So now you want to learn snowboarding, you want to enjoy this very cool sports? Great!
After spending years teaching snowboards, I got asked by my students (they are mostly new to snowboarding) questions like Is snowboarding hard? What to wear for the first time snowboarding? How to prepare for the first day? etc.
Instead of me answering them one by one, I figured it’s a good idea to put together an article, sharing those important tips for preparing your first snowboarding day.
My goal is simple: make your day in the white mountain a delightful one. Let’s get started!
1. Safety First
Snowboarding is all about having fun, do keep in mind that you gotta be able to have some fun first. Nothing is fun anymore if you are injured. Nothing!
So yes, please, get yourself a set of protective gear before your first snowboarding day. Buy a helmet first, then followed with wrist guard, knee pads, hip pads or butt pads, well, maybe a back protector too!
I didn’t get the back protector until I started to do the jumps; but you really should get yourself a full set of helmet, wrist guard, knee pads, hip pads, and your base layer before buying your boots, goggles, jackets, pants or maybe your board.
Just do as much as you can to protect yourself from injuries. And do keep in mind that protection gears are not for beginners only, you should always wear your protection gears even you are improving well.
Let me tell you a piece of very exciting news — you can go really fast with your board when you are very good at your riding. 45-55 km per hour (about 30-35 miles per hour) is nothing uncommon!
Trust me, you do really want to get yourself some protection with this speed.
By the way, the world record of the fastest snowboarder is Edmond Plazczyk from Swiss, with a speed of 203 kph (126 mph) in hard boots at Vars in April 2013!
Watch this exciting video for yourself:
Alright so maybe you are not a speed lover but a freestyle rider? Fascinated with jumps and kickers… then you surely want to gear up yourself. Right?
“I am just a beginner and not so sure do I like snowboarding yet, do I still need to get the protection gear?”
The answer is “YES!”
Just go and get a set that’s more affordable first.
In this case, you can skip the helmet first since normally you can rent one in the ski resort, but I haven’t seen any Ski resort offers wrist pad, knee pads, hip pads rental except the Hong Kong indoor snow sports training center.
But then just make sure you are wearing a helmet when you are heading to the slope!
Below are some very interesting facts to help you understand why wearing a helmet is so important:
According to a research mentioned by NSAA (National Ski Areas Association) in their “Facts About Skiing/ Snowboarding Safety“, “Role of Helmets in Mitigation of Head Injuries” by Dr. Jasper Shealy, Dr. Robert Johnson, Carl Ettlinger, Dr. Irving Scher, they’ve collected data of 17 ski seasons (from 1995/1996 – 2011/2012, during this period, using of ski helmet was getting popular) and concluded these:
- Helmet usage increased from 8 to 84%
- Prevalence of all injuries to the head decreased from 8.4% to 6.8%
- Prevalence of potential serious head injuries (PSHI) declined from 4.2 to 3.0%
- The incidence of PSHI declined from 1 in 4200 days to 1 in 11000 days of activities
- The incidence of any head injury declined from 1 in 8600 days of activity to 1 in 26000 days of activities
- While the average helmet usage during the period was 45%,
- only 1 out of 10 skull fractures case was wearing a helmet
- only 1 out of 47 scale lacerations was wearing a helmet
So yes! My beloved friends, please wear a helmet!!!
Once you confirmed your love with this beautiful snow sports? Then go ahead, buy your helmet, and upgrade your protection gears.
So yes, get yourself a set of protection gears before going for your first snowboarding holiday!
2. Hire an Instructor and Book a Lesson
Go for lessons with a proper instructor, not your friends (not your boyfriend and girlfriend too!), unless they are certified instructors. It’s always better with 1 on 1 lesson, but if you are looking for a budget deal, I would say a group lesson is also good enough.
7 days of snowboarding holiday vs 5 days plus lessons? Pick the 5 days option if you are a beginner. You won’t be disappointed. It’s a good idea for you to keep this habit when you have reached a higher level.
I still book myself 1-2 snowboarding lessons every winter season nowadays, just to keep myself updated with the latest skills and knowledge.
The most important things about going to lessons are:
- Learn how to snowboard safe, your instructor should be able to teach you proper skills and how to avoid injuries, for example, how to fall safely, the correct position… (super important so you can keep snowboarding)
- Building up safety senses, for example, explaining Alpine Responsibility Code, together with some useful tips like where and how to sit on the mountain, check your back before lifting up your snowboard…
- Getting immediate feedback, this is really important because you need this to make sure you are doing it right. A good instructor should be able to point out your mistakes and give you solutions immediately. This is something you can never get from online resources.
