Inspired to trade grimy British mud for moutain-loads of pristine powder this winter? Pack these boarding tips from O’Neill’s Team GB freestyler Lewis Courtier-Jones.
- Build your core. Think you’re pretty fit? Trust me: your first week of snowboarding will destroy you. Spend the weeks before you ride building up your core strength, leg muscles and flexibility and you’ll be laughing.
- Boost your balance. Skaters, wakers and surfers have a head start. If you’re none of those, you could get a balance board or a slackline to warm up your inner ears before hitting the cold slopes
- Rent or buy? Newbies should look to rent a board as hire shops can offer advice on bindings and fit. Check hire shop reviews in your resort and, if you’re on a package, don’t let the reps sucker you into a deal. They’re on commission; you want the best kit and service.
- Are you goofy? Imagine sliding across a wooden floor in your socks – which foot would you lead with? That is the foot that will be at the front of your board: left is ‘regular’, right is ‘goofy’. Yep, the Americans named them.
- Get in a bind. Setting up your own board, you trooper? Most boards have markings to show where the left and right binding centre points are. Foot angle and overhang are important: ask YouTube, for she knows much. My best advice: practice ‘binding’ and ‘unbinding’ at home (on carpet), from all positions, with all your gear on and your eyes closed. Like you’re spec ops.
- Steel yourself. Falls are inevitable. Good pre-stretches and padded shorts help. Your wrists are vulnerable: try to fall on your forearms, or karate roll.
Make time to warm up
When? Ideally at the top of the first slope. Will you, when you’re excited to get going? Nope. Is an injury cool? Nope. Well, then.
The backbend. Stand with your feet a shoulder width apart with hands on your lower back. After a deep breath in and out, slowly bend your shoulders and upper back backwards, hold for a few seconds and return to starting position.
Quad stretch. Lift one leg behind you, grasp your ankle – a challenge in board boots – and carefully pull your heel up until you feel a stretch. Keep your knees together, tighten stomach muscles, hold for ten seconds, release and do t’other.
Limb looseners. Roll your head around. Windmill your arms for 20. Stand on one leg while swinging the other fore and aft for 20. Laugh at yourself.
Be nice and reap the benefits
Don’t speed. Well, not unless you’re good enough to get away with it. You should be able to stop whenever and wherever you need to, in case a marmot runs out in front of you.
Don’t switch off. Be aware of what is happening around you. Headphones on the lift, off on the piste. It’s your responsibility to not collide with people downhill of you. You can never predict what others will do.
Don’t stop. Boarders have a bad rep for sitting in the middle of a slope. So go to the side. Never stop below jumps or rails.
Take it to the next level
The ollie. It’s like a wave motion. Flex at the knees, move weight to rear foot, lift your front foot into the air and push off with back foot, using the board’s tail to pop you into the air. Whoop.
Straight air. Find a small jump or roller. Approach at a sensible speed, centred with the board flat on the snow. Pop your ollie at the lip of the jump, keep your board flat in the air and bend your legs ready for landing.
50/50. Try it on a flat straight box rail. Approach slow. Knees bent, eyes on the end of the box. Slide on… and off.
Time to play
1 In addition to progressive ride refining and fakie (riding the board the opposite way round), foot-out turns are great for practicing edge control and weight distribution – and good practice for getting off lifts too.
2 Leave your rear foot free and snug it up against the inside of the rear binding. Set off straight down the hill, nice and relaxed. Just ridin’ with my foot out.
3 Initiate a turn, controlling everything with your front foot. Incorrect weight positioning will be punished by falling over. Get faster, do more turns. You rule.