Ahhh, winter sports. The atmosphere, the soft snowflakes falling, the cozy cabins, and the après ski activities. There is something so magical about hitting a good day on the slopes!
However, you might be asking yourself, “what if I don’t want to ski? What if I want to do something a little different…?”
Well, if you have skied before, you have probably passed a snowboarder falling on their face and crying (ahhhh the joys). I know you just thought took a moment after that and thought to yourself that snowboarding looks like a ton of fun! And I am here to tell you that in my humble opinion…it absolutely is! Here is everything I learned from learning to snowboard as an adult!
My Bucket List Review of Snowboarding as an Adult
|My Overall Rating||8/10|
|Who Needs to Add This to Their Bucket List?||Stubborn people who can take a hit.|
|Best Time to Go||Depends on your location.|
If you need more information, you check out all you need to know about my Bucket List Reviews.
My Experience of Learning to Snowboard
If you do not know about me, I am a Colorado native. And for those of you who don’t know anything about Colorado, I can tell you that snowboarding and snow sports are a BIG deal. My father and my uncle both were on the slopes religiously as I was growing up. Was I? Absolutely not.
I had plenty of opportunities to go, but I just never got around to it. Maybe I was too busy studying because let’s face it—I was a nerd. I actually never got onto the slopes until I was around 16. But me, that bunny hill, and some skis absolutely slayed.
I cross-country skied a few times in Norway during university and loved it! I definitely could not get up when I fell but I loved it! However, that love was still not enough to get me to go up to the mountain on a constant basis.
Soon after I got back from college, my uncle decided to teach my cousins how to snowboard and I decided to go on a whim (cause why not?). If you are looking to go, I would recommend trying to board in the Rocky Mountains, Japan, France, or other locations in Europe.
I soon learned a very very hard lesson that would come to the cost of my poor head and tailbone (and I’m not gonna sugarcoat it): snowboarding is absolutely brutal to learn compared to skiing.
Now a quick disclaimer: I was a 21-year-old 5’7” girl who did yoga. I was strong, but my body was not used to more aggressive physicalities and I am a bit awkward. I surfed once and rode a longboard once.
Aka—I was not prepared for this at all. I have noticed that highly athletic individuals who have done activities like these pick it up a lot quicker! Or some people just have a natural feeling and talent for the board (hint: I was not one of these people).
Anyway, back to the story. I landed on my butt, I landed on my face, I landed on my wrists.
At one point, I fell forward so hard that my back curved backward and my board hit my helmet (I would learn that this is called ‘catching a front edge’). I would go a few feet, fall, and then it would take every ounce of energy to get back up…only to fall in another 10 feet.
I then would hit a ‘back edge’ and get the wind completely knocked out of me. I would end up just kinda laying there and contemplating my existence. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but it did feel like that sometimes!
And because I wasn’t very naturally gifted, my trips up to the mountain consisted of this for a while. The entire experience was extremely frustrating for me.
So, you might ask why did I go back? And if I’m being honest with myself, it was because it made me angry. Every time I fell, it made me angry and made me want to get back up and do it until I conquered it.
This anger really did push me through the learning phase until I became a true beginner. Then, whenever my calves stopped screaming from constantly being on my heels, I found that I was actually having fun.
Then once I started linking my toe and heel turns, I was absolutely hooked!
Who should try snowboarding and who would like it?
People who enjoy a challenge!
I am going to be honest, if you think that snowboarding is just a quick and easy hobby to pick up then I would say that you are either another Shawn White or you were in denial.
If you are closer to the rest of us mere mortals then please believe me that it is HARD work! It consists of a lot of falling and getting back up even when your body and mind don’t want to. For some, it is more of this trial and error than others, but I think that every snowboarder can remember those bumps and bruises that they got from the first few times they put their boots into the bindings.
Stubborn people who hate it when things get the best of them.
For an extension of people who like a challenge, I have found that learning can also be motivated by ultra-stubborn people. This would probably be my category. I remember my soul lighting on fire when I would fall. Even though my body went through a lot, my stubbornness just wouldn’t let it win and would not allow me to give up.
People who can take a hit and get straight back up.
