Pick up snowboarding and we guarantee you’ll be hooked. Few other experiences rival the joy of being able to master a descent down massive, 200m long snow-covered slopes at breakneck speeds. But what truly rocks about snowboarding is its simplicity. You’ve got basically nothing else to rely on but your control over a piece of wood and fibreglass. Welcome to your new addiction.
The Snowboarder Vs. Skier Rivalry
Snowboarding has a bit of a rebellious edge to it. The sport was seen to be unruly – even dangerous – by skiers. During the 1970s, skiing was pretty much an elitist sport and catered mainly to the rich, so resorts weren’t keen to let the equivalent of street skateboarding teenagers wreck their pristine slopes. It was an irreconcilable divide: skiers claimed that snowboarders didn’t follow snow slope etiquette, scraped the best snow off the slopes (because of the way a snowboard moves) and were vandals (enthusiasts grind their boards on anything they could find – benches, handrails and parked cars). Still, in recent years, the chasm between skiers and snowboarders has closed and is now nearly non-existent, says Tino Hagen, a snowboarding instructor from Club Med Sahoro.
The Essence Of A Snowboard
The snowboard isn’t just a piece of wood. The core usually comprises a wood-laminated fibreglass mix, to allow it to remain light while catering to maximum strength and flexibility. Some boards even add carbon fibre or Kevlar for added performance and durability. This is essential, because snowboards undergo severe stress, especially at high speeds, says Emeline Tan, a snowboarding instructor from Sport Quest at Snow City Singapore.
The base of the snowboard is waxed to create a smooth, water-repellent surface. But arguably the greatest element that aids control of the board is its edge, since you control your direction and speed by manipulating this part of the snowboard. A strip of metal, which gives the board better grip on the ice, lines its edges. The attachments that link you to the snowboard – known as bindings – are locked into one configuration. In fact, they have to change according to how you position your body. If you ride with
your left foot forward, you’re known as a “regular”; if you ride with your right foot forward, you’re “goofy”.
Is It Easy To Learn?
If you’ve got a wakeboarding, in-line skating or skateboarding background, it’s going to be a cinch to pick up snowboarding. Otherwise, how quickly you’ll be brought up the slopes depends on your level of coordination and balance. If you’re good, half a day is all you need.
For newcomers, you are familiarised with snowboarding by sliding around on flat snow first, says Hagen. You’ll attach your front foot to the board and push off with your rear foot, slowly learning how to gain your balance. Once you’re good with that, you’ll progress to small, gentle slopes. The trick, says Hagen, is to try standing upright, as our body’s instinct is to hunch over to lower our centre of gravity, and to reduce our chances of falling. Standing upright on a snowboard may be difficult, but it forces you to learn to relax, which in turn improves your ability to balance on the snowboard.
Tips For Beginners
If you're new to snowboarding, try this beginner technique to get you down a steep slope.
a. Sit down and latch your feet onto the bindings, close to the edge of the slope.
b. Your feet should be positioned side by side (instead of one ahead of the other).
c. Stand up, and position the angle of the board so that it mimics the angle of a car’s accelerator, says Tino Hagen, a snowboarding instructor. As you press your feet forward, you’ll go faster. Pull your feet towards yourself and you’ll slow down.
d. You’ll be able to advance to the slalom – a zigzag manner of descent – once you become more confident. To do so, lean forward into your leading foot, in order to be able to use it to pivot the snowboard from left to right.