As winter sets in, and the weather forecasters start calling for snow, thethoughts of many recreational athletes turn to alpine events, especiallyskiing. But for some weekend warriors, winter sports means only one thing:snowboarding. Combining the fluid grace of surfing with the jump and spintechniques of skateboarding, snowboarding is a rush that has to be experienced.A few things to know before you go.
First of all, you’ll need a board. There are basically two types of boards,depending on what kind of snowboarding you will be doing. Freeriding is themore downhill oriented side of the sport, but freestyle is usually what yousee on TV; riding the pipe, doing jumps, and looking styled. Most snowboardsare designed for freeriding or freestyle, which is good because this shapeis perfect for most beginners. It utilizes a twin tip (both ends are thesame) design, as opposed to the freecarving or slalom boards, which are moredirectional in shape. Most people start out with a basic model, such as theBurton A Deck series.
To attach your feet to the board, you need bindings. Most entry level bindingsshare the same basic design: a base plate with ratcheting straps. Unlikeski bindings, snowboard bindings are not meant to release when you crash;but need to be disconnected in order to “skate,” or glide along flat areas.More advanced bindings replace the base plate with a set of rails, allowingyour boots to rest directly on the board for better response and feel.
You’ll also need snowboard boots, and these are usually thick, chunky workhorses.They come in high and low styles, in hi-tech materials and good old leather,and have stubby, blunted toes which make your feet look small. They alsorun about a size bigger than your normal shoes.
Assembling all the equipment is fairly simple. Most ski areas will rent youa board and binding set up and a pair of boots for between $20 and $40 perday. If you want to buy your own stuff, expect to spend at least $450 toget decent quality equipment. Buying used gear is also an option, and oftena good snowboard shop will have a selection of both pre-owned and previousmodel year stock.
No matter if you rent or buy, you’ll need to determine your stance on theboard. Most people board with their left foot forward. But some go “goofy,”leading with their right. How to tell (and you will be asked. It determineshow the bindings are set up): Think of sliding into a base in baseball. Whichfoot would you extend forwards during your slide? Usually, that’s going tobe your lead foot while boarding. Riding fakie (opposite your normal stance)is a useful skill, but one to develop down the line.
Strap your front foot onto the board, which will place your toes over oneedge and your heel against the other. In order to get around in the flats,you push with your free back foot, much like propelling a skateboard. Whenyou are ready to start your decent, you strap the back foot in and allowyourself to drift down the mountain. Make sure you are facing forward, keepyour hands in front of you and your weight low (with your knees bent), anddon’t try to do too much too soon. Be especially careful not to catch thefront or back edge of your board too sharply in the snow: this will causeyou to crash.
Turns are made by leaning forward or backward and from side to side, usingthe toe edge and heel edge of the board for steering and speed control. Stoppingis very similar to braking on hockey skates. You bring both feet perpendicularto the slope and scrape to a stop, hopefully without falling down. Then youunbuckle your back binding, skate over to the lift, and head back to thetop for another run.
If you are thinking about trying snowboarding for the first time, go to alocal ski area, rent some basic equipment, and by all means take a lesson.All told, the day might cost you between $75 and $100, but you will definitelymake progress a lot faster with some professional instruction the first timeout. This will also give you to opportunnity to get a better feeling aboutthe proper board size (based on your weight, not height) and to check outyour compatibility with the sport before you blow a wad on equipment. So check it out: strap in and ride on!