Snowboarding Tips

Snowboarding technique breaks down into three basic styles -- freestyle, freeride and alpine/race. Whichever style you choose also influences the board, binding and boots you'll wear. Let's see what these styles entail.

Freestyle is pretty much what it sounds like. When you see competitive or extreme snowboarding on television, you're likely watching freestyle. Freestyle riders perform tricks and jumps, using specially built rails and half pipes. They sail into the air, flipping or twisting around and land upright on their boards. Freestyle snowboards tend to be shorter and more flexible than regular snowboards. The flex action helps freestylers do tricks like jumping and spinning. Freestyle boards feature identically shaped noses and tails, so the snowboarder can more easily move in any direction. Freestylers also wear soft boots for more agility.

Freeride style is where you should start as a beginner. It's an all-purpose method of snowboarding. You use freeride to explore your terrain and make your way down the mountain. Freeride snowboards are longer and narrower than a freestyle board. A freeride board features side cuts for more efficient carving -- an extreme turn where you cut lines into the snow. Freeride boots are soft like freestyle boots, but some people do prefer a stiffer ankle.

Alpine/Race style focuses on -- no surprise -- speed. Racers speed through open terrain or professional racecourses packed with hard snow. Racing boards are stiff and narrow with small noses and tails. This allows racers to move fast and in a forward direction only. Alpine/race should only be attempted by advanced riders because of the speed and velocity involved. A sub-category of this style, freecarve, is similar but less extreme. Freecarve is a good way to work your way up to alpine/race. Boots for alpine/race resemble ski boots -- stiff and inflexible. They protect the feet and ankles during high speed runs and afford the rider good control.

Now that you have the basics covered, how about learning some tricks? Here's a list of popular snowboarding tricks for beginners:

  • Fakies -- Fakie simply means riding your board "backwards" -- with your rear foot leading instead of your front. You'll need to know how to ride fakie if you plan on doing any spin moves.
  • Ollies -- An ollie is a basic jump. You will use it as the base for many aerial jumps and it's also useful on its own to jump over small obstacles. To perform an ollie, you'll crouch on the board as you glide down a hill. Shift your weight to your back foot, lift the nose of your board and use the tail as a sort of spring. When you're airborne, raise your knees toward your chest, keeping the board level beneath you. Land nose-first or both feet at the same time -- bending your knees to absorb impact.
  • Grabs -- Once you've mastered the art of "catching air" with ollies and jumps, try a grab. Simply grab the board while in mid-air. Be sure to lift the board toward your hands and not reach down toward the board -- you will lose your balance. Grabs help provide stability while airborne and help with better spins. They also look pretty neat.
  • Spins -- Mastering spins takes a lot of practice, but once you do, you'll be able to move on to more advanced tricks. Start out by learning 180-degree spins on a gentle slope. As you traverse on the toe edge, crouch down and wind up your body -- in the opposite direction of the intended spin. Then jump up and unwind your body, with your arms out for balance. Bend your knees as you land on your heel edge, now riding fakie. Once you've mastered a 180, try doing a full 360-degree spin.
  • Wheelies -- Wheelies are just like the ones you used to do on your bike -- riding with the nose of your board up in the air. As you ride downhill, crouch and lean backwards. Shift your weight to your back foot and lift up your front foot, bringing the tip of the board with it. Hold that move as long as you can.

Once you've mastered these basic tricks, you can progress to more advanced moves. Advanced snowboarding tricks might include riding on rails or in a half-pipe. Check out your area for snowboard parks or ski resorts that feature half-pipes or rails. Have fun and be safe!

And speaking of safety, on the next page, we'll discuss snowboarding equipment. How do you keep warm and prevent injury while you snowboard?