Enough is enough! This is the year you’re finally going to learn how to snowboard. And we’re here to help!
Our fundamentals guide will teach you how to learn to snowboard, and the best approach to overcoming the challenges most beginners face.
From strapping in, to learning how to carve, we cover it all. Reading the following guide will put you in an excellent position to hit the slopes for the first time. Let’s do this!
To successfully learn to snowboard, invest in appropriate gear: a fitting board, snug boots, bindings, and a protective helmet. Begin on gentler slopes, mastering foundational moves like turning and stopping. Enlist the help of an instructor for tailored feedback and tips. Proper posture, which includes keeping your weight centered and knees slightly bent, is vital. Reading the rest of this guide will also help!
11 Quick Tips For Learning to Snowboard
1. Gear Up, Buttercup!
Before we get to the how-tos, let’s chat about gear. Snowboarding without the right gear is like trying to eat spaghetti with a spoon. Messy, ineffective, and a whole lot of wasted effort.
- Snowboard: Beginners, listen up! Go for a softer board. It’s more forgiving when you inevitably tumble. These are the best options.
- Boots: Comfort is key. Your toes should graze the toe box when standing upright, but pull back when in snowboard stance. Your heel should be snug and not lift during turns.
- Bindings: These bad boys connect your boots to your board. Make sure they fit your boot size and match your riding style.
- Protective Gear: Helmet, wrist guards, and padded shorts. Because gravity can be a cruel mistress.
2. Choose the Right Environment
For your initial runs, stick to the bunny slopes. These are designed for beginners, offering a gentler gradient and fewer obstacles.
3. Understand Your Snowboard Setup
- Regular vs. Goofy: Figure out which foot you prefer to have forward. Regular means your left foot is forward; goofy means your right is.
- Strapping In: Learn how to secure your boots to the board’s bindings. Practice this on flat terrain first!
4. Master the Basics
- Posture: Stand with knees slightly bent, back straight, and your weight centered.
- Skating: Before you can snowboard, you need to learn to “skate.” This means propelling yourself forward with one foot strapped in and the other pushing off the ground. You’ll need this in lift queues!
- Gliding: With both feet strapped in, practice gliding on a flat surface by shifting your weight.
- Stopping: Learn the basic “heel-side stop” and “toe-side stop.” This means applying pressure to the front or back edge of the board to slow down and halt.
5. Use Trampoline and Balance Training
Snowboarding can be physically demanding. Off-season workouts focusing on core strength, leg power, and cardiovascular endurance can be hugely beneficial.
I’ve also found in recent years that trampoline training boards and balance boards are incredible for learning to snowboard. They improve strength, coordination and muscle memory.
6. Learn to Fall Safely
As a beginner, falling is part of the learning curve. When you fall:
- Try to keep your limbs relaxed.
- Avoid using your hands to break your fall directly.
- Rolling with the fall can help distribute the impact.
More on how to fall safely here.
7. Get a Lesson (Or Three!)
Invest in a lesson. I cannot stress this enough. When you’re trying to understand how to learn to snowboard, a skilled instructor can point out mistakes you didn’t even know you were making. Plus, they come with heaps of encouragement!
8. Learn to Turn
Turning is key in snowboarding. There are two primary types of turns:
- Heel-side Turn: Turning by leaning back on your heels.
- Toe-side Turn: Turning by pressing forward onto your toes.
There’s a maneuver called the “falling leaf” where you slide backwards and forwards on your board while going downhill. This helps you get the hang of your edges.
Don’t worry, I’ll go into more detail later in the guide!
9. Practice Makes Perfect
Snowboarding, like any skill, requires persistence. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t turn into Shaun White overnight. Keep at it, celebrate the small wins, and remember every pro was once a beginner.
10. Stay Positive and Persistent
Finally, remember that every snowboarder has been where you are now. Falling, making mistakes, and facing challenges are all part of the journey on how to learn to snowboard. Embrace each experience, and you’ll find yourself progressing in no time!
How to Learn to Snowboard: The Complete Guide
Should I Take Snowboarding Lessons?
First, you need to answer a serious question – “should I hire a snowboarding instructor?”
The short answer? Probably.
I think there’s always a time and place for snowboarding lessons, but you’re unlikely to know if you need one until you spend a day on the hill.
So, if you meet the following criteria, I advise you to spend at least one day with a professional instructor. If you can afford longer, do it!
- You are not athletic at all
- You’ve tried snowboarding and failed miserably
- You have abysmal hand-eye coordination
- You’re not already an expert in other board sports or skiing
Don’t worry if you fall into one or all four categories, you still can learn to snowboard and thrive, it just takes more time.
Regardless of whether you get a lesson, we highly recommend carefully reading this how to learn to snowboard guide.
You’ll be far more prepared once you’re on the hill, and if you do take a lesson, the learning curve will be dramatically reduced.
Find Your Stance
If you don’t know whether you’re goofy or regular, you need to find out before you rent or set up your snowboard.
