Snowboarding, the alpine version of a combination of skateboarding and surfing is an enjoyable and rewarding sport. It is difficult to state exactly when snowboarding was invented, but it seems it began with a toy invented in 1965, known as a “Snurfer,” a pair of skis tied together. Eventually Dimitrije Milovich invented the modern snowboard in 1969 from this idea.
I find it more graceful than skiing, though requires more skill to master. The adrenalin rush I get when facing a misty, vertical piste I can race down is magnificent and I believe everyone should experience it.
Most people begin with lessons and this is advisable as most injuries occur with people who have not got a proper poise or skills. When I started, I tried without lessons and found myself too scared to go down an almost flat slope. I then tried with lessons and after two weeks I found myself able to go down a seventy-five degree slope with a great sense of satisfaction.
There are two types of board, and beginners are advised to use the twin tip board as it is more general and is easier to manage:
* The twin tip board
On this type, both sides of the board curve up. This is generally used in free-riding (the down-hill, speed-oriented side of the sport) and free-style (the tricks, for example jumps.)
* Free-carving or Slalom boards
These boards are more directional in shape, and specialise in speed rather than tricks. These are more difficult to control.
Snowboard boots are thick and chunky, but especially are more comfortable than ski boots. They fit like trainers, and have blunted toes to give you a bigger surface area on your feet to give you more control. If you decide to continue snowboarding after a beginner session, I definitely advise buying your own boots as they mould to the shape of your feet. If you still prefer ski boots you can hire boards that fit with ski boots. The actual clothing is the same as skiwear, and this can be worn, or snowboarding clothing can be found in many good shops. There are many famous makes such as Quiksilver and O’Neill that specialise in this.
To hire boots and boards, there are many shops that stock these in resorts, and it costs between ten and twenty pounds a day for boards and bindings. When hiring, you are asked if “regular” or “goofy,” which basically asks with which foot you would like in front. Most people opt for “regular” however left-handers often are “goofy.” I was tested for this by being pushed over by the attendant to see which foot I landed on. I fell on my face so I expect that was not the most helpful thing to have done. When you are comfortable riding “regular” or “goofy,” you learn to ride “fakie,” which is the opposite stance to however you rode before.
* The side-slip
This is when the person slips down the slope on the back edge of the board with your back to the slope. Letting the front edge slightly further to the snow, makes you go faster, controlling the speed. However if the front edge touches the snow you stop and fall over down the hill, as I experienced many times. This is the most basic of movements, and is learnt first. It can either be done on “front-side” or “back-side.” “Front-side” means riding facing the slope, whereas “back-side” is facing away from it.
* The traverse
The traverse is used to manoeuvre the board across the slope rather than down it. If you are in “back-side” and you are riding “regular,” you will be riding left. To carry it out you lean to the left and put slightly more weight on the front foot. You tilt the board down slightly but not too much or you will ride parallel down the hill and fall over (as I also did many times.) You will slide to the left on the back side of the board, and should stop when nearing the edge of the slope by performing a side-slip.
When these two basic manoeuvres can be performed with ease, you can then do a “falling-leaf,” when you traverse to one side, then traverse to the other. When this too can be done in both “front-side” and “back-side” separately, you are ready to learn turning, which involves turning from front to back very quickly. Personally I found it a daunting prospect and it took me a good four days to learn to turn with no fear.
Once you can learn to side-slip and traverse with ease, your instructor tells you about turning. He makes it sound an entertaining and natural thing to do as he shows you with ease and confidence. But do not be fooled, it is the most difficult of everything to learn. Once I mastered it, I found I could do everything else with ease, although I had at this point two broken wrists and bad bruising all over. But it is definitely worth it to persevere and accomplish it.
To turn, if riding “regular” on “backside,” you traverse to the left then point the board further and further down the slope until you are parallel for a second with the slope, then quickly turn your body to the right and lean forward, making you do a turn onto “front-side” which can then be continued and then turn back into “back-side.” I should stress that thought this appears a difficult and painful task once it is practised it becomes the foundation for every other move. Once this is perfected you become an intermediate rider and learn to jump, grab and perform ollies.
The Basic Tricks
There are millions of new tricks being invented all the time by pro-snowboarders. The basic tricks learned by intermediates are as follows –
An Ollie is a jump performed on the ground on flat land. It is quite easy to do as long as you have good balance on the board. It is carried out by shifting some of you weight to the back of the board then lifting up your front foot, flexing the board as it is strapped to your feet. You then use the spring from the board as well as a little help from your back foot to push you in to the air, where you make the board parallel, then land with your front foot slightly in front to land to ensure you do not fall over. Ollies are easy to perform but do not look particularly difficult to carry out either, so it is good to lift your arms and try to look professional as you do them, then stun your audience by an amazingly speedy run down the slope. This can also be done by winking, as my instructors have often done.
The key to jumping is being able to land well. To jump you approach the ramp in a low-stance position (the ramp being a board propped up covered in snow that snowboarders ride off into the air). Contrary to popular thought, you do not in fact jump off the board at the point the ramp finishes, you must instead allow your momentum to carry you off, bringing you legs up. Before landing you should line your board up to hit the snow so all parts hit at the same time, so you can ride away skillfully in an attempt to look professional.
There are many places to board in the world, but the best seem to be in Europe and America. The best slopes are situated in remote parts, as the slopes are empty. Snowboarders often take up the whole slope, as the basic movements consist of going from side to side, whereas skiers generally travel down in a straight line. America and Canada are the best places I have found, as the instructors are more friendly and speak English. They also tend to be better, as America is obsessed with the sport.
I found snowboarding a struggle at the beginning, but once I got into it I have found it a much more exhilarating sport than skiing which looks, in my view, more graceful. Even though it may be painful and tiring, the feeling of rushing down a slope or performing a really high jump is amazing, and I believe everyone should try it. This is just an introduction to snowboarding, a complex and demanding sport that exhausts you physically and mentally but is well worth it once mastered.