By Kevin and Brian Delaney

From first-timer to traveling pro, the keys to consistently improving a rider’sskills are found in the Delaney “Core Four,” a philosophy developed through our experience riding,competing, coaching, and being coached. The Core Four simplifies the process of improving yoursnowboarding-at any level. We’ve broken snowboarding down into-you guessed it-four fundamental parts.Each part builds upon the others and is essential to developing the potential for higher-level riding skills.Work on one of the Core Four at a time, moving through them in order, and be sure to give each one amplepractice. Progress slowly from one to the next, maintaining the skills you’ve been working on. Implementingnew riding techniques doesn’t always feel right at first, so we’ve tried to explain some of the reasoning behindthe Four. Here we go …

One-Foundation How you stand on the snowboard. Solid riding skills are builton a well-laid foundation. In a nutshell, the foundation is your basic riding position. It’s not a static position,but rather one that constantly changes to adapt to the terrain and conditions at hand. Think of yourfoundation as a home base-the ideal position from which all your movements should stem. A strongfoundation-a balanced, dynamic riding position-is comprised of five parts: 1. Weight distribution: We’retalking about the changing ratio of pressure between your front and rear feet. Ideally, we try to maintain a50/50 weight ratio between the feet during all phases of riding-a hard task due to changing terrain andconditions and the many variable forces that create imbalance. Explore your range of motion fore and aftalong the longitudinal axis of the board and discover the root of a good foundation by knowing when you areriding 50/50.

The ability to adjust your weight distribution while riding is the key to flat-land tricks and willincrease mastery of your edges when carving or biting into the steeps. 2. Flexed ankles and knees: Keepyour ankles and knees slightly bent-this smoothes out the ride, maintains balance, and creates a strongsuspension system. 3. Upright torso: Position your body correctly by standing up straight and tall, then flexdown slightly through the ankles and knees. An upright torso sets the stage for constant balance in diceyconditions by positioning your body mass vertically over the suspension system. 4. One hand on eitherside of the snowboard: Let your arms hang comfortably at your sides, and position your hands so one ison either side of the board. Your front hand should be positioned directly above the highback of your frontbinding. Your back hand should be just above the thigh muscle of your back leg, lining up with the toes ofyour back foot. This riding position maximizes your primary balancing tools-your arms. 5. Eyes facing thedirection of travel: While riding, you should be looking where you want to go. Keeping your head up aidsin balancing and increases reaction time. Put a sticker on your board reminding you to look up. Thefoundation includes all of these elements, and is nothing without even one of them. Practice eachsub-category of the foundation while riding in terrain that’s variable, but still within your comfort zone.

Progressing without exploring each of the elements of the foundation will stop you from learning the nextthree sections of the Core Four. Relax into your foundation and make it a comfortable home-you’re going towant to live in style for the rest of your life! Two-Alignment The dynamic relationship betweenfoundation and the direction of travel. There are basically only two movements in snowboarding-youeither rotate, or flex up and down. Alignment is the relationship between foundation and rotation-they mustwork well together in many different situations. When talking about alignment, we need to first define theneutral position. As you’re standing buckled into your snowboard, look down at your front foot. This footshould be angled in some degree towd the nose of your board. Regardless of what angle the binding is at,your neutral position occurs when your hips and shoulders are perpendicular to the angle of your front foot.When you’re in a neutral position, the board should not be receiving rotational signals from upstairs.