Goofy footers ride with their right foot forward while regular is left foot forward.
Typically, but not always, your dominant foot should be in the back. Perform the following tests to determine your dominant foot and, ultimately, if you are goofy or regular.
The Slide Test
Imagine you are going to slide across a sheet of ice (don’t actually try this!).
If you were to run and slide across the ice, which foot would you lead with? If you answered “right”, you are likely goofy and left-foot dominant. If you choose left foot forward, that means you are probably regular-footed.
The Push Test
When you walk into a rental shop and don’t know your stance, you’ll likely be given the push test. We recommend thinking about the slide test before you are put on the spot… because it isn’t 100% accurate.
Have a friend gently push you from behind. You will likely use your dominant foot to catch yourself.
However… the only way to truly tell if you are goofy or regular is to get downhill and see how you feel. Luckily, snowboards perform just fine, especially for beginners, going tail first. So don’t worry too much about your setup!
The first step to getting on your board is properly strapping into your bindings.
Once you get to the top of the lift for the first time, you’ll notice a sea of snowboarders sitting in the snow, ratcheting their boots into their bindings.
This is problematic for two reasons: first, sitting in the snow repeatedly will eventually make your butt cold.
Second, and we hate to call out our own, many snowboarders strap in right in the middle of the trail. They’re therefore getting right in the way of everyone and making us all look bad.
We recommend finding a nice, dry ledge or bench if you want to sit down to strap in. Surprisingly, they are usually available.
Alternatively, you can also utilize a flat spot to strap in. There’s usually a spot close by once you get off the lift, or you can make a spot by quickly digging out a stable strap-in spot in ungroomed snow.
You’ll want to become relatively comfortable with strapping in on the snow before riding your first chair. Plus, you must strap one foot in to skate.
How to Skate
Unlike skiers, snowboarders are immobilized when they are on a flat plane. Skating is the term used to describe the only way we can navigate around flat areas (since we don’t carry around poles all day).
To skate, you will have your front foot strapped in while you use your back foot to push.
You can kick push in front of your body or behind, depending on what is comfortable. Many riders find that the traditional skateboard push is better for waiting in line, while the kick push behind your heel edge works better for getting speed.
Pushing requires a strong, slightly bent front leg, and you want to keep your weight forward at about a 60/40 ratio.
Your front foot is used for stabilization as your back is strictly used to push off the snow to gain momentum.
When you’re learning, don’t worry about speed. You just need to get from your strap-in spot at the bottom of the lift to your chair, off the lift, and to a nice place to strap in out of everyone else’s way.
After a solid push, you need a place to rest your dominant foot. You won’t need to skate very fast at first, but getting a nice, slow glide down before getting on the lift is good. You’ll need this skill at the top of the mountain.
Once you’ve picked up some speed, place your back foot on the board against the front of your back binding. Keep your knees slightly bent and your weight leaning marginally forward.
Practice skating in a flat area away from other skiers and riders until you are comfortable enough to make it through the lift line.
Getting On and Off the Lift
The lift can be the most intimidating aspect of learning how to snowboard. Unfortunately, most beginners go into the situation without a plan and meet with an embarrassing start to their snowboarding experience.
So, before you hop on the lift, take a minute to gather yourself and prepare a plan of attack.
The Lift Line
If you’ve gotten good enough at skating to push yourself forward and stand up, you are ready for the lift line.
You’ll be fine as long as you stay on your feet, have your lift ticket ready, and keep up with the person in front of you.
Catching your first chair is a little more challenging. Luckily, beginner runs usually have slower lifts, so novice skiers and riders can get comfortable.
Once you’ve skated from the line to the loading zone, you’re ready to get on.
- Spot your target seat early
- Keep your board parallel (facing up the mountain)
- Grab onto the armrest or seat back before sitting down
- Once you sit down, keep your board straight
- After you’ve left the ground, then you can sit down properly with your feet forward
Most beginners get on the lift with no problem. However… somewhere around steps four and five, before the lift has gotten airborne, they catch an edge, or their board gets caught under the chair and sends them falling forward.
Keep your board straight! Only turn it perpendicular once you’re off the ground!
As the lift gets to the top of the run, don’t panic. It will slow down significantly, allowing adequate time to stand up.
Just like getting on, your board is the most likely culprit for causing you to fall. So, keep straight in your glide position as you approach the ramp.
When your board hits snow, you need to begin stabilizing your footing. We recommend grabbing the edge of the lift’s seat, establishing a glide position, then simultaneously pushing off and standing up onto the lift unloading ramp.
Again, the most important thing to remember is to keep your board facing forward.
Learning How to Stop
Now that you’ve conquered the lift and strapped in, you’re ready finally go downhill. But before you go nose first down your first run. You must learn how to stop and control speed.
But in order to stop, you need to learn to turn (a weird concept, I know).
When in Doubt, Go Heel Side
If you only master one snowboarding maneuver on the first day, it should be a heel-side traverse.
- Stand up facing downhill with your weight slightly leaned back on your heel edge with your toes to the sky. Your toe-side edge should be off the snow.
