Freshman snowboarders share a common appreciation by the end of the first day: the high tensile strength of their tailbones. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says veteran bruise-bearer Jake Burton, founder of Burton Snowboards. “A snowboard is made to respond to your inputs,” he says. “The sooner you learn to quit fighting it, the sooner you’ll quit falling.”
Sadly, there’s no way to completely erase the learning curve: No matter how athletic you are, your backside will sport some degree of black and blue by the time you find your snow legs. But you can speed your progress substantially. We asked a distinguished panel of powder experts, including Burton, for their snowboarding tips and shortcuts around Pain Mountain. Pay attention, or pay with your butt.
1. Lose a LegSince snowboard training wheels don’t exist, try this snowboarding tip: logging one-legged practice time on a level surface, says Jeff Boliba, global resort manager for Burton Snowboards Learn to Ride program. “It’s called skating,” he says. “Latch your front foot into the binding, but leave your back foot free to push — not only is this useful for moving around on flat surfaces, but you’ll develop a better sense of how to balance on a board.”
Here’s the trick: Lean on your front foot, but keep your balance centered in the middle of the board. Keep your weight in the arches of your feet, rather than on your heels or toes, and it’ll be easier to keep the board flat and stay off the edges, which can catch in the snow and land you headfirst in the fluff.
2. Shift GearsGravity’s your gas on a snowboard, but there are right and wrong ways to accelerate off the line. Consider your front leg to be first gear, your back leg overdrive. As you start from a standstill, lean on the front leg to start moving (rock back and forth if you’re rooted in place), then ease into a balanced position once you get going. Leaning on your back leg too much is like punching the gas in a funny car: Your front end will lift off the ground, and you’ll lose control of where you’re headed. Which means you’ll probably be headed for the sturdy, unforgiving broadside of a tree somewhere.
3. Brake UpSlowing down without sitting down is one of the toughest skills to nail.
Here’s the key: Apply pressure to whatever edge of the board is uphill, dragging yourself against the slope like a knife shaving butter. Your knees should be slightly bent, with your body angled slightly uphill to maintain your center of gravity. The same technique will help you regulate speed between turns.