That’senough of the tech talk for now. Let’s ride! Find an almost flat surface, relax into your foundation, and startexploring the neutral position by slowly rotating to the right and back to the left. Gradually decrease yourrotational movements until your body is still. When the board is tracking straight and your riding feelseffortless and stable, you’ve found your neutral position. All riding movements should start and finish in thisposition-you’ve established a solid foundation and you are neutral with respect to rotation. AdvancedAlignment: Your alignment should adapt to help you adjust to changes in slope pitch, traffic, and speed.Generally, there are two types of riding, or turns, we make, and each requires unique alignment. By far themost common kind of riding is across the fall-line (big turns). The less common type of riding happensstraight down the fall-line (small turns). The majority of snowboarders make wide-open turns during 90percent of the day, actually riding across the hill as much as they ride down. These big turns require aligningyour upper body and your entire foundation with the direction of travel. As your board turns your bodyshould turn with it, maintaining the neutral position. Keeping one hand on either side of the board at all timesand having little or no upper-body rotation are good indications you’re in the right position for riding acrossthe hill. Aligning for smaller turns (riding down the fall-line instead of across it) applies only during a fractionof our time on the hill. For small-turn alignment, your foundation should be orientated to the slope’s fall-line,regardless of where your board is pointed. This position is effective for short, tight-radius turns such as thoseused on a steep run to control speed (or in the moguls and trees). In these situations your legs and boardneed to turn rapidly under an upper body that remains stable from turn to turn. Minimize rotationalmovements in the upper body and focus your eyes down the fall-line on an object at the bottom of the run.

Ifyou are in control and aligned with the fall-line, the object should appear steady and clear.Three-Suspension Flexing and extending the hips, knees, and ankles. Much like the suspension incars, motorcycles, and mountain bikes, your legs provide the shock-absorption system for your body whenriding. Suspension deals with the second of snowboarding’s basic movements-the up and down-and requiresstrength and dedication to develop. A solid suspension is directly linked to the quality of your foundation.When all aspects of the foundation are in place, you should be able to imagine you’re standing in a cylinder,like a small silo.

If you tried to bend over and buckle your bindings, you’d hit your head and butt on thewalls. Try to develop an up-and-down motion without bending at the waist. Practice this at home with theaid of a friend or a mirror to make sure your back remains straight. Snowboarding requires rhythm andtiming to float and sting. This rhythm and timing is essentially the up-and-down motion in your turns. When Iwant to engage or pressure my edge into the snow, I sink my body mass down by flexing at the ankles,knees, and hips progressively throughout the entire turn. I concentrate on increasing the edge pressureevenly between both feet so the entire edge of the board engages evenly. Fifty-fifty, baby! As I finish theturn, I gradually stand up by extending, or straightening, my ankles, knees, and hips. At the top of thisextension, the board disengages from the snow and is unweighted, enabling me to effortlessly turn andmaneuver it. Each turn involves one up-and-down cycle, regardless of its radius. If you’re making wide-openturns, lower your mass down onto the carving edge throughout the entire turn. Follow it with an extension asyou end the turn, which leads to unweighting and finally the edge transfer that begins the sequence again.

Thetighter the turns, the quicker the sequence. If you are active and dynamic with your suspension, it will alwaysbe ready to work for you. A strong suspension system will increase any rider’s control, power, and stamina.You should start feeling as if you are riding better, and working less to do so. Anytime you crash, closelyreview the events leading up to that point. What was missing? What went wrong? Twisted? Stiff-legged?Weight too far forward? Tired, maybe? Four-Level Shoulders Dynamic balance in any terrain. Thepurpose of level shoulders is to balance your body mass vertically over the carving edge of the board. Thispromotes maximum edge-grip and balances the body through a turn. If you imagine a snowboarder leaninginto a turn at a 45-degree bank-angle, you can see that their body mass is not located above the carvingedge, or even their legs. The pressure caused by their body mass onto the board’s carving edge-and thusonto the snow-increases laterally and decreases vertically the more the rider leans into the turn. Asnowboarder who’s striving to lay their hands in the snow while carving creates significant lateral pressure.

When this snowboarder encounters a choppy section or chatter marks, the edge’s grip is compromisedbecause the rider is driving the board into the snow from a low angle of attack-virtually across the slope.With one hand on either side of the board while riding, you’ll notice that one is inside of the board and one isoutside during each turn you make. (When turning right, your right hand is inside the turn and your left isoutside. It’s opposite for a left turn.) If you lean into a right turn, your right hand will come closer to theground on the inside of the arc. If you can see this, imagine how tilted the shoulders are in comparison to theground-level the shoulders with respect to the terrain by driving the outside hand and arm down toward theboard.