If you are the type of person who takes a bad fall and doesn’t want to do it again, that is OKAY! It is natural to not want to feel that level of pain and there are a lot of other ways that you can enjoy a ski resort without breaking your body over and over again.
However, if you are the type of person who can fall and be mentally strong enough to get back up and the entire thing exhilarates you, then snowboarding is definitely for you!
I do think that some people are lucky in this department. For example, my 7-year-old cousin would fall and then pop back up again without anything because he was simply closer to the ground. My tall body, however, had quite a long way to fall and a more energy-consuming way to get back up.
To add to it, the way up became increasingly harder when the preceding fall hurt like hell! However, there is something very powerful and rewarding about being able to fall hard and get back up! And if you can stomach it, I would 100% recommend sticking with it for those sweet rewards!
If I had to Learn How to Snowboard all over again I would…
…do some strength training ahead of time.
Although I had pretty strong legs from yoga, I was surprised at how many muscles were destroyed from snowboarding.
If I could wind back the clock, I would do some strength training before my first day, particularly hitting legs (calves and quads) and core.
I think by strengthening those muscles, it would have put me in a better position to learn and make the experience more enjoyable—not to mention less risk of injury.
…do more Snowboard sessions at an indoor facility (if it is an option).
When I first started learning, I did my first 30 minutes at an indoor training facility. In Denver, I went to a company called Snöbahn.
This was my first time on a board and we worked on going down the artificial mountain on my heels.
For those of you who just said, “Uhhh…how?”. It is basically a carpet that replicates snow on a conveyor belt so that it can simulate the feeling of snowboarding down the mountain.
This experience was so helpful, but I wish I would have invested more time with a certified instructor in a controlled environment before venturing out into the snowy wilderness!
If this isn’t available to you, I would suggest putting your boots and board on in your living room and simply practicing distributing your weight on your heels and your toes.
This could get you more comfortable when you do end up heading up the hill and give you the practice of getting in and out of your bindings.
…find an actual bunny hill for the first time.
So I did my first day at Loveland: the hidden local gem of Colorado.
There are two areas: the valley and the pass. The valley is more for beginners and had a magic carpet (a moving conveyer belt) and a traditional lift.
However, since it was early in the season, the Valley was closed.
Therefore, my first experience putting on a board was just at the bottom of the hill by the lifts. And let me tell you that was STRESSFUL. There were people everywhere, I caused a skier to fall, and the snow was very uneven. We didn’t really have a choice but if I were to do it again, I would have found an actual learner’s area to rip off that bandaid.
…start learning on my toes first.
I am sure that there is a reason that everyone starts learning on their heels, but one of the most frustrating parts for me was getting up from my butt.
I finally found that if you place your feet very close to your butt and then grab the long side of the board and pull yourself up, it made it a bit easier.
Yeah sure that is great, but keep in mind that I am a bit taller so this took a lot of energy. And if you are falling every 10-20 feet and constantly needed to get up, that energy can add up quickly and make you exhausted.
And guess what happens when you are exhausted? You get injured.
After I learned my toe side, I realized that it was substantially easier to go on my knees and push my body up with my arms. Ever since I learned this, I rarely get up on my heel side.
I am in no way shape or form a snowboard instructor, but I think that if I had to do it all over again I would start on my toes.
Or at the very least I would learn how to get up on my toes and then transition to my heels right away to save myself some of that energy and exhaustion.
…focus more on the correct technical aspects of where to place my weight than just doing what “feels correct”.
Looking back, most of my learning experience was just figuring out what I thought was correct and not falling. Although I am doing okay now, I realize that this strategy cost me a lot of time and pain.
If I had to go back, I would have hired an instructor or at the very least looked up some videos on YouTube on the proper technique regarding where to distribute your weight or what to do with your feet (I had a guy tell me to flex or point my toe depending on where I wanted the board to go, and that was very helpful!).
I think that if I would have taken the time to practice good technique, I would have progressed faster than figuring it out for myself. As the old saying goes: practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.
…tell myself that it is going to suck for at least 3 days but then it gets better.
I don’t know if I was expecting it to be as easy as learning how to ski but if I could go back in time, I think that I would warn myself a bit. I have heard the saying that skiing is easy to learn and hard to master, and snowboarding is hard to learn and easy to master. I am not a master at skiing (maybe one of my readers can confirm this for me), but I agree with the learning part of that statement.