The best way of booking your snowboarding or ski lessons on a cheap budget:
For example, I will plan my 7-day snowboarding trip as follow:
- Before my trip: Watch and read the tips and videos for beginners, get yourself mentally prepared for it.
- Day 1 and 2: Go for a half-day group lesson on your first day, preferably a morning lesson, so you can practice what you have learned the rest of the day, if you are fit enough, take the same lessons on Day 2 too.
- Day 3 and 4: Take an easy day on Day 3 or maybe Day 4 too (depending on how fit you are), let your muscles rest a bit and remember all the movement and feelings. This is a day for digesting what you have learned.
- Day 5 – 7: Go for another lesson after your rest day(s). Try to learn something new then practice that, normally you should be much better than Day 1 now – so just go and have some fun and enjoy the mountain!
Note: Lessons are not just for beginners, all level riders (including experts, coz I believe that you are going to become an expert eventually too.
I and my instructor friends love joining some pro riding camps every one to two years to improve our knowledge and riding skills. Because honestly, there’s always something new: new knowledge, new skills, new tech…
3. Be Prepared
Before heading to the mountain
Unlike your other beach/sightseeing/shopping holidays, a snowboarding holiday is gonna be much “active”. Bear in mind that you are actually going to spend several days on exercising.
I am sure you do prepare yourself before you for a 3-day hiking trip or a marathon race, just treat your white mountain holiday in the same manner.
Train up yourself a bit before the trip, preferably at least a month before you go for your holiday or else just as early as possible.
Work out your cores and leg. Squats, sit-ups, and cycling are all very good exercises to build up your core and leg muscles. Yoga or simply sketching is also good for increasing your flexibility and balance.
Your dividend will be paid your “not-prepared” friends are all lying on the bed and complaining about muscular pain and you are happy having a drink in the pub.
It is always a good idea to go skiing/ snowboarding with a company, especially for beginners. However, the sad truth is – there could be nobody willing to go skiing/ snowboarding with us. In such case, there are several ways I found it quite easy for you to find a ski buddy:
- book a hostel and go meet some friends there, then ask if they wanna go skiing with you (honestly this works better when you are intermediate to advanced level)
- book a lesson and be friends with your classmates and see if they wanna go practice with you
- joining some ski social networks which can help you find another solo skier to pair up with you
On your “White” day
- Make sure you have a quality breakfast, do eat enough so you can stand for the cold and the hardcore exercise. Coffee and Yogurt are always great for your normal working day but you need a lot more for your day on the mountain! Bacon, sausage, banana, potato, bread, noodle… rice are all good for a snowboarding day breakfast!
- Remember warming up and after ski sketching exercise! I know, you may be already tired after walking to the chairlift with all your gears and snow wears… just remember, warm-up exercises always help in lowering the chances of injuries while after snowboarding sketch is great for your muscle to loosen up so you won’t be suffering that much from muscular pain.
- Put on your protection gears and just let your instructor do his/her work!
4. Do Not Push Yourself Too Much
Never go snowboarding when you are:
- Too tired/ too sleepy.
- Tipsy/ simply having a very bad hangover.
It is my experience that most accidents and injuries happened during the first ride and the last run of the day. The reason is simple: muscles are not ready (that’s why you need warm-ups) and too tired! Remember snowboarding burns a lot of calories.
Snowboarding is that kind of sport that requires both body coordination and strong muscle. It’s so much harder as a beginner since you need to spend 80% of your energy to find the right position, feeling and movement required.
Unlike running, you stop when you are tired, instead, you will just lose control and fall… so yay… remember, do not push yourself too much, always take a break when you are tired or waive for the patrol if you are feeling unwell.
Don’t be shy or sorry… one of the reasons why ski patrols exist is: to avoid injury!
Alright… so that’s all I wanna say to a first time snowboarder at the moment.
Just always remember that the most important thing about being a first-time snowboarder is: Relax and enjoy this snow sport. You don’t want to go back to the mountain again unless you are having a good time.
But then why do I love snowboarding so much? Because I was enjoying it from the very beginning, no accidents, no broken arms or knees. I didn’t push myself too much to go somewhere exceed my standard so here I am, super crazy in love with snowboarding!
Yeah… so just relax and enjoy your snowboarding, be safe and happy!