Snowboarding Basics

Snowboarding is fast becoming the sport of choice for winter travelers. Combining the elements of surfing, skateboarding and skiing, it makes a fun family activity as well as a great way to stay in shape. If you’re planning your first snowboarding trip, make the most of it by following these simple tips.

Snowboarding may be relatively new, but it’s certainly earned its place in the list of top winter sports. Any winter day, there’s always a group of snowboarders stealing the scene on the slopes.  But while it seems more like an extreme sport than your average winter game, snowboarding actually makes a great family activity. As long as you know the basics and take the right precautions, you can easily pick up the sport and make it part of your next winter trip. Here are some tips to get you started.

What it is

Snowboarding is basically a cross between skiing, surfing and skateboarding. Think of it as riding a skateboard, except that you’re on snow—most commonly a ski slope. Your vehicle is a stiff board made of epoxy and fiberglass much like a large surfboard, with your feet strapped to the surface. In snowboarding, the technique is to shift your weight from one end of the board to another, instead of from foot to foot as it is in skiing.

Gearing up

The three essentials in snowboarding are your board, boots and bindings. It’s best to invest in good quality equipment, even if you only plan on riding casually. Substandard gear not only makes your experience less fun, it also makes you prone to accidents.

Snowboards: Length should be your top consideration in choosing snowboards. Short snowboards will reach slightly past your collarbones when standing vertically, while medium boards come up anywhere between your chin and your nose. Any board beyond eye level is considered long. The general rule here is that board size is proportional to experience. If you’re a beginner, go for a short board for better maneuverability and control; if you’re a competent rider, choose a medium or large board to maximize your speed and carving abilities. A specialized type called the freestyle board features a wider, softer body, made for performing advanced tricks and riding on soft, powdery snow.

Boots: Snowboard boots are designed to transfer energy efficiently between your two sides. You’ll notice that the soles are shorter than other types of footwear, making them look around two sizes smaller. This is to prevent heel and toe overhang, which can cause you to trip and fall. That’s why it‘s important to use only snowboard boots, as they are designed to work specifically with snowboards and bindings.

Bindings: Traditional bindings are of the strap-in type, which means you just strap them onto your boots and board. This adds considerable bulk to your getup, but they’re generally sturdier and offer a lot more flexibility as they’ll work with most existing boots. Step-in boots are fairly new and are more comfortable, but they usually have to be purchased along with the bindings. Go for soft boots with stiffer bindings—they’ll give you a larger margin for error and better directional control.

Dressing right

Needless to say, it’s important to dress warmly on any snowboarding trip. The key rule here is layering. Put on a soft, insulating base layer (preferably polyester), a heat-trapping second layer, and a strong, durable top layer to protect you from wind and cuts. Also make sure to keep your head covered, as much of your body heat can escape from it. Wear a thick, soft hat and earmuffs, and cover up with a helmet and a pair of goggles if necessary. In really cold weather, try to cover as much exposed skin as possible with gloves, scarves, and arm and leg warmers—but don’t dress too heavily or you’ll slow yourself down. Wear removable layers so you can take clothes off as your body warms up.

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