As a snowboarder, you start off as a beginner – but what’s next? Are you now an intermediate? And what does intermediate mean anyway? Is it just an open-ended description for all those snowboarders who are confident they’re no longer a beginner – but wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re “advanced”, or “expert” even? Probably.
That means there are a lot of “intermediate” snowboarders out there. Post-beginner, you’re making good turns on the mountain and riding around with confidence; maybe experimenting with some off-piste riding, or an ollie or two. But what next? Do you keep repeating the same runs doing the same things, or look for new challenges? At this stage – there are so many directions in which you can take your snowboarding…
Which is the purpose of this article. To continue your progression. With some ideas. Don’t misunderstand, the ideas here aren’t supposed to form a criteria by which snowboarders are measured. You’re not supposed to be able to cross all of these off, or even want to. Far from it. They’re things you can try on a snowboard to keep you progressing, to improve your riding and to open up new ideas and challenges. Are you an “intermediate”? Read on…
1. Carving and riding technique
First up, your technique should be immaculate on easy terrain and good on harder terrain. On greens and blues – get to the point where you’re confident that your edge control and carving is spot on; look back and see pencil-thin lines in the snow.
What are you like on reds and blacks? Don’t be satisfied to ride these and “just get down them”. Think about your technique. Are you skidding too much? Is your technique poor compared to how you ride on easier terrain? In a controlled way, develop your riding on difficult terrain.
If you’re not sure how to improve your technique, look for some kind of coaching. Consider this review of an excellent example.
Can you ride this terrain switch? Make it happen. Seriously. It’s very common for snowboarders to “practice switch” when they’re on the easy runs – but nothing more. Now it’s time to push it further. Narrow trails and steeper runs. Aim to ride switch as confidently as do in your regular direction.
2. Harder grabs
Maybe you can do some grabs – indy probably, how about mute? Well – start thinking of some others – melon and stalefish to begin with and then extend that to nose and tail. If you’re unsure of which grabs are which, this page from the Snowboard Tricks Guide may help…
Can you tweak your grabs? Often when snowboarders begin to get grabs, there’s a lot of “reaching down” or “just touching” going on. Some of that is just part of the learning process, but it can also be related to not getting air properly.
If you’re ollieing well and timing your pop, your knees and the board rise up naturally in the air – coming close to your midsection and making grabs much easier. Having this good body position in the air is important for progression. It gives you stability and makes it easier to rotate…
When you’re compact in the air you’ll be able to hold grabs for longer. So, by aiming to tweak your grabs a little (an indy nose bone is a good starting point), you can use the success as an indication that you’re pop and timing is good, and that you’re stable in the air. Another target to slip in here is the shifty.
Let’s get a 360 in place, frontside or backside, it doesn’t matter. The journey getting there will push you on. To start with, it’s going to help if you’re confident with 180s. Aim for all four:
- Frontside 180
- Backside 180
- Switch frontside 180
- Switch backside 180
You can practice all of these on the flat, off of bumps, moguls and side hits. Try the different 180s, they’re important. Remember that the second half of a frontside 360 is a switch backside 180. Don’t be put off by the name, you can do it, you just gotta start by trying – it is going to help.
As you move to a 360, to begin with, you mind find it difficult to get the full rotation on the flat. Don’t worry about that. Look for some kind of “hit” to help you get air.
At this stage, as an “intermediate”, don’t be afraid to mix things up and build your own kicker if there’s been some fresh snow. You’ll learn a lot just from doing that – what’s involved, picking a spot, the landing, a bit of hiking, it’s all good fun.
You’ve gotta be confident in your pop. To get your 360 round, smoothly, the timing and body position mentioned above is important. It’s not a huge spin, but poor technique will stop the rotation. If you’re not sure of the technique, ask some friends, try a forum, or consider some trick-tip videos – here’s a review of an excellent example.
