Can't be That Hard, Part 2 (Old Man
Snowboarding Part 2)
Or Call it Snowboarding Explained by an Engineer Who's Done It... An old engineer too... :) Snowboarding for Dummies...
First, like I said I learned by watching this video on YouTube ;
How to Snowboard, the Definitive Guide. And I'm going to take
that video apart and explain it on this page. Watch it as I explain it.
Also, I highly recommend the SnowProfessor.com . They have a series of video lessons. Very good.
Ok, so as I had indicated in my previous writeup,
at 52, I started snowboarding (now that I think of it, guess I was 51). I'm now in my second season
and hitting things pretty good as evidenced by this video of me going
down Cyclops at Devil's Head.
I'm not in the terrain park doing 360's and backflips, but I'm being challenged and having a blast.
But how did I go from bunny hill to cruising down Cyclops? Here's my view of things.
First, I had to decide if I was Normal or Goofy.
Yes, would have been easier to say Left or Right foot first...
Anyway, your front leg should be your strong leg, and it will generally
be the leg you lead with. There were a couple different clues
about what I was. When I was a kid I use to take running starts at ice
on the ground and then slide. When ever I did that it was always
my right foot first. So, that is one way to figure out what you
are; put some socks on, go on your kitchen floor, run and slide...
which foot goes first? HEY, IF YOU FALL WHILE SLIDING AROUND IN
THE KITCHEN YOU CAN'T BLAME ME... :) The other thing I read was
to stand in front of your stairs, count backwards from ten (or
was that count up?) and then take a step. Again, the leg you lead
with will be the one you want on the front of your board. I was
Goofy (right leg first)... no surprise there... Hah! What else
would you call a 51 year old guy that wants to board, but goofy...?
going to do a whole different section on getting a board, setting it
up, etc.. At this point we'll assume you have a board. Now you know
which foot you will lead with, and we'll talk about the video.
The steps to learning are below, and the point is you practice and get one down before you move on to the next one.
You have to pay attention, she covers MOST of the important
points in the video. I'm just going to emphasize some and add my
own thoughts where I think her comments are inadequate. ONE STEP
AT A TIME. It may take you one day, it may take 5, each person is
3. Toe and Heel Side Rolls
6. Falling Slideslip (Yes, I recommend you do 6 before 4, but read both so you get it.)
4. Skidded Traverse
7. Falling Leaf
8. Making and Linking Turns
5. The Chairlift (Yes, there's a reason I put this at the back.)
do you need to skate? Cause that's how you get around on a board.
No poles. You can't walk it. It sucks to take it off
every time you want to get somewhere. Key point... CENTER YOUR
WEIGHT OVER YOUR FRONT FOOT. She's right, listen to the girl!
Let's face it, pushing yourself around sucks as it is, you don't
want to make it worse by not doing it right. Start just by
pushing your self lightly. As you get comfortable then push
2. Straight Gliding
thing is you don't want to glide down a steep hill. When you're just
starting most hills, including the bunny hill, can be steep. You don't
want to be going fast at the bottom; just enough hill to get to the
bottom and come to a natural stop without panicking and going off into
some ditch or a parking lot. I made that mistake (no, not the
parking lot, just starting at the top of the hill and getting to much
speed). I see new boarders do it all the time.
They go to the top of the hill, have no clue what they are doing,
and go down at stupid speeds, crashing into people. Don't do it.
best thing to do is have a friend; both of you just walk partially up
the bunny hill, face your board downhill with your friend blocking it
with his/her feet, get in your stance... Pay attention to your
posture! See the girl... do like the girl! You bend at the
knees, NOT the waist. When you're ready, your friend lets go and you
glide down slowly and stop... If you don't have a friend, hopefully you
have a relatively flat area where you can get started yourself.
Soon as you step on the board it's going to start going down, you
don't want that to happen fast. Once you get comfortable at one
point, you move further up the hill five or six feet. NO RUSH!
At some point you're going to go high enough that you may run out
of glide room, or go too fast for your comfort. You've gone too
Why?! Why glide? Because you need to know how
to glide to get off a chairlift. And in that case, you have
limited time to get your board down on the snow, get your foot in
place, and glide away. So, this is important. Get
comfortable with gliding before you move on to the next step.
3. Toe and Heel Side Rolls
It all looks simple right? Here's the thing. You roll on your toe side by bending your knees,
and keep bending your knees until the heel edge starts to come up.
The other way to do it is to actually rise up on your toes.
DON'T DO THAT. Yeah, it's all fine and dandy while you're
on flat ground, you could do whatever. But when it comes to
controlling the board at speed, bend at the knees... put pressure on
your shins... the boots will bend, then they will stop bending, and
further pressure will raise the heel side. That's what you want.
Rolling to the heel side is done by moving your butt back.
