Top Tips

So you want to be a snowboarder.....
I could spend a couple of pages going through the history of the sport but lets face it, you'll find that out once you get addicted to the purest form of sliding on the mountain. If you're reasonably co-ordinated then you can expect to be competent after 7 days of snowboarding. To reach the same standard in skiing will take you about 6 weeks.

Below I'll tell you what you need, where to get it, the best places to get your kit and a few beginner's tips to give you a head start. There are also loads of web links to let you quickly see what goodies the manufacturers are coming up with, and the all important shots of adrenaline crazed airs.

Kit & Equipment

  • Good waterproof trousers are a must as you will spend a lot of time on your butt. When you're learning it also pays to pop in a bit of extra padding for your rear and I've even seen impact shorts for sale just to make the initial hits a little more gentle.
  • Waterproof jacket that is ideally made of a breathable material..... you will sweat. It's also important that your jacket (and your trousers) aren't to tight as otherwise your movements will be restricted. Most hire centres hire out waterproofs so don't feel under pressure to buy kit for your first few days.
  • Good ski socks - These cheap items are an essential, especially since you are likely to be hiring kit.
  • Warm thermals or wear a few thin layers of clothes .... ideally you should wear something made out of man-made fibres for your base layer to allow sweat to be wicked away.
  • Hat - something fleecy is good..... and no, it's not cool to go for the wee willy winkie number or the dinosaur tail.
  • Goggles - sunshine would be nice but in Scotland the wind does occasionally blow and the clouds have been known to make an appearance.
  • Warm, waterproof gloves/mits - Essential kit that can not be missed.... if you buy a good pair you'll wonder why I'm making a big deal of it.... and if you disobey and buy crap gloves then after one day with cold wet hands you'll be back in the shop buying the good ones you initially swithered over.
  • Food and a flask of coffee - Buying food up the mountain is a rip off, so pack some power bars, Mars bars, a bottle of Irn Bru and a flask of coffee. Most mountain restaurants will give you water for free and they don't even charge for the paper cup.... but don't rely on it.
  • Wrist guards- If you rollerblade then you should have a pair of these and if the piste is icy then it's worth tucking these inside your mitts...... don't take the pain if you don't have to.

Get to the hire shop early, so you're not wasting valuable sliding time messing about in a hireshop. Try getting there the night before and then you get the pick of the boards and you can head straight for the slopes the next morning. Also alot of places will do a discount for hiring for a few days but if you do this, be sure to check that the shop is happy to swap boots/boards if they don't fit properly. If they won't, then go else where.

  • Where to go - In Aviemore, Ellis Brigham and North 57 hire out boards. Generally now all the Ski Chairlift Companies up the hills hire out boards along with skis. However, it can be a risky option to wait until you're in the ski carpark. If you're late up the mountain, then your choice of board may be limited to crappy planks or worse still they may only be able to offer you skis for the day! Just watch how the set up the bindings on the board as well - everyone likes a different set-up so don't be afraid to get them to play about with it.
  • What kind of board? - Unless you want to clump around in plastic boots then get a freeride/freestyle board..... this is simply a board that is the easiest to learn on and you also get cumfy soft boots. Unless it's what you're dying to do avoid the race boards 'til you get the hang of it.
  • Soft or Hard boots? - most people learn in soft boots with a freeride/freestyle board and from a comfort point of view this is definately the way to go. Hard boots, in contrast, are similar to ski boots and, as the name might suggest, are hard and inflexible. Really, only people learning on a race board or those that are more experienced will go for hard boots. My advice - plump for soft boots, at least to start with.
  • Bindings Step-in or strap-on? - If the shop offers you step in bindings as part of your set up take them with both hands ..... these babies will save you a couple of hours sitting on your butt. Strap-on bindings hold you to the board just the same except .... you'll spend a couple of hours on your butt getting them on. The one exception to the rule are Flow bindings which are quick and easy to operate and if you see a pair for sale 2nd hand and a good price, they are well worth picking up.
  • End of season bargains - When you become one of the devout and all you want to do is snowboard then it makes sense to buy your own board..... However you don't have to buy new. Boardwise and most other rental joints sell off a lot of their rental boards and boots at fantastic prices (Boardwise actually sell them all year round).
    • Ask around in advance as the season draws to a close and you should be able to pick up a decent plank.
    • Be sure to bring a mate who knows what he's talking about to help you avoid knackered boards and paying over the odds.
  • Goofy or regular?
    This isn't a reference to a beloved Disney character but is your preferred stance on a snowboard. Left foot forward is regular stance, whilst right foot forward is called goofy .... that's just how it is. If you skateboard, wakeboard or monowater ski then it is the same foot that you put forward in snowboarding.

