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Boarding for Beginners Part II (draft)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Snowboarding: 102

When we last left, you were hopefully avoiding being road kill debris at the lift dismounts; which is great if the whole idea is just to get you safely up the hill to a point where you'll be able to leave a series of short pink and brown stain alternating in the snow on the way back down.

Some of the physics in this is second hand, but it is from a couple of sources that I'm happy to paraphrase and from my experience bear out in practical application . . . but your peer review is welcome and encouraged.

For the absolute beginner even the gentlest of 'greens' is a precipice of terrifying steepness that can barely be crawled across without risking life and limb . . . for those of you sniggering, cast your minds back and tell the truth . . . The other problem the beginner sees is that this white cliff is heaving with people. Trains of tiny rigid mannequins snaking back and forth on invisible ropes, rows of skiers standing on staggered stairways to nowhere, leaning on their poles and staring intently at another skier standing in front of them and who's grunting unintelligibly and waving a badge encrusted arm around with the tip of his or her ski pole describing graceful arcs of graphic meaninglessness. There are necklaces of fellow hillfrogs either strung across the slope in rows of haemorrhoid patients or slowly and noisily scraping away the soft snow surface down the slope into long ugly flat scars of base crust. Through this Brownian mob dance blurs of grace and speed on both skis and boards. They weave safely through the melee with a sharp crackling hiss and barely a mark in the snow as testament to their skill and passing . . . SO . . . who would you rather be?

If it's the latter . . . GET OFF THE HILL NOW! You're in the wrong place.

FEAR, is the key:
After your libido, fear is probably your most motivating emotion and in most of us, less controlled than our sex drive. However fear is not just an emotion, it has physiological manifestations driven by glands in your brain/head. And yes, it is possible to 'relieve' yourself through fear.

That example's a bit gross and clumsy because there are lots of subtle endocrine and hormonal balancing acts going on in your body all the time that are manifested and influenced by your environment and fear is just one stimuli. Your own experiences and knowledge of your abilities are what govern how you react to stimuli.

You can learn to overcome fear and when young it's not that hard 'cos on the whole you've a lot to learn about pain and you still bounce quite well (more about that later). But as we age, our brain chemistry changes and we become more easily discouraged and fearful. There are major changes at puberty (obviously), but there is a more subtle, gentle and continual change as we pass through our thirties and on to middle-age and later. The older we get without experiencing something the harder it is to comprehend and cope with both the physical challenge and the personal mental and physiological response to it*.

* there are gender differences in the timings and degree of response to externally influenced endocrine reactions but here we're talking about learning to slide down a hill and we can use simplistic explanations.

As long as we understand that fear is not just a fixed response and that we can control and contain our reactions both concious and unconscious to it by giving ourselves the skills and confidence to challenge them we will learn quickly and safely. You won't achieve that if you're already on a slope that to your perception is so steep that it's all you can focus or concentrate on instead of learning how to relax, listen and feel how your body moves and influences the board.

You need to stay down on the very gentle bunny slope where you learned to ride with just one foot strapped in or find a similar gentle incline that's lift or magic carpet served. The reason for this is that the last thing you need to be thinking about is the board running away with you or you having to avoid running into something. Most gentle 'greens' are usually still a bit too busy and steep or feed into a crowded area to be much use to you for your first slides.

Don't be embarrassed, you shouldn't be there long. With application it shouldn't be more than an afternoon. The other reason for walking back up the slope is that it gives your body and legs an even workout rather than being fixed in one position trying not to fall or overbalance on a steeper pitch and you won't get as tired or sore for your efforts.

FALLING: (edit, this is a bit longer than planned but bear with me . . . it's quite important for later reference)
One of the major hurdles that all borders have to come to terms with and overcome is falling. It's not a natural feeling having your feet bolted to a plank of wood and you and your body have a whole new set of sensations to get used to and comfortable in doing . . . and you're going to fall over. . . or are you?

There are TWO main reasons we fall over, not because we're strapped to the board, one is because we've become lazy. We rely on our eyesight for most of the references that we use to keep our balance. Here's a simple test:

Stand on one leg with your arms relaxed out to your sides . . . now close your eyes. How long did you last? More than ten seconds and you're doing well and you're probably under 30.

All this shows is that we're not used to balancing without visual references and the perennial bad habit of the beginner boarder is to look down at their feet ... nailed to a plank ... on a slope ... while moving... on a big white nothing. Unless you have the natural reflexes and agility of a cat, you're going to fall over.

