How to snowboard on ice

Xavier De Le Rue and our in-house qualified snowboard instructor on how to ride ice

We doubt too many of you spend your days wondering “damn, how can I ride down that black icy part on that steep AF mountain” – but if you do, this will truly make your day. Xavier De Le Rue, the mad man who literally rides down anything and everything, has compiled a handy list for those of us who are slightly less experienced at riding ice. Before you read any further, you might need to give the video above a look, to understand what kind of inhumane conditions we are referring to.

“Xavier De Le Rue, the mad man who literally rides down anything and everything”

1. First of all, go straight! (Don’t even try to turn. Just don’t)
2. Use the eagle position (yes, it’s exactly what you’d imagine it to look like) to commit to your ride.
3. Ice may extend beyond the visible area – Start straight lining before the visible ice.
4. When in doubt, climb up the ice, or rappel down onto the ice to scope it.
5. White ice (which is the ‘friendliest’ out of all the different types of ice) is sometimes edge-able, black ice is not (which apparently is like trying to ride marble – fun ey?).
6. Have ice axes and ice screws close to hand.
7. Outrun is key – make sure it’s clean with no exposure.
8. Start slow and scale up.

According to Xavier, the riding part is easy (we might need to agree to disagree here) but before completely neglecting the idea of willingly giving ice riding a try, we wanted to hear our in-house writer Rob’s thought on it – as he spends the time he’s not writing working as a certified snowboard instructor and coach in Tignes, France, for Ultimate Snowsports. However, his tips are more suited for encountering ice in slightly less demanding circumstances than Xavier tends to.

Xavier De Le Rue

As snowboarders, we simply have to embrace the fact the we will never get as good of a grip on ice as skiers due to us only having one edge to use, and that edge being shorter than a ski edge. Yet, there are ways to make it work. Based on the knowledge of our in-house highly certified snowboard instructor we’ve compiled a list of notes on how to ride ice.

“Unless you have the balance of a 13 year old Russian gymnast and the edges of an alpine racer you’re not going to be able to grip on ice”


1. Lower your centre of mass (i.e. hips). Think about flexing around 20% lower than you normally would on a snowboard. The higher your centre of mass is, the further you are from the edge and the less balanced you become, which makes it harder to grip with the edge.
2. Lower your edge angle. Unless you have the balance of a 13 year old Russian gymnast and the edges of an alpine racer you’re not going to be able to grip on ice. Ever. The higher the edge angle the greater the chance of it slipping out. Balance through the middle of your feet a bit more so you have a looser feel underfoot and just allow the board to skid through the worst of it.
3. When turning, imagine a screw going right through the middle of your front foot. “Swivel” or rotate the board on this point and allow the board to wash around instead. Don’t try and set and edge and don’t try and carve it. Keep it loose.
4. Pre-rotation. Hold your core tight but allow the upper body to pre-rotate a fraction early and ahead of the board. This will help to initiate the turn of the board and avoid those horrible moments when the board points down the hill for an eternity. When turning heel-to-toe, let the front hand move from the heel edge to hovering just above your front binding, then let the board catch up to it and realign. When turning Toe-to-Heel, let your front hand rotate over your heel edge to set the turn in motion and, again, let the board catch up to it and realign through the turn.

Xavier De La Rue


1. Spot your line ahead. Ice will generally have a grey/blue look to it, so you’ll be able to see the worst of it before you get there. Try to aim for the whiter, more chalky or softer looking patches and, if possible, avoid making turns on the worst of it.
2. Use your senses. If you can’t always see the ice, you’ll definitely be able to hear it (high pitched, scratchy noise) and also feel it (the board will feel much less gripped and almost like someone pulling the rug form underneath your feet), try to recognise what type of snow condition you’re on and ride accordingly.
3. When it comes to your line, don’t think about creating those beautiful flowing “S” turns anymore. Imagine it more like a “V” turned on its side, or a boomerang shape. A quick, skidded, rotational turn, followed by a long skidded descent moving diagonally across the mountain, before setting up for the next one.
4. Ice, especially at the end of the day, is usually caused by people (skiers) pushing all the good snow out from the centre of the runs or wind bowing it off more exposed slopes. Try and ride to the sides of the piste next to piste poles, or look for more sheltered and gentle sloping runs (pisted gullies are a good place to start)

“Rocker profiles on ice are the spawn of Satan and will send you straight to hell”


1. Boards with mange traction or a disrupted sidecut will help to find that extra 10% of grip when you need it.
2. A little camrock might avoid the contact points feel too catchy and give you a looser more forgiving ride.
3.Rocker profiles on ice are the spawn of Satan and will send you straight to hell.
4.Increasing the forward lean on your bindings will get you a little lower on the board and help to lower your centre of mass, but too much will create higher edge angles and expose you to crashing more. It’s a fine art, and not an easy one to get right.
5. Consider a pair of impact shorts, bruised tail bones take about 2 weeks to recover from, which is probably about 7 days longer than your holiday in the Alps is going to be.

Whether you prefer to ride ice willingly or not, these insightful tips from both Xavier and Rob will make you get through an ice-age, if it ever comes to that. Have a look at the Whitelines Buyer’s Guide to find the perfect gear to help you face any icy slopes you may encounter in the future!

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