- Slowly lean forward so your weight takes you downhill.
- You’ll slowly start to slide forward down the mountain.
This is your heel-side traverse and go-to stopping position/comfort zone. Whenever you feel uncomfortable, this is the position you want to return.
Practice moving down the run until you’re comfortable traversing the heel side. Then, point your nose or tail slightly forward to move side-to-side (a.k.a. the falling leaf).
After you’ve gained familiarity with your heel edge, flip it around and do the same maneuver toe side. You’ll go down the hill backward, but weight distribution remains the same as the heel-side traverse.
You don’t need to master toe-side traverse just yet; however, we recommend at least a few attempts before you send your nose downhill.
Next, we want master going forward, then getting into a heel side traverse.
- Point your nose down the mountain
- Gain some speed
- Then shift your weight slightly back while bringing your backfoot around so your toes are pointed up and downhill
- Lean back just enough so you slow down but not so much that you fall back
Master this sequence of events, going forward, then coming to a stop. Once you are comfortable transitioning from a downhill position to a heel side traverse, return to a nose-forward position and use your heels to regulate your speed.
When you are comfortable, maybe after a trip or two down the mountain, practicing heel-side stops, try to stop toe-side. Then attempt to regulate your speed with the toe-side traverse.
You’re in a great position if you get to this point on your first day. We recommend setting your goal for the first day of learning a heel side stop; everything after this point is a cherry on top.
Living on the Edge
While you’re still learning how to snowboard, you want to keep your weight on one of your edges.
The most common cause of a beginner wipeout is going downhill and catching an edge. You are less likely to fall if you keep leaning slightly back on your heel edge or slightly forward on your toe edge.
Remember – that heel side traverse is your safe space. If any trouble arises, you start going too fast or losing your balance, slide into a heel side to gain control.
The next step is learning how to properly turn.
Start by maneuvering side to side in a heel-side traverse, then flip around the toe side. After mastering moving downhill in traverse, it’s time to transition to a heel-side turn.
Instead of moving from going downhill to perpendicular with the run in a traverse, stay at a 45° angle on your heel edge.
First, pick a target down the hill. Keep your weight slightly back, slowly bringing your back foot around to point your nose in the direction you want to turn. Once pointing at the target, transition your weight over your board, still on your heel edge.
Repeat the process on the other side. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get this down right away.
Learning How to Carve
Carving is how snowboarders regulate their speed while maneuvering down the mountain.
The process consists of turning at 45° angles heel and toe side to maintain a consistent speed while making an “S” trajectory pattern. The aim is to leave a thin track in the snow, without skidding between turns. Ryan Knapton is the current carving king!
Start by loosely mapping out your “S” pattern and begin going straight down the run. Then turn on whichever edge you feel most comfortable, likely the heel side.
Once you’re ready to switch directions, transition your weight to the opposite edge, then quickly swing your hips and back foot around your body so you’re pointing in the opposite direction. Repeat the process in your other edge.
At first, your carving should be short, fast turns going close to perpendicular with the run. Once you get more comfortable, elongate your “S” pattern so you spend more time transitioning from one edge to the other.
It’s well worth reading our complete guide to carving on a snowboard when you’re ready.
How to Learn to Snowboard: Final Tips
Here are some final tips for those looking to delve into the world of snowboarding:
- Patience is Key: Accept that falls and setbacks are part of the learning process. Embrace them. Keep pushing forward.
- Safety First: Always wear protective gear, especially a helmet. Wrist guards and knee pads can also be invaluable for beginners.
- Start Slow: Begin on flat terrain to get the feel of the board under your feet. Gradually progress to steeper slopes.
- Take Breaks: Snowboarding can be physically demanding. Listen to your body and take breaks when needed.
- Watch & Learn: Observe experienced snowboarders. Their movements and techniques can provide valuable visual lessons.
- Stay Hydrated & Nourished: The cold can be deceptive; you still sweat and burn energy. Keep water and snacks handy.
- Flexibility Helps: Incorporate some stretching into your routine, focusing on the ankles, legs, and core.
- Engage in Off-season Training: Strengthening exercises targeting the legs, core, and cardiovascular system are awesome snowboarding prep.
- Ride with Friends: Having someone to share the experience with can make learning more enjoyable; it’ll also motivate you to push through challenges.
- Stay Updated: Snowboarding techniques and gear can evolve. Stay updated with the latest trends, equipment, and safety protocols. This site is a great place to start!
Final Thoughts on How to Learn to Snowboard
Snowboarding is epic, almost as epic as this how-to guide!
Plus, learning how to snowboard is one of the best parts. Sure the learning curve is steep, but you’ll be rewarded with new achievements every day!
However… the process never ends. Which is probably why we keep going back every season.
So, don’t get frustrated if you aren’t bombing powder and flying off cliffs on your first day. Every rider on the mountain is still learning; we’re all just at different points in our snowboarding journey.
Happy riding, and welcome to your new obsession!