For those of you who don't do these sports then there are a couple of tests that you can do to find out what you are:-

  1. When you go to skid on an ice patch the foot that you naturally choose to put forward is the one that should go forwards on the snowboard.
  2. If you turn your back on a friend and then get them to give you a good shove from behind then the foot that you naturally put forward to steady yourself is the foot that should go front on the board. At least if you go to the hire shop knowing what your stance is then it will save both time and embarrassing testing in public.

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Hitting the slopes
Yes, on your first day you will hit the slopes a lot. But how many times and with how much velocity is largely dependent upon the way that you choose to learn.

  1. Professional instruction - This is the best way to learn. You will be with a group of people there in exactly the same situation as yourself and you will be taught by a qualified instructor. This will allow you to learn the basics in a fun and safe environment.
  2. If you have a friend who's pretty handy on a plank, then get him to show you how it's done. This option is as good as the friend who is teaching you, but be warned don't get too annoyed if he disappears at off for hours at a time because the boarding is too good. (I am guilty of being this teacher).
  3. If you must go it alone for whatever reason, then at least do yourself a favour and either check out some of the instructional sites that I've put links to or buy an instructional video or at least read a book to find out how to start off.
  4. Finally for the impetuous who will not take a telling....... find an empty gentle slope and work it out from scratch....... try not to damage yourself, anybody else or the hire board as the rental boys will relieve you of your hard earned cash to foot the repair bill.

Once you've got the basics then watch a good boarder who carves beautiful turns, spins like a ballet dancer and catches wicked airs. Then try to mimic what they're doing and you will continue on the steep learning curve that is possible on a snowboard.

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Air (getting) - The act of becoming airborne. Air can also be caught and can be wicked or rad.
Alpine - Snowboarding on a stiff board with plastic boots.
Boardercross - Boarding race with 4 contenders over jumps and through gates.
Bone - Act of straightening one leg whilst performing an aerial trick.
Courdroy - The pisted areas of the slopes.
Crud - What Ceefax describes as spring snow.... it's lumpy, slushy and old.
Effective edge - the section of the edge of the board that is actually in contact with the snow.
Fakie - Riding the board backwards.
Flex pattern - the way that a particular board will bend.
Free riding - Style of snowboarding which involves cruising all areas the mountain has to offer.
Freestyle - Style which involves catching a lot of air in and out of the pipe.
Goofy - Right foot forward.
Heel edge - The edge of the board at your heels.
Hit - A jump or bank of snow which will aid you in your quest of ever more wicked airs.
Inserts - What your bindings get screwed into.
Kicker - A steep jump that will help you catch air.
Leash - The umbilical cord that links board to boarder and prevents episodes of runaway snowboards.
Lip - Top of a halfpipe or a bank of snow.
Moguls - Bumps formed by skiers following the same line down a steep slope.
Nose - The front of yer board.
Off piste - Off the groomed piste and into powder.
Ollie - Using the spring in the board to catch a bit of air without the aid of a hit.
Powder - mmmm. Fresh, deep snow that is just dreamy to ride through.
P-tex - The stuff that fills the gouges in your boards base after going over rocks.
Regular - Left foot forward.
Side cut - The curve of the snowboards edge.
Side slip - The first beginners move where you slip down the hill on the heel edge.
Stiffy - Straightening both legs whilst doing an aerial trick.
Stomp pad - Non slip pad between the bindings.
Switch stance - Riding the board backwards.
Tail - Back of the board.
Toe edge - The edge of the board at your toes.
Traverse - Riding across the slope on one edge.
Twin tip - a freestyle board that has the same nose and tail.

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Top tips

  1. Beware flat areas, as these are the easiest places where you can catch an edge and experience whiplash as you head plant to the front or back.
  2. When you are turning force yourself to put most of your weight on the front foot and this will help you make the turns more easily.
  3. Beware the guys in point 4 above (i.e. the impetuous who insist on teaching themselves to board) - they are a liability..... avoid.
  4. Chairlifts - for your first couple of days it will save you a lot of hassle if you go to a ski area that has chairlifts as mastering draglifts is an art in itself.
  5. T-bar draglifts when learning how to use these try to persuade a skier to go up with you as their skis will help you make it to the top. It will also mean that spaces aren't being wasted with single boarders going up the lift.
  6. Button drag lifts/Pomas - Try this drag lift only once you have mastered t-bars, and be warned they can start off pretty viciously.
  7. Until you are feeling competent and carving reasonable turns avoid mogul fields, as you'll just end up side-slipping your way down, and the skiers won't thank you for wrecking their manicured bumps.
  8. Learn how to snowboard with a mate, it makes it much more fun.



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