Let’s skip the self-reflexive chit chat about how inconsistent this post seems to the greater theme of this site and just go with it for a minute.
There are a couple of reasons why I’ve decided to write a little something about snowboarding. Firstly, and possibly primarily, I want to showcase the versatility of this site. My hope is that by the end of the year I will be able to feature some freelance writing by friends about their given passion, whether it equally be music and jazz or food, finance, philosophy or even types of grass. Passion for one’s craft is really the only prerequisite.
Secondly, snow season is right round the corner and as I eagerly await the slopes, I find myself gearing up somewhat prematurely. This includes watching snowboard movies, buying superflous gear and going through some notes I wrote myself from seasons past- which leads me to my second point: the value of technique [this is where I try to link it to music to make it less fortuitous] As a musician- and as any musician knows, technical facility of your craft is quintessential to playing music at the top level. One of the top priorities for any musician over the course of their career is to both reach and main a certain level of technique. We spend countless hours playing through exercises and etudes, with many ironically being unmusical in content.
For me personally, this sort of perpetual technical goal and ‘ironing out of kinks’ in the hope of effortless mastery [thanks Kenny Werner] has sort of ‘seeped’ into other hobbies/activities I undertake and my general approach to ‘doing stuff’. I know trumpet masters Phil Slater, Wawrick Alder and Scott Tinkler are all avid golfers, and from what I’ve heard from Phil, golfers of good technique. I also know drumming demi-god Simon Barker is a fervent barefoot runner, and has a cool blog about it, give it a read [here] and see how much he is into the technical aspect of it all. I reckon it is their music background that drives them to play with the proper approach …I think…
This is all compared to a novice who will in many cases neglect the proper approach, which is in some ways understandable. Adopting the correct approach to a skill soaks up time, effort, energy and can be seriously frustrating. Especially if it is a part-time or seasonal hobby, taking the time to learn the correct technique can leave little time to enjoy yourself, eg skiing or snowboarding! It is always hard and timely to grasp, and for most us we never really get there. But we continue down this path in the hope that we gain a certain level of technical proficiency that we can undertake a certain skill/task with the three E’s: efficiently, effectively and effortlessly [Yes, I made that up, and yes I am sorry]. The tips below aren’t super intricate, but are things you can superimpose on your riding and dramatically change with minimal effort.
Other auxiliary reasons I write about snowboarding and it’s technique is that I have been discussing the coming snow season with friends and family and keep finding unlikely aquaintances are avid boarders too. I always offer up a sheet of dot points that I’ve put together from lessons on how to snowboard ‘properly’. It seems easier to publish it online and redirect them here.
Lastly, I did some preliminary googling on some of the topics below and came up a bit short. Although i’m more than positive nearly all my points will be all over the net, hopefully it will help at least one distant web-surfer who would otherwise come up sort like me.
BELATED WARNING: I should add I am in no way a professional snowboarder. I, like my friends, family and distant web-surfers are only a recreational boarder. The information I am about to pass on was given to me by instructors over the past three seasons. Although if I may say, I’m fairly proficient on the slopes and can hold my own on a good handful of black runs.
So, without any further ado I present my snowboarding tips, as handed down to me by past instructors. All these points really helped my riding and when you adopt them you start to notice the other guys on the mountain who weren’t lucky enough to grab these tips, and how inefficient their riding is.
- The big one. Snowboarding is 60% front foot and 40% back foot. I can’t stress how important this is. As a surfer and used-to-be-skater, the back foot is the domineering anchor. It is how you pivot, control speed and take weight off/elevating the front food/board. But when you think about it snowboarding isn’t about pivoting on an axis, nor is it for the most part about elevating the front of your board [yes, if you are negotiating heavy powder than it is, but you are obviously not boarding in Australia. sigh…] Snowboarding is like a forward wheel drive. The front lead and power the back, which always follows. Unlike surfing and skateboarding which is a rear-wheel drive experience.
- So this is actually just my first point but I’ll reiterate it anyway because it’s so important. The front food is the LEADING foot and the back foot merely FOLLOWS. Why, you may ask? Well with my limited knowledge I’ll try my best to answer that. I believe, among other things, it has to do with momentum and loss of speed when using your back foot. With your front foot you can turn and keep your momentum by avoid undue friction, but your back foot is heavier and creates more friction and will slow you down. I think this is why a lot of beginners go straight to their back foot for control, because they feel more in control. You can tell if people are using their back foot instantly, they will fling it out side to side and hyper-rotate their hips. That is undue energy being exerted. I think there is also less control with your back foot, with a later response time and a more likely chance to slide out. I’m just hypothesising now so I’ll stop.