This action is created by tilting your shoulders, and shouldn’t involve bending at the back (act like apenguin). The shoulders move independently of the torso, which should remain vertical and aligned. As youride, practice leveling your shoulders throughout each turn and in varying degrees. The more aggressive theturn, the more concentrated the leveling of the shoulders should be. Remember, you’re still riding with therest of the Core Four in tact. The proper use of level shoulders will increase contact between board andsnow, increase your vision of approaching obstacles by also leveling your head and eyes, enhance yoursuspension, and save your gloves by keeping you from dragging your hands in the snow! As you develop theCore Four, you’ll be able to carve harder, jump higher, and land smoother and more consistently. Yourentire concept of good riding will change forever. It takes practice and dedication to achieve the end result.Work on these techniques, even when it just doesn’t feel right. With consistent practice, your riding willimprove.

Kevin is a former ISF Overall World Champion. He and his brother Brian have taughthundreds of people to snowboard at their instructional camps. Visit their Web site atwww.delaneysnowboard.com or call 1-800-743-3790. lower your mass down onto the carving edge throughout the entire turn. Follow it with an extension asyou end the turn, which leads to unweighting and finally the edge transfer that begins the sequence again.

Thetighter the turns, the quicker the sequence. If you are active and dynamic with your suspension, it will alwaysbe ready to work for you. A strong suspension system will increase any rider’s control, power, and stamina.You should start feeling as if you are riding better, and working less to do so. Anytime you crash, closelyreview the events leading up to that point. What was missing? What went wrong? Twisted? Stiff-legged?Weight too far forward? Tired, maybe? Four-Level Shoulders Dynamic balance in any terrain. Thepurpose of level shoulders is to balance your body mass vertically over the carving edge of the board. Thispromotes maximum edge-grip and balances the body through a turn. If you imagine a snowboarder leaninginto a turn at a 45-degree bank-angle, you can see that their body mass is not located above the carvingedge, or even their legs. The pressure caused by their body mass onto the board’s carving edge-and thusonto the snow-increases laterally and decreases vertically the more the rider leans into the turn. Asnowboarder who’s striving to lay their hands in the snow while carving creates significant lateral pressure.

When this snowboarder encounters a choppy section or chatter marks, the edge’s grip is compromisedbecause the rider is driving the board into the snow from a low angle of attack-virtually across the slope.With one hand on either side of the board while riding, you’ll notice that one is inside of the board and one isoutside during each turn you make. (When turning right, your right hand is inside the turn and your left isoutside. It’s opposite for a left turn.) If you lean into a right turn, your right hand will come closer to theground on the inside of the arc. If you can see this, imagine how tilted the shoulders are in comparison to theground-level the shoulders with respect to the terrain by driving the outside hand and arm down toward theboard.

This action is created by tilting your shoulders, and shouldn’t involve bending at the back (act like apenguin). The shoulders move independently of the torso, which should remain vertical and aligned. As youride, practice leveling your shoulders throughout each turn and in varying degrees. The more aggressive theturn, the more concentrated the leveling of the shoulders should be. Remember, you’re still riding with therest of the Core Four in tact. The proper use of level shoulders will increase contact between board andsnow, increase your vision of approaching obstacles by also leveling your head and eyes, enhance yoursuspension, and save your gloves by keeping you from dragging your hands in the snow! As you develop theCore Four, you’ll be able to carve harder, jump higher, and land smoother and more consistently. Yourentire concept of good riding will change forever. It takes practice and dedication to achieve the end result.Work on these techniques, even when it just doesn’t feel right. With consistent practice, your riding willimprove.

Kevin is a former ISF Overall World Champion. He and his brother Brian have taughthundreds of people to snowboard at their instructional camps. Visit their Web site atwww.delaneysnowboard.com or call 1-800-743-3790.