Make basic butters really simple for yourself. Pressing on the piste is fun, it looks cool, and to do it properly you need to understand how to flex the board from a balanced position. Basic butters will provide a foundation for rail and box tricks, as well as more complex jibs and butters…
Try adding combinations:
- 180 into a butter (frontside and backside)
- 180 out of a butter (frontside and backside)
- Find a roller or a small lip with a drop; do a butter and then use the lip to get extra air out of the butter as you rotate…
It’s fun, you can do it on the regular piste, so it’s a convenient and safe thing to try, and overall it’s going to enhance your body control, your understanding of how the board flexes (leading to better ollies), your timing…
If butters are new to you and it’s something you want to try, read the article Learning How to Butter on a Snowboard.
5. Straight-line something steep
Be careful with this, but start building confidence in your ability to go fast. Look at those runs that have a steep section with a long run out, they’re a good opportunity to push yourself. Find a point that you’re comfortable with and straight line the last portion. Next time around, maybe go from higher up.
You can try the same thing with moguls too. If there’s a suitable area with a decent run out – get loose and go for it. Ride straight over them, absorb the bumps and scare yourself…
Caution: playing around like this doesn’t mix well with crowded slopes – nor is it a good idea to try huge moguls that are just gonna kick you up too high. Consider others and ride safe.
Why do this? It’s a bit of a game and you’re not exactly working your technique – but you are building confidence. You’re getting familiar with travelling fast – faster than you’re normally comfortable with. That can make a positive difference.
Learning how to be comfortable riding fast in a straight line is a different technique. Overall your control and confidence will improve. Working on well formed, controlled turns at fast, but not crazy fast speeds, will seem easier.
6. Experiment: barrel roll, frontflip, airbag?
You might be thinking: “I don’t see that many intermediates riding around popping frontflips”? That’s a probably quite accurate.
But what’s involved in experimenting? Maybe there’s an opportunity to get onto an airbag? If you’re feeling more confident and there’s been (a lot) of fresh snow, maybe you could build a lippy jump into some powder? The airbag is probably a better idea…
You don’t need to make this a stock trick for yourself (although that wouldn’t hurt). Getting upside-down on a snowboard, using an airbag for example, will take a bit of confidence. And overcoming that, will in turn give you confidence back.
You’re playing around with something that “not too common” with intermediate riders. You’re going to feel good trying it, it will be one of things that’s internally pushing your snowboarding. If you happen to get the trick dialed – that’s pretty awesome too.
7. Slay some powder
Aim to get a real taste of the fresh stuff. Not just riding in and out of the soft snow between trails or pistes. Look for a line where you, by your own standards, kill it.
A series of really good turns, confident/fast speed, kicking some snow up… Call it a powder run – or whatever – it doesn’t matter. You’ll know when it happens because you’ll be stoked for the rest of the day, maybe even the rest of the trip.
You might have to look for this. Sure, some may find themselves in the right place at the right time and the mountain plus conditions hand it to you on a plate. With minimal effort you’re making great turns in powder. But if you haven’t experienced this, make it a target.
Why? If you’ve only dipped your toes into the deeper stuff, you may have come away frustrated and feeling like it’s a lot of work. You’ve got to get past that. As a progressing “intermediate”, you have to experience riding a good line in powder. Good by your own standards is all you need. It will change your view of snowboarding forever!
After that, you may want to take it further. If that’s the case, or, the whole powder thing is new to you, check out the Guide to Riding More Powder.
This article must come with a safety warning. For example, going inverted on a snowboard has got to be your decision, and if you’re going to take advice from anyone, an airbag really is the place to start. In general:
- Be careful, consider riding with safety equipment like a helmet
- Push yourself, but be aware of your own limits!
- Respect others on the mountain, be aware and don’t take people out!
- If you’re thinking of riding off-piste, consider how much you really know.
- (And get yourself a beginner avalanche transceiver!)
It’s all about your attitude
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably a snowboarder who’s interesting in progressing. Snowboarding is fun, but we all like to get better, right?
Well, some of that getting better is going to happen naturally, but if you want to speed it up, it’s all about your attitude.
- Have goals
- Stretch yourself
- Be positive and determined
- Have fun!
And that’s the aim of this article, to provide some ideas that may pique your interest, something to push you, to challenge, maybe something you hadn’t thought of. Fun stuff to keep you progressing…
If you’ve got your own ideas, why not add them with a comment?