face. All my gear was wet with sweat, and you can feel something on your butt / side of your legs due to falling. All worth it! At that point I also knew that “Alright, I definitely love this and I would like to learn this properly and take this seriously. The following day my entire body was aching but you know what I said? …

AGAIN!

And so I went back to learn just by myself 😀 (There’s a very small one close by my place and it was cheap he). I got addicted.

If you want to see how I do now, here are some videos. I got so serious into it that I started flying to Austria for some serious mountains and joining events. The following year, I did the same thing.

Disclaimer: Please take safety seriously. Matters expressed here are my opinions and experiences. Do not take it as professional advice / instruction. As you saw across the article, I urge you to avail of proper, professional instructors in ski resorts. Stay safe and have fun!

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