Travel Tips

First Time Snowboarding? Our Top Tips

The very basics of shred

For most people, their first time snowboarding can be a daunting experience. Mountains are a cold, hostile environment very different from most people day-to-day life, plus the addition of multiple, high-speed bodies only adds to the chaos.

No wonder then that many beginner snowboarders cling to the nursery slopes like sloths to a branch, or retreat to expensive slope-side restaurants to nurse overpriced hot chocolates.

“There’s also a whole set of new, unwritten rules, ones you probably won’t hear of until you’ve broken them and some jaded local sprays you in the face”

But it doesn’t have to be this way! We obviously think snowboarding is the tits – so should everyone else. Everyone has to start somewhere, even the aforementioned local twat.

Here we’ve compiled a short list of helpful hints to make you more comfortable, safer and secure lest ye be venturing out on the slopes for the first time. Thank us later.

Snowboarding is Like an Onion – It’s All About the Layers

Could you BE wearing any more clothes?

The first thing the uninitiated think of when imagining the mountain environment is the cold. They’re not wrong, but what you don’t realise until you’ve experienced collapsing in a sweaty heap by 10am is that wearing two t-shirts and a hoody under a puffy jacket whilst doing some pretty heavy duty exercise is not a good idea.

All you really need is a good non-cotton thermal and a lightweight but waterproof jacket. Maybe a hoody stashed in your backpack in case the temperature drops. We say non-cotton because polyester or merino doesn’t soak up your sweat, therefore it can’t freeze in the cold and make you even colder!

Gloves and Pants

Not ideal…

One mistake we’ve seen people make during their first time snowboarding is blowing their budget on a nice looking jacket, leaving gloves and snow pants as an afterthought. If you’re snowboarding for the first time you’ll be picking yourself up off your arse a lot.

Cheap, flimsy gloves will get soaked instantly and any pants with anything less than 10k waterproofing will be about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. Spend your money, buy a nice jacket for the next trip.

Rent, Don’t Buy

Rental ain’t all bad

By the time you’ve kitted yourself out with the right outerwear, buying a snowboard would seem to be the next logical step. Unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll be dedicating a good proportion of your life to the shred from now on rental gear will be for than OK for now. Some resort based shops will even let you hire out this season’s gear so you could be even better off than your mate with his five year old plank.

If you really do want to splash out on gear though, boots should be your first port of call. Ideally get them from a dedicated bricks-and-mortar snowboard outlet so the shop monkeys can help you get one that’s right for you and fits good.

Regular Or Goofy?

When you do go to rent your snowboard kit, the good people will want to set it up for you. They’ll usually ask you if you’re a ‘regular or goofy footer’ first – rather than some weird sort of drug talk this is the first instance of snowboarding slang you’ll be hearing on the hill.

All they’re asking is if you ride with your left or right foot forward – left is regular, right is goofy. How do you know never having been snowboarding before? Imagine you’re putting a pair of jeans on, which foot do you put in first? 99% of the time that’s the foot you’ll have mounted at the front of your board.

Other good ways of determining which way you ride before your first time snowboarding are rushing a door (leading shoulder equals leading foot) or going into a defensive boxing stance (see which foot goes forward).

Rules Of The Piste

Even worse if you hit someone else

On your first time snowboarding you’ll be in a completely new environment, much like your first jaunt on to a motorway, and much like the M40 there’s a whole new set of rules to be learnt.

The number one rule to remember whilst on the piste is that anyone downhill has right of way over you. If you crash into someone lower down than you, it’s your fault.

Equally, you have right of way over anyone uphill of you, though that doesn’t mean you should expect them to be mind readers on where you’re about to go. About to do a sweeping turn across the whole piste? Worth checking behind you first, just as you would if you were pulling across three lanes of traffic on the motorway.

These rules get a little hazy once you get into the snow park, but luckily we have a whole other guide on this complex domain over here.

Lift Queue Management

How not to do it

Getting on and off a chairlift for the during your first time snowboarding is a whole nightmare in itself, one that you should probably seek advice from a trained professional on. However, once the hesitant sitting up and standing down aspect has been mastered it’s time to get on to a little forward planning.

There’s one simple rule: goofy riders to the left, regular footers to the right. Skiers in the middle, if they really have to be there at all. This prevents boards from crossing over one another and getting caught, only extending the horrendous procedure one the chair reaches the top.

How to Ride a Button Lift on a Snowboard

Probably the scariest obstacle to shredding that lies ahead of any beginner, the dreaded button lift. The problem is that they were designed by skiers for skiers, sadistic ones at that, not snowboarders.

To start with, it’s best to unstrap your back foot and line your board parallel with the direction you’ll be headed after you ‘take off’. Once you’re comfortable, grab hold of the button as it swings past and in one fluid motion put it between your legs. There will be a jolt as you start moving and a few more after you overshoot and the lift catches up with you once more, so be prepared for these, watch how other people are doing it.

Once you’re going, the temptation is to sit on the button like it’s a seat, whereas in fact it’s more like one of those vandal proof leaning stools you find in bus stops. Let the lift exert pressure on you, not the other way around.

On the way up there’s the temptation to use your edges to keep you in as straight a line as possible, this just means you’re more likely to catch an edge and go over. Leave it flat base and again let the lift do the work – a little squireling never hurt anyone.


Scooting, not scootering. Photo: Thrashmore

If you’ve ever ridden a skateboard chances are you pushed with your back foot in front of you whilst your front foot stays on. To get around on the flat with a snowboard you’ll sometimes have to unstrap one foot and although the temptation is to do the same as you would on a skateboard, there’s one key difference:

Push with your backfoot behind you. At first it’ll seem unnatural, but you’ll soon get used to it. As your front foot will be locked in place on the board, pushing in front strains your knee joints and is in no way as efficient.

Still unsure? We have a whole guide dedicated to perfecting ‘the ‘scoot’ over here.

Don’t Be Left Noboarding

Nick Visconti is the exception to this rule

The absolute worst thing that can happen to anyone on thier first time snowboarding, bar grievous bodily harm or high velocity memory loss of course, is losing £500 worth of kit down the hill in one deft motion. Snowboards like to go downhill, regardless of whether there’s a human attached or not. It’s physics baby, it happens.

If you’re not physically tied to your board, it goes on the snow, bindings facing down, parallel to the fall line. End of.

Just Point It

Benoit Thomas-Javid. Photo: Jerome Tanon

The final piece of advice we’d like to pass on from our wise, weather-beaten lips – permanent goggle tans etched into our skin – is this: just point it.

Whether it’s your first turns on the pistes, the initial foray into the pow stash to the side of it or heading towards a new feature in the park, speed is your friend. Most accidents like catching an edge or slipping out happen when you’re resisting the fall line, fighting gravity.

Throw inhibitions aside and lose yourself to the thrill. Sure you’ll fall, you’ll get hurt, but trust us – it’s worth it.

Welcome to snowboarding, we’re happy to have you.

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