Are you too old to snowboard, to get good at it? Am I?
The short answer is: no, probably not.
I’m writing this at the age of 30. A few years ago, I was on a steady curve, getting better each winter. I haven’t done any seasons and don’t ride more than a handful of times during the summer, but I have managed to put in a decent number of weeks on snow. Solid 5s and styled 3s: that’s what I wanted, maybe even land a 7 before I was 30…
That didn’t happen. The last couple of seasons ended up being slow, with no summer sessions to help out. The curve levelled out and now I’m rusty. But I still want those things. I still want to go to the next step. And if I’m willing to work for what I want, I think I can still get it…
What does it take to get good at snowboarding?
OK, so good is a subjective term. I’m not talking about going pro, getting sponsored, making the national freestyle team or winning the next Olympics. These things are possible for some, but not the many. I’m talking about progression. Being able to get to the next level, to improve, and then move on from there.
Consider the following qualities and approaches that contribute to getting good:
- Desire: you have to want to get better
- Dedication: to keep at it, to stay focused, don’t quit
- Aptitude, for snowboarding: kind of obvious
- Motivation: the energy and attitude to drive your efforts
- Regular Practice: the rinse and repeat needed to both learn new things and solidify what you already know
- Guidance, from friends, coaching or tuition: to encourage and enable development
Those are fairly broad factors and the list certainly isn’t complete – but it you have some or all of the above you’re going to improve. And the key thing is that the items on the above list aren’t exclusive to people younger than you.
What advantages does a younger person have?
Let’s be realistic, being younger can and does, help. Think of some other factors that contribute to getting good at snowboarding:
- Bottle or nerve: lack of it can certainly slow or even halt progression
- Confidence: similar to nerve, but confidence puts you in a state of mind in which you’re more likely to succeed and progress
- Time: how much of it do you have available?
- Fitness and resilience: being capable of riding for longer and bouncing back from slams
As you get older there are things that get in the way. Maybe you’ve got responsibilities, a job that’s important to you, or a family? Can you afford to break your leg snowboarding? Maybe it’s not a break, just a hard slam, you’re still going to feel it for a couple of days. You become more risk averse, or is it just that you’ve got more common sense?
The result for many people is that available time, fitness, nerve and indirectly perhaps, confidence, will take a hit due to life circumstances as they get older.
But it’s not a question of competition!
Remember, we’re not talking about competition here. It’s not about being better than someone else, or trying to keep up with the younger generation. Aiming to be the best, to win, is a different matter. We’re asking the question “can I still improve?”
And the answer, for the vast majority of people, is “yes”.
If you were younger, you’d still need the same qualities to get good at snowboarding that you do now. Sure, there are probably factors that would help a younger-you progress more quickly. Following on from that, time constraints may also mean that a younger-you could take your snowboarding further. But you wouldn’t get any of it for free. You’d still have to work at it.
If you want to progress at snowboarding and you’re willing to work hard, to push yourself to the next level, you’ll get there. You’ll get good!
Practical suggestions to start improving now
- Practice more. Find a snowflex slope or a snowdome. A glacier in the summer? Make the effort/sacrifice to get more riding in.
- Have a plan. Think about what you want to improve next, and do that before you get to the hill. Pick things that complement each other, like frontside 360 and switch backside 180. Make sure you work on the things you set out to do.
- Learn to ride switch.
- Get some guidance. Try some lessons or coaching on your next holiday. Find some good instructional material. Ride with your friends and push each other, encourage each other. Don’t be afraid to ask others – most snowboarders are friendly people.
- Video yourself. Watching what you’ve done can help you spot problems in your technique.
- Try a snowboard camp. It’s an extension of coaching – but the group atmosphere can be really encouraging and help with confidence.
- Think about the mental side of snowboarding. There are good, non-physical techniques to help you improve.
- Get fit. It’s going to help you. Look for snowboarding specific exercises.
- When you can’t snowboard do something else that will help your balance and technique. Try skateboarding or surfing. Make yourself a balance rail to help your jibbing.
Remember – it’s all about having fun
Snowboarding is fun. That’s why people do it. For many, progressing at a hobby, getting better at something you like to do, is part of the fun. That’s how I work. I imagine being at the next level and then work hard to get there.
But the underlying drive is to have fun, and I’m certainly not suggesting that you need to be good, or have to want to become good, to have fun at snowboarding.
What I am saying, is that you’re not too old…