Don't' think of it as lifting your toes. You can lift your
toes all day without moving your butt, but if you're not leading with
your butt, you will not be able to stay on your edge. So, again,
move your butt back. It won't take much, as you move your but back your
heels will dig in and your toes will rise.
THAT IS IMPORTANT.
THAT IS IT. IT'S WHAT SEPARATES THE GIRLS FROM THE WOMEN,
THE MEN FROM THE BOYS, THE SLOW LEARNERS FROM THE ONE'S THAT PICK IT UP
FAST...practice this until you get it. Cause the second part of
this is to do it while you're moving! If you don't get it while
you're standing still, you're not going to do it when you're moving.
Snowboarding is about living on the edge. Most of the time you're on one edge or the other. Even
when just going straight, you will find that you have control if you're
slightly on one edge. BEING ABLE TO STAY ON AN EDGE, AND ONLY CHANGE
WHEN YOU WANT, IS KEY... Getting flat on a board gives you no control.
Yes, there are times when your board is flat, like coming off a
chairlift or transitions between turns, but not for long. Even
getting off a chairlift you have to turn to your edge to get off to the
One more thing. So in the video she says glide, then
gently roll on your heel or toes and come to a stop. Right.
But keep this in mind. If you roll to an edge, and you
start turning, stay on that edge until you stop (that's your uphill
edge), because if you're still moving down hill, and you don't stay on
your uphill edge until you stop, soon as you let the other edge touches
the snow, chances are high it will dig in and you're going to trip over
that edge. So, if you were doing a toe side roll and you roll
back on your heel, you'll fall on your butt, and if you were
doing a heel side roll and you let yourself roll on your toes, you
will fall on your face. That's why everyone falls... Read that
again if you have to. It's called catching an edge.
again, you can't stay on your edge just by lifting your toes and heels.
You have to put your body weight into it; bend at the knees
and put pressure on the front of your boots to get your heels up, move
your butt back to get your toes up.
4. Skidded Traverse (Remember, probably better to do 6 first)
presents this at this point because she's saying you need to know this
for the next step, which is getting on the chairlift. That's not
really true. You definitely need to know your heel side and toe
side rolls. That gives you the ability to get off the chairlift
and turn out of the way of others. And you know what? YOU'RE NOT
READY FOR THE CHAIRLIFT YET. The only thing the chairlift is
going to get you is a steeper hill, and you'll be more worried about
the steepness instead of focusing on developing your skills. Now,
if you can take a chairlift to a hill that's no steeper than the bunny
hill, well then do it. That will give you more practice time
without having to go up a tow rope or magic carpet (conveyor belt).
she has you do the skidded traverse with one foot buckled in. You
know what, just skip the first part and just do it with both feet
buckled in. I mean, if you want to do it with one foot out,
great. But for me, the board was easier to control with both my
feet in the binding. Once you get it with both feet in the
binding, then you can go back and do it with one foot out.
love this part. She says when you traverse across the hill "steer the
board to a stop". Really? No! What? I mean, if you knew how
to steer the board wouldn't you be a snowboarder already? Right,
so what does she mean? How do you steer the board... Pay attention,
there's some meat in this.
WEIGHT SHIFTING. Yes, that's how you steer the snowboard, by adding weight shifting to your edge rolls.
huge mistake I see beginners making all the time is soon as they point
their board down hill, most of their weight shifts to the back leg, the
uphill leg. This is a natural reaction, but what you need to do,
is keep most of your weight on your downhill leg... your lead leg...
your strong leg... Just like when you were skating on the flats
and your front leg had all the weight on it cause you were pushing and
flopping your back leg around. It's
not natural to put your weigh on the lead leg, because as you do that
you lean down hill. Your brain doesn't want to lean down
hill when you're going down hill! But that is where your
weight needs to be, and when it's not there it's because you make a
conscious decision to shift it to the back leg.
so how is she making the board turn? She's on her edge, and she
is shifting more weight to the lead leg and less weight to the back
leg. In fact, the more weight you put on the lead leg, and less
on the back, the sharper your turn will be. Two things are
happening; 1. as you put more weight on your front leg the board carves
harder into the snow, making the front turn. 2. Your back is not
really digging in and will start to drift down hill. You can help
this process by sweeping your back leg around a little bit (around
meaning down hill).
That brings up another point. How is
she just going across the hill at the same angle until she's ready to
stop? Again, weight shift... or maybe it's more correct to say
weight balance. You need to be rolled on your edge, but if you
put more weight on your front the board will turn up hill (your front
will go uphill). If you put more weight on your back, the front
of the board will start to drift downhill. So, to maintain a set
angle across the hill you are balancing your edge roll with the amount
of weight you put on each foot... YES, IT'S GOING TO TAKE TIME TO
GET A FEEL FOR THIS. At this point you have to think about it
hard, like with anything else when you first do it.
