Every snowboarder is different. From your favorite type of terrain to your equipment choices, there is a ton of variation between riders. There’s also a big difference in ability levels, and it’s good to know where you stand.
I’m a certified snowboarding instructor who has spent many days with different riders on the mountain. This experience has given me some great insight into how to determine and check your snowboarding levels:
In this post, I’ll give you some quick advice on determining what level of skills you have in the snow and why this is important to know.
This isn’t anything too complicated or meant to judge anyone. It’s simply an easy assessment to help you become a better rider or know what you need to focus on to get to the next level.
Let’s jump in.
Why Knowing Your Ability Level is Important
Knowing your snowboarding level is important for a few different reasons. First of all, it will let you know what types of runs you can safely ride. This is most important for beginners, with safety in mind.
The runs at every resort are broken down into color-coated classifications that let you know how difficult it will be. These correspond pretty directly with the different ability levels of all riders – beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert.
If you are just getting started with snowboarding, you don’t want to go on an advanced or expert run. Most riders are well aware of this, but I just want to provide a quick reminder before getting into the classifications further.
Black diamond and double black diamond runs are for advanced and expert riders. Blues line up with intermediate, and greens are good for beginners. Knowing your skill level lets you better decide what areas of the mountain are best for you to ride.
If you have just started snowboarding, you are obviously a beginner. Every rider in the world begins at this level. It is the place where the basic skills and movements of the sport are learned.
In the early stages of being a beginner, your first few days of riding might be tricky. You’ll learn how to get on and off a chairlift, how to turn frontside and backside, how to start and stop or slow down in the snow and get a feel for the balance required to ride.
Beginners can have a fairly wide range of ability from barely any skills to going down a green run pretty effectively. You won’t be riding very fast when you are first learning because you will quickly get out of control if you do.
Confidence, or a lack of it, is another good way to determine if you are still at the beginner level of snowboarding. If you are scared or intimidated by green runs, you’ll be practicing for a while before you feel comfortable going down steeper slopes.
One of the keys to progressing through the beginner stages is staying patient and getting on the snow as much as possible. Practice makes perfect, and you can’t replicate experience. A snowboarding lesson with a good instructor is also recommended.
When you reach the intermediate level, you are ready to start exploring the mountain. Once you feel very comfortable with the basic skills of turning and stopping, you’ll be more comfortable going at higher speeds.
Intermediate riders can progress pretty quickly because they will experience new terrain that they could not ride as a beginner. You’ll face a new challenge almost every day, and this can help develop your skills quickly.
A good way to tell if you are an intermediate rider is if you can go down an entire run without falling or stopping. When you can maintain a constant speed for a long stretch while staying in control the entire time, you’re riding at an intermediate level.
Another way you can check in with this is by your confidence level. If you see a blue run and go, “that looks like fun!” you are definitely at an intermediate level. Beginner riders might feel scared or uncomfortable at this stage.
You’ll be ready to start exploring what riding style you like the best when you reach the intermediate level. You can go into the terrain park and start hitting jumps to see what that feels like. You can tackle a new challenge almost every time you ride.
You can also gauge the intermediate level by how long you can stay out riding. If you can stay out pretty easily for most of the day, chances are you are beyond the beginner level. You still might get tired, but your body has built up muscle memory for the required movements.
I think lessons are still a good idea for intermediate riders. You can start to develop more advanced level skills if you have someone showing you how to do so. Practice is still required at this stage.
See Also: Best Snowboards for Intermediate Riders
Not everyone will reach an advanced level of snowboarding. And it can take years for an intermediate rider to improve enough to fall into this category. Don’t let that hold you back, it’s still more than possible.
You will know when you are at an advanced level of snowboarding pretty quickly. You’ll be able to ride virtually anywhere on the mountain with ease. You’ll be comfortable going down challenging runs that intimidate or scare riders with less experience.
At this point, you will have mastered all of the basic skills of the sport. You’ll be able to comfortably ride switch, go at top speed while remaining fully in control, and hit steep lines without even thinking about it.
Advanced riders have the ability to go anywhere on the mountain. You’ll be equally as comfortable bombing steep groomers as you are carving in control down a really steep run. Trees, moguls, and the features in the terrain park will also be in your bag.
Chances are you’ll probably have a favorite style of riding at this point. You might start to specialize as a freestyle, freeride, or backcountry rider. It takes advanced-level skills to begin to make this designation.
If you can tell the difference between different types of equipment, that’s another good indication that you are an advanced rider. Subtle changes in the flex of your board or boots can make them respond differently on the snow, and advanced riders can quickly feel this.
Advanced skills will also give you the ability to quit thinking about your riding. You’ll be more in the flow and able to truly experience the sport without any mental blockage. This is an incredible feeling that I always hope my students experience at some point.
When you quit thinking and can react on the mountain, snowboarding becomes an art and a sport. It’s a beautiful thing that all advanced-level riders can relate to.
Even fewer people will ever reach the expert level. It can take years, even decades, to reach this point. Often, the only people who become expert snowboarders are those you have been riding consistently since they were children.
Experts can literally do just about anything. If you have ever watched a snowboarding movie or the X-games, you have seen some of the best riders on the planet. These experts make it look easy and effortless.
The distinction between advanced and expert is a little blurrier than all of the other classifications. You can be a really, really good advanced-level rider and still not entirely be an expert.
The truth is, there isn’t any particular indicator that makes you an expert snowboarder; you just one day become one. If you know you can ride anywhere and everywhere and do it with flawless form while staying under control, you might be an expert.
If you have competed in a snowboarding competition of some kind, you are most likely an expert-level rider as well. If you have won a contest or are placed in the top ranks, you’re an expert.
Once you reach expert-level, you will have an unmatched passion for the sport. It might be your favorite activity in the world if it wasn’t already. You will eat, sleep, and breathe snowboarding while loving every second of your time spent in the snow.
Expert-level is a great goal for every snowboarder to have. Just remember that it takes countless hours on the mountain to reach this level. Even if you don’t get there, you can still be a great snowboarder.
Knowing your snowboarding level is a good thing to check in with every season. It is inspiring to see your skills improve, and learning how to become a better rider should be a goal for every snowboarder.
No matter what level of snowboarder you consider yourself today, remember that patience and practice are crucial to getting to the next level. These changes don’t always happen overnight, but you can quickly become a better rider with focus and dedication.About Lorraine