- In regards to weight distribution, I’ve been told a couple of different things. To allow your front foot to lead you need to give it a bit more weight. The above percentage of 60% and 40% is pretty much weight distribution. This means you need to lean forward a little bit more than might seem comfortable at first. I know for me, leaning forward brought on the sensation of falling down the mountain, it definitely felt uncomfortable at first but was a good move get that front foot leading.
- If weight distribution is the chicken then stance and posture is the egg. To keep it plain and simple, keep knees really bent but back straight. I’ll never forget one of my instructors telling me to pretend I was pissing in a bush. Crude but it worked like wonders. I wonder what analogy he used for the girls…
- To help all of the above here is a cool exercise you can do to see how much you really do all above. It really helped me. As you ride down the mountain normally, imagine there is steering wheel in front of your [super bent] front knee. To turn/change direction you need to turn the wheel with your front hand. This helps you lean forward onto and over your front foot, and hopefully means you will have your knees bent and back straight.
- Always looks where you want to go. This one is gold for surfing too. It’s just a thing, dont tell me how, but it just happens that where you look is where you go. If you’re on a wave and you turn around, you’ll do a cutback, maybe not graciously, but it’ll happen.
- Your arms should always be above their respective tail. If you’re goofy like me, your left hand above your tail and your right hand above your nose, at all times. The opposite for regular.
- Use ankles to turn. I always thought this one sounds awkward but I conferred this one the other day at a snow-shop when I was buying some snowboard boots. I asked the assistant helping me out if its true you turn with your ankles [I actually don’t remember from season’s past] or with your hips as I had also written down. He said ankles if he had to pick one but whether it’s ankles, hips or a combination, it’s a personal preference thing. But turning on the slopes is for the most part a subtle thing. To go back to the car analogy, its like power-steering: small movement, big action. So which ever one you choose, do it with finesse.
- You can get used to using your ankles with the falling leave exercise. Although i’m usually against describing activities without at least one diagram per step, I’ll do my best to convey how it is done. Basically, like a crunchy, golden leaf detaching from a branch at the beginning of autumn, as it makes it way down to earth, it glides from side to side. This is what you try and recreate going down the mountain. It can be done both frontside [facing down the mountain] and backside [facing up the mountain]. You end up making a sort of wierd zigzag down the mountain. It’s a slow way to get down, but a good exercise to build response in your ankles.
- Lastly, another good tip was to always try and keep the zipper line of your jacket over whichever foot your turning with. That is, if your goofy and turning heel side then the zipper will be over your front foot, if your turning toe side your zipper will be over your back foot.
So there you have it. Hopefully these pointers can help you rip the slopes that little bit harder. If nothing else it will make you looks heaps pro, trust me. I see so many guys throwing out their back foot like they are doing a layback snap every turn. It’s not a good look.
I know i’ll be driving my way down the slopes with my imaginary wheel for sure at some point this season. Let me know if these helped or if I have been grossly mislead. I’d love some feedback on this one! Here is a cool video I came across the other day, let this get you psyched for the coming season. Happy ripping!
EDIT: Since returning from 6 days of boarding in New Zealand a couple of additional days in Perisher/Thredbo, I have a couple of things to add, for my sake if not anyone elses. Firstly, I think a big part of becoming a stylish snowboarder is being able to follow through on your turns. Don’t be afraid to draw them out. Another point is you want to look back at your trail after smashing a groomed run and see a nice snake-line trail that has thrown powder left and right, not downwards. The shape of your trail can tell you a lot. Also, I believe one of the best ways to gauge development as a snowboarder is to notice how much longer you can ride straight down the mountain for, and how much more comfortable you are when you reach those high speeds-plus your ability to control them. Lastly, I recommend working on your switch at times. I know you feel like you are wasting pow-time, being confident with switch will aid you in numerous ways, whether its off piste, tree-jibbing or wanting to hit the park. Getting your switch stance happening will give you added confidence on the mountain.