So the first rule of falling is KEEP YOUR HEAD UP AND YOUR EYES HORIZONTAL. and eliminate a lot of the simple 'loss of balance' falls that make learning such a complete chore.

The second reason we fall is because we do something wrong . . . well duh!
It's a BIT more complex than that because right at the start of learning we often do the direct opposite of what we need to and pull away from the slope, yet as we get better we make mistakes by going in too hard and then not having the strength or skill to pull it back. Learning about moving board control right at the start helps reduce the fear factor that causes us to make the beginner mistake of pulling away from the slope.

But that won't eliminate all of them. Nearly all beginner boarders are taken up the hill and are told to stand up and hold the board on an edge. This isn't going inspire anyone to learn anything as you are already trying to balance in a new experience and cope with the board catching or losing the edge and sliding down the slope. One way or another you're going down. To avoid this . . . just don't do it as your first exercise in learning to ride a snowboard.

So, we've eliminated many of the common beginner falls. Doesn't mean you're not going to, but many of the needless ones won't be tiring you out and slowing down your learning process. I can remember my early learning experiences and for a week's schooling I paid for about 75% of it while try to lever my bruised body off the snow and dreading the ache of every morning trying to get out of bed after a night of cramps.

OK, we've got to the point where we do have to deal with falling for real and we have to discuss some sensitive subjects . . . your age, your weight, your strength and your flexibility.

The first two are closely related in a fall, it's the physics of mass, velocity and area that make the difference between a fall that a child will bounce away from with nary a bruise and an adult will tear muscles, ligaments and splinter bone, even though they are both travelling at the same speed and hit the same object. Basically, the bigger you are the harder you hit and if you land on something small like your tail-bone, an elbow or a wrist it will concentrate the inertial masses into a much stronger force. That's why the Doc Martin wearing girl you insulted, only bruised your toes when she stamped on your foot and the girl in the £350 4" Motto Silk satin Jimmy Choo stilettos will have impaled your foot to the floor.

So the bigger or 'heavier' you are, the less want to land on small areas of your body and the more you need to spread the impact over a larger area. This is one of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of wrist guards, I think they inspire more confidence in their protection that is actually provided. It's down to you to read the threads and arguments and make your own choices. But in any fall at speed, the last thing you need is to be sticking your arm out. People who fall for a living all make a point of keeping heir arms out of the way when landing. Arms get tangled in things, twisted . . . sometimes off! While it's easy to place a hand on the ground to steady yourself, the moment you include a sideways movement you add a shearing force to even the slightest touch. This can dislocate and break fingers and wrists. One of the classics is putting your hand down in a sitting fall and landing on it giving you a spiral fractures of the forearm and wrist . . . very messy.

You age is related to this in the way that we all 'tend' to get heavier with age and unless we have a real dairy and exercise habit, bone density and strength decrease with age as we pass into and out of middle age.

Professional fallers try to land as flat and relaxed as possible and they also tend to wear body armour, as do I a lot of the time, Impact shorts and back protection. While a back protector might be thought overkill while taking your first slides, but if you're going to learn to fall well you may as well do it right from the start. A back protector and shorts can be had for less than £100 and are worth every penny.

Before we get into 'landing' techniques themselves, a word of warning, don't keep a camera, cell-phones, MP3 players etc. in a backpack or chest/hip pockets, they hurt like hell when you land on them and if they're caught between armour and hill they'll get broken. Put them in side pockets in packs and either armpit pockets in jackets or cargo pockets in your sallopettes. Historically these appear to be the places where they seem to cause and receive the least damage.

For falls where you're travelling at more than walking pace you need to adopt an arm position with your fists clenched and your wrists crossed over your Sternum (breast bone) and keeping your elbows tight to your ribs. . . called a 'braced' position

In a forward fall this will 'brace' your whole upper body, spread the impact over the front of your thighs and through your forearms into the chest structure letting the whole thing absorb the forces. You have far less chance of breaking your collar bones or dislocating your shoulders. With your arms and hands in this position your face is raised away from the landing surface keeping the small and easily broken bones of the face safer and less likely to be smeared over the piste. The forward rotation of your head will bring the much stronger forehead skull structure into contact and since that should be protected by a helmet absorbing the impact, you will lessening the possible brain rotation damage.

