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Snowboarding for the first time

Learning to snowboard is an extremely rewarding process but it does take time and dedication, and not everyone succeeds at it. You'll improve the chances of success if you go about it the right way.

  • Choose a resort with good, easily-accessible beginners' slopes - gentle, wide slopes without crowds of skiers and boarders racing through them at breakneck speed. There should be some slightly harder (and certainly longer) slopes to progress on to during the week - slopes where you can build up your confidence rather than shatter it. All of this applies even if you are an experienced skier learning to board: you will find even a slight incline surprisingly scary when you first step on a board.
  • Look for user-friendly lifts. Riding a board up a drag-lift is tricky for an experienced boarder; for a beginner it is a nightmare. Button lifts are even worse than T-bars - with a T-bar you can at least put one arm of the bar between your legs so that you almost automatically turn sideways, as you need to in order to ride the board up the track. The best lifts for novices are gondolas and high-speed chairs that virtually stop to allow you to get off- normal chairs don't slow down at the top, so you have to dismount at speed and often end up collapsed in a heap in a rather undignified fashion.
  • Aim to find good soft snow or slush. Riding a board on hard or icy snow is even more difficult than skiing on it - two edges are better than one. On the other hand, deep snow, whether powder or thick slush, is easier on a board - its width means it floats more easily on the snow and you have only one edge to worry about. And powder and slush give you a much softer landing when you fall - as you will.
  • Get decent waterproof clothes and gloves. Proper snowboarding gear is reinforced at key points, such as the bottom and knees, and snowboarding gloves are much tougher than most ski gloves - that's because you spend more time with all these parts of your anatomy in the snow when you're learning to board.
  • Use proper padding and protection. Wrist-protectors are essential - broken wrists are the most common serious injury in snowboarding because you instinctively put out your hand trying to break your fall. Padding for the bottom and knees softens the pain and bruising of some of the early falls. (Now you know why baggy clothing is the norm for boarders.)
  • Take a few lessons in the early stages. Contrary to popular opinion, snowboarding is just as difficult to pick up as skiing at the very start. And, just as with skiing, good tuition can help enormously. In general, most boarders advise going to a specialist snowboard school if possible.
  • Get the right kit. Specialist snowboard shops are likely to have a wider selection of boards and boots, and better knowledge of the equipment that will suit you best, than ski shops that just stock a few boards.

Beginners who want to give snowboarding a real chance should set aside at least three days (preferably a whole week) of a holiday and devote it to boarding. Trying it for just the odd half-day doesn't work well, but after three days you should have made enough progress to tell whether you'll enjoy it or not.

You could also take lessons from a snowboard specific school, such as Mint Snowboarding in Morzine.

For more ski safety, tips and mountain advice: Ski lifts | Pistes | Snow | Accidents and First Aid | Altitude sickness | Avalanches | Ski Guiding | Sunburn and Snowblindness | Learning to ski tips | ISF rules | Weather | Off-piste | On-piste | Ski Insurance | All ski tips and advice

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