6. Falling Slideslip
know what? I would actually recommend that you do this before you
do the skidded traverse. The issue here is edge control and it's
easier to do than a traverse. In fact, if you get your edge
control down, the skidded traverses will be easier.
Ok, she says
"we will try to keep our board directly across the hill at all times".
Great. But how do you do that? Fear not, I will
First, you see that she's rolling on her edge.
What I want you to see is that she stays on the uphill edge, she
leans the board more or less, but she never gets off the uphill edge.
You always stay on your uphill
edge, just more pressure pressure and roll to stop, a little less
pressure and roll to start sliding again. It's not an on off switch. It's small changes.
so what about staying "directly across the hill at all times"?
WEIGHT SHIFT! Or more accurately weight balance. As you go
down the hill and you find one foot is sliding down further than
the other (you're not "across the hill" anymore, one end is pointing
more down hill) it's probably because you're weight is not balanced
between the two feet. The solution is to put slightly more weight
on the foot that's sliding down hill further. This will cause
that end of the board to dig in more and the other end less. The
end that's digging in less will start to slide down hill to balance you
back out. But remember, regardless of your balance between the
two feet, you have to stay on your uphill edge.
Do it on both edges until you get it.
7. Falling Leaf
she says "push the front foot down the hill". Pushing is not
a really a good word. Actually if you "push" by putting more weight on
the front foot, that will make the front of the board dig in more and
it's actually the back of the board that will start turning down hill.
Call it what you want. The fact is you're on an edge and
you're going to shift your weight. The foot with less weight on
it will start to slide down hill. Which ever end digs into the
snow more will start to turn up hill.
Having said that, the
foot that's lighter, digging into the hill less, can be "pushed" down
hill. Think of the board like a windshield wiper on a car.
The wiper pivots around the center point. Having more
weight on your back leg, will allow you to pivot your front leg down
the hill. Pivot is a much better word for this than push.
you have pivoted your front foot slightly down hill and you start to
move, you put equal weight on each foot so that you traverse at the
angle you want. When you're ready to change direction, put more
weight on your front foot, that will turn your front end uphill.
When you're just about stopped again pivot your back leg down
hill and go across in the other direction.
7B. Twisting the Board
I snuck this one in on you. You need to be aware of something.
Up to now, everything you've seen says you go up on your toes or
heels together. Both toes, both heels, at the same time.
Guess what, you don't have to do it that way. You can
actually twist the board by keeping one foot flat and only rolling the
other foot. In the snow professor videos they focus on this as
the way to initiate turns, and it does give you an additional level of
control in your riding. It makes for smoother transitions.
try it somewhere on flat ground while you're standing still. Both
feet strapped in. With your front foot do a toe or heel side roll
but try to keep the other foot flat. In fact to exaggerate it you
can have your two feet doing the opposite rolls. You'll see that
one end of the board can be slightly on your toe side but the other end
can be slightly on your heel side. Slightly, because the board
will only twist to a point.
You can apply this technique in the next section. A turn is initiated as follows:
1. You're straight across the hill or moving at a low angle across the hill with your lead leg first.
Roll and twist your lead leg off it's uphill edge. This will flatten
that end of the board and allow your lead leg to drop downhill.
3. Flatten your back foot and continue to roll the front foot to the new edge.
4. Roll your back foot to the new edge.
Make sure you shift your weight to the forward foot as you roll it to the new edge.
I can describe it, but you have to feel it.
8. Making and Linking Turns
nothing new here. Really. Edge control, weight shift, etc..
But notice, there is a point in her turning process when the
board is flat. There has to be. You're transitioning from
one edge to the other, at some point you're going to be flat. As
I said before, when you're flat you have no control, so you want that
transition to be smooth and quick. Doing the board twist can help
5. The Chairlift
this is last. I remember my first day on the bunny hill.
There were all these people that would come along on their
boards, clearly out of control, not really understanding what makes the
board do what, spend 10 minutes on the bunny hill, and get on the
chairlift. The worst part about staying on the bunny hill is the
tow rope. If you're lucky you can find one with a belt.
Those are sweet. But why go on a harder hill when you don't
now what you're doing? Brawn over brains?
Anyway, if you
have at least the gliding and rolling on your edges down, you can get
on the chairlift and get off with minimal drama. All I can say is
that the chairlift is always an opportunity to mess up. I
can definitely say that I've fallen way more when getting off the
chairlift than coming down the hill. Practice makes perfect.
was also reminded that people who don't know how to turn and stop
shouldn't be on the hill. I had pulled over to the side of the
hill to look up and see where the person I was with was at, and this
teenage girl. Totally just going straight, arms waving and
screaming, plows right into me, full speed. Luckily we were both
fine. I picked myself up, started going again, take a few turns,
and there she is again, headed straight for me. Since I was
moving I just gently held out my arm to push her away.