Why take a snowboard lesson? Can’t you just teach yourself? I recommend that you take a lesson the first time, or take several lessons back-to-back. Taking a lesson with a qualified instructor will increase your learning curve. You will learn proper techniques the first time around, instead of developing bad habits that will prevent you from becoming the rider you envision yourself being. You’ll also learn about the different types of snowboards.
Also, it’s important to note that, because you are developing good habits, you are effectively lessening your chances of injury. If you want to remain on good terms with your best friend or significant other, never ask them to teach you how to snowboard. You need someone who is completely objective, understands your goals, and has the resources to help you reach those goals.
Picking a Good Instructor
Now that you understand why you should take a lesson, you can concentrate on how. While most beginners will choose the resort they would like to visit and then look into the snowboard school, it may be worth your while to pick an instructor first. This may sound like a backward approach, but remember that it will be the instructor, not the resort, that most affect your training.
Ask your snowboarding friends for a referral, or check the service classifieds in your local paper. If you would rather choose the resort first, then you must know how to find a qualified instructor at the resort’s snowboard school. Don’t be afraid to ask questions–otherwise, you might get stuck with just anyone.
Instructors come in all shapes and sizes. Some teach because they love to. Others just want the perks that come along with the job (free lift tickets, for example). Some have been teaching for many years, and others just started yesterday. For the best value, you need to find an instructor who has several seasons under his belt. Experience makes a better teacher Although it’s not a requirement at some resorts, most long-term instructors have taken the time and effort to become certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) organization.
An alternative is to find a good snowboard program. Many top-notch resorts host programs that feature professional snowboarders. These programs usually take the form of a camp, where you purchase several days’ worth of lift tickets. The environment is usually very intense. You can also find gender- and age-specific camps, to better integrate yourself with people who are like-minded and have common goals and skill levels.
Almost all ski and snowboard resorts around the country (and the world) offer some sort of instruction. Most commonly, you will find group lessons and private lessons. Group lessons are cheaper, but you must share your instructor with several other newbies. Private lessons cost more, but the instructor will give you an individualized lesson that focuses on your skill level, needs, and desires. You may find that you won’t need to take as many private lessons because you improve quicker. Decide which lesson format best suits you. Some beginners feel more comfortable in a crowd, while others don’t want to waste time watching everyone else fall on their faces. If you decide to take a group lesson, think about bringing along a friend to share the experience. It’s fun to learn with someone you know.
There are a few things to consider before you actually register for that lesson. Get a good night’s rest, because learning to snowboard is hard work. You will be asking your body to do things it’s never done before. Make sure you are sufficiently fed and hydrated before you hit the snow. Nothing affects your performance more than a lack of energy.
Also, make sure you are wearing the proper clothing for the sport. Three layers are normally optimum because you can remove layers as the temperature dictates. Never, ever wear cotton (such as jeans) because this fabric absorbs moisture. There’s nothing more miserable than wearing soggy jeans in sub-zero weather. Anything that is waterproof should serve you well. Beg or borrow some powder or snowboard pants from a friend, as well as a nice long jacket (long enough to cover your butt), gloves, a hat, and goggles. You’ll probably want to wear some synthetic long-johns as your first layer.
Make sure the base facilities adjacent to the bunny slope (beginner’s area) have restrooms, a sports shop, rental shop, and restaurant or cafeteria. You will probably need one or more of these facilities at some point during the day, and you don’t want to walk a mile to get there. Is the bunny slope in a protected area with an easily-accessible lift? If the resort allows speed demons and hot doggers into the learning area, you might want to think twice about taking a lesson there. You need to concentrate on improving your skill and form, not trying to avoid getting run over or hit. Early season can be a good time to learn due to less traffic on the slopes, but watch out for poor snow coverage and lazy instructors who haven’t gotten into the groove yet.
Before the lesson, purchase a snowboard package, which comes complete with lift ticket, snowboard and boot rental, and lesson. Between $50.00 to $100.00, these packages are usually great deals. You can usually purchase half-day or full-day lessons. Full-day lessons will include time for you to take lunch, and possibly even a few breaks. If taking a half-day lesson, spend the remainder of the day practicing what you’ve learned. You must be able to honestly rate your ability and relate this information to the snowboard school. If you’ve never been on skis or a snowboard before, then you are most obviously a Level 1. Many resorts post a chart to help you decide. If you are unsure, ask. You definitely want a lesson that focuses on your actual skill level.
Once you are ready for that all-important lesson, here are a few tips to always keep in mind:
- Begin each lesson with a positive attitude, and visualize what goals you want to accomplish. –Be open to criticism. You can’t expect to get better if you think you are already an expert. –Don’t be a show-off. Not only is this dangerous, it’s annoying.
- Ask questions and voice your concerns–but without monopolizing the lesson or becoming selfish.
- Be patient–you won’t turn into pro material overnight.
- Although some resorts discourage the practice, really good instructors should be tipped.
- Kill your fear, and don’t be afraid to push your limits a little. Snowboarding well requires aggression and dedication. However, this does not give you permission to be reckless and stupid.
- Commit to taking yourself to the next skill level (whether that means linking turns or tackling bumps).
- Take as many lessons back-to-back as physically and financially possible–your learning curve will increase dramatically.
- Practice, practice, practice.
If you follow these steps, you should be well on your way to a successful lesson. Tune in next month as I reveal the mysteries of tuning and waxing your own snowboard.