I think that if I had a more realistic outlook on how brutal it was and how much work it would actually take to learn, I think I would have been a little less hard on myself. Instead, I compared it to how fast I picked up skiing and beat myself up (more than my body was already beaten up) for not picking the sport up faster.
…get snowboard boots that are well-fitted for your feet.
This is easily the thing that I most regret when looking back. Now to put it in perspective: I bought all of my gear out of someone’s garage in Denver. All of it was used and it was very cheap (compared to the monster price tag that comes with buying new gear). Although it was good for my wallet, there was definitely some gear that I would invest in if I were to go back.
One of those is BOOTS. I had old boots with laces that were worn by multiple users. In addition, I could not keep the laces from coming undone and this caused my ankle to progressively get looser as I went down the run.
Because of this, I found that my ankles and the souls of my feet were absolutely destroyed after a day of boarding. After my first season, I invested in some boots that were recommended to me by a professional and had the BOA system instead of laces.
I know that some people don’t love BOA but I honestly can’t image my life without it (you essentially just turn a dial and it tightens the boot and stays in place).
If this isn’t an option, I would make sure that the boot that you bought fits your foot and is comfortable (there are places that you can heat stretch the boots to mold them better to your feet or I would check out how to DIY heat stretching).
After riding with those boots, I was actually so mad that I didn’t just invest in them from day one and went that entire season with terrible foot and ankle pain. Just make sure that if you do invest in new boots to get a professional opinion and make sure they are comfortable and broken in before you go.
…rent a beginning or a Burton Learn to Ride “LTR” snowboard.
Although I didn’t notice a huge difference from the board. If I had the necessary funds, I probably would have rented an LTR (learn to ride) board for the first 3 days or so and then used the board that I bought out of the garage.
These boards are designed to combat the main problems beginners face (like catching edges and contemplating their existence).
They have edge beveling, an aggressive sidecut (gives you more flexibility), and a soft flex (this is more forgiving during turns).
I ended up actually buying a used retired Burton LTR and didn’t realize how much better it was for progressing and working on technique.
Although I don’t think you need to necessarily buy one as I did, I think it would have been nice to have one during those first few days when I was catching edges left and right.
…buy a helmet with MIPS before I hit the mountain.
I know we all love that guy who flies down the mountain at an ungodly speed only wearing a beanie and goggles.
He may be cool but please don’t be him. There are more times than I can count when I have been grateful that my helmet is there!
Your brain is so precious and it is worth the extra upgrade to make sure that your head and everything in it stays protected for the entire duration of your time on the mountain.
In my third season, I invested in a helmet with MIPS in it. For those of you who didn’t know, MIPs is a slip-plane system that moves inside the helmet.
In theory, it replicates the brain’s own protection system. The layer inside rotates inside the helmet in an effort to slow or reduce the impact/energy to the head.
I decided to buy this because I learned about it in my motorcycle program. Ever since I’ve found that it gives me a nice peace of mind and protects the noggin.
When I look back at the cracked used helmet I bought for $20 out of a garage and how hard I fell when I was learning, it is a marvel that I have any brain left (or maybe that would explain some things…haha!).
Long story short, I think that your head needs to be protected at all costs and I would have invested in a good helmet before I even hit the slopes.
….buy a camelback to stay hydrated.
This is more for comfort than practicality or safety but nonetheless deserves to be talked about.
Since this is a sport, don’t forget to stay hydrated! However, there is something incredibly annoying about stopping, sitting down, taking off your gloves in the freezing cold, taking off your backpack, and unscrewing a normal water bottle. After a while, I just stopped drinking water. Hint: that was not a good idea.
I then found the magic of a camelback. Ooooo aaaaaa. I have the straw right there and it is no hassle at all.
*Just an extra little tip, just make sure to get the insulator tube and cap so that it does not freeze the water inside of the straw.
Are you looking to learn snowboarding and reading this article? Don’t forget to follow and tag me on social media so that I can see how it went! I would love to hear about your experience of checking this off of your bucket list and to cheer you on from the sidelines (and wincing when you catch an edge). Just remember—we’ve all been there and it is worth it in the end!