Snowboarding is expensive. Lessons are expensive. Sometimes lessons are great – you come away feeling like you’ve learned so much. But like any service, sometimes a lesson isn’t that good, the quality of an instructor isn’t guaranteed. Can you do without them? Can you learn to snowboard without the expensive lessons?
Yes, some people can do without lessons
The answer has to be “yes” – for some people. It would be naive to say that everyone needs lessons. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that just went up the hill and did their best. Has their technique suffered? Do they got bad habbits? Maybe. Probably. But not having lessons doesn’t mean you can’t work on technique; there are other ways to get technique-instruction.
And no, this isn’t for everyone, some people will be much better off with lessons.
Who gets skateboarding lessons?
Consider skateboarding for a moment. It’s a pretty technical sport. Lots of tricks. Different disciplines like street, mini-ramp and vert skating. Learn to ollie, learn to pump transitions, land one trick with your feet in the right position for the next trick…
And the falls? They hurt. They’re mostly on concrete. There’s definitely a safety element to skateboarding.
Do you know anyone who ever took a lesson in skateboarding? I don’t. I know they have those summer camps in the U.S, but that’s the minority of skaters, and a lot of the people who attend can probably already skate.
Skateboarding is hard, yet millions of people pick it up by themselves and with their friends. How different is it to snowboarding?
Is getting snowboarding lessons the “done thing”?
Are lessons built-in to snowboarding and skiing culture? You’re going away on your first snow trip, you’ll be hiring some gear and getting lessons. You see ESF bodies everywhere. That’s what people do – they get lessons.
Your snowboarding trip is expensive. It’s your holiday. For beginners there are so many things to buy, it’s your first time snowboarding. There are many costs, and one of them is getting lessons… Is the cost of getting a snowboarding lesson just rolled into the overall cost of your holiday? Is it just accepted? Is it just the done thing?
Like it or not, the existing industry and culture will influence people’s decision of whether or not to get lessons.
So who should by-pass lessons and what tools do they need?
First of all, let’s be clear about the goal here, what are you aiming for as a beginner?
- To have fun
- To get going as a snowboarder
- To be safe, no injuries
- To have solid technique – to get good
We all snowboard to have fun, why else would you do it? But at the same time, not many people want to be stuck on the nursery slope for ever. There’s definitely a desire to get going, do green runs, blue runs, and then a red? Start trying some tricks. Explore the mountain. And the sooner you get to that level, the better, right?
But we’re all different; we all learn in different ways and at different rates. So,
Who would benefit from having lessons?
- Some people need encouragement; maybe they’re a little nurvous/timid?
- Some people aren’t naturally coordinated, they might take a little longer to “get” things like snowboarding
- Some people don’t want to think about how things work, how their body and the snowboard work together to glide along the snow, they want to be told
Who could by-pass beginner lessons?
- Some people are just good; they’re good at everything. It’s annoying!
- Some people do related sports, maybe they’re a good skater or a good surfer? Freeborder?
- Some people get stuff; they understand how things work, and can visualise how to put it into practice
- Some people are fit, determined and robust. They’ll give it a go, keep going if it’s not happening, and be OK with it in the end
You’re most likely the best person for determining where you are on the scale. Take into account the group that you’re snowboarding with. If you’re on the fence, but everyone else wants lessons, then going it alone on the mountain is a bad idea, and you’ll miss out on the group fun. For riders in the UK, it’s a similar question to: can a dendix dryslope can help you to learn?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s not bad if you decide to get lessons. Suggesting that some people need lessons and others maybe don’t, isn’t a criticism. The aim is to have fun with snowboarding – what’s the best route to get there, with decent technique, for you?
This is a question of saving money. If a person learns to snowboard without lessons – would they have been better if they’d chosen to take lessons? Maybe? Probably? That’s a hard question to answer. My opinion is probably. But the question here is not “are lessons good at improving your snowboarding?” – it’s “can some people learn without having expensive lesson?”
Useful tools. By-passing lessons is one thing, but just getting on the lift with no plan other than to wing it is plain silly. You have to have an idea of how to snowboard. That includes:
- Understanding the mechanics of how a snowboard turns (via your control)
- Having practical exercises and steps, that will enable you progress from absolute beginner to linking turns
My personal recommendation is to check out the Learn to Ride program from SA (read the review). For a long time I’ve recommended Go Snowboarding. I do still rate this instruction highly, but I think the Learn to Ride program is more complete and easier to follow, for beginners.
(That said, the Go Snowboard DVD is still my top pick for intermediate riding – enhancing your carving technique).
I’m not knocking lessons, and I’m definitely not suggesting that all beginners should try to learn without getting any lessons, via some cheaper form of instruction. Far from it. I rate lessons highly. Check out 5 Reasons To Get Some Coaching On Your Next Trip. There are parts of my riding that I’m sure would benefit from the two-way interaction you get in a lesson.
But I can’t escape from that thought that some people could learn to snowboard without lessons, especially with the help of productions like Learn to Ride and Go Snowboard.
A group of guys and girls in this category could save a lot of money buying some instructional material between them and by-passing the much higher, per-person lesson cost on the hill. Is that irresponsible advice? I think it’s realistic.
How about you? Did you get lessons? What do you advise friends taking up snowboarding? Are lessons a necessity or should some people give it a go themselves? As always, add your view with a comment.