Try to breath in quite deeply during the fall itself and as you impact, shout out to release. Obviously you'll try to stiffen and resist the landing but the shout will stop you rupturing chest muscles and rib ligaments.

The other reason this position is preferred is that a fall at speed often entails a long slide that you need to control and stop. If you have a broken bone in your arm, that's not going to happen. With your arms in the fall position you are concious alert and already prepared to begin levering your body away from the piste using the big muscles in your upper arms and torso to begin the braking process and bringing your legs downhill and getting the edge of the board into the snow in a controlled manner. Your hands are still clenched and crossed supporting your collar bones.

Falling backwards is a little different in that you get yourself into the 'brace' during the fall but as you topple back try to resist sticking your backside out. While there is a lot of big, not particularly delicate muscle own there, if you stick it out you rotate your coccyx (tail-bone) out to be the first thing that hits the deck. This is a fairly robust piece of skeleton at the top where its linked to the pelvis but it tapers to a point and gets easily damaged if you drop it onto something hard. There can be a VERY nasty side effect of landing on your *rse and it's not as rare as people think. The hydraulic shock to the contents in your large intestine and colon as the rest of your gut lands on them in a sitting fall CAN rupture your Colon (needing surgery) . . . more commonly you strain your sphincter muscle and 'enjoy' a period of 'seepage' while things repair themselves.

Back to falling backwards, ideally you want to land as flat as possible and as you impact you can release your hands at the wrist and while still keeping your elbows tight, let the back of your arms drop to the surface and help absorb the force and give you a stable platform to get your board back into the snow surface. As you're falling, tuck your chin down to your chest, with your arms crossed in the braced position the whole of the neck and shoulder area is mutually stable and in less violent landings will keep your head off the surface. But for those times when you know its going to hurt your helmet will do its job.

While you probably won't be going particularly fast or on a wicked steep slope immediately after reading this, it's worth remembering that once you're down and sliding you have to think about what you're doing with your legs.
If you stiffen up to a rigid pole you can catch and lock an edge which will trebuchet your, soon to be broken, body in a graceful flight out over the piste for a fresh 'landing'. On the other hand if you relax too much and fold to the sound of knee ligaments snapping, you'll flip over in a whiplash of rag-doll destruction.
If you're on your back , you can let the heel edge engage and use your ankles to adjust the pressure and slip to slow you down while using your shoulders to determine direction and keep your slide stable.
On your front it's a little more difficult as you can't use your knees as shock absorbers. So you can either keep your board off the snow and use your knees and elbows as brakes or get your bum in the air and put the toe edge into a scrape. The latter needs a bit of experience and practice especially to get your hands off the snow as it's essentially getting yourself back up and sliding without stopping after the fall and in this recovery the first thing you have to do is get your head up for your balance references.

Just read this and scared me-self! Hmmmm . . . the reality is, if you can fall in such a way that's not going to hurt you (too much), then you don't need to be terrified of falling. So if you are in a group, spend a few minutes pushing each other around and down the hill. Practice and familiarity with the sensation removes the fear and enhances your skills for recovery.

You'll have realised by now that I've not said anything about strength and flexibility.

Strength has it's uses in boarding, especially when you're in a situation where you have a very long run that you cannot stop on or when you have to steer the board with brute-force (this is not part of early learning). It can come in a bit useful when you have to dig yourself out of Powder or 'bunny-hop' up a slope to get out of a 'situation', but it's NOT a determination of whether you can learn to or ride a board or not. Anyone at any age can do it. What's more important to us average bods is . . .

Flexibility. Touching toes etc. . . doesn't give you any skills, but it will enhance your ability to learn and it does mean that you can get off the deck and onto your feet easily on shallow surfaces. There is the added benefit that if you do fall there is far less chance of you pulling muscles and plucking ligaments. As a long term life-goal, staying flexible and free-moving should be part of your normal activities. The more flexible you are, the less stress you'll experience and effort you'll expend when you learn to board or do pretty much anything else in your lifestyle.


The young guns and kids reading this are going to laugh at this point . . . but I'll bet a weeks lift pass that they were just as clumsy that first week and just wait till they're carrying a bit more lard than they should be and some of their joints don't bend as well or as far as they ought.

Up on the hill it's not that difficult to plonk your backside onto the deck, drop your free heel into the cup, cinch your bindings and push up and off. Once you've done it for a week it'll feel like second nature. But the first few times you try you'll start sliding down the hill till your toe edge catches and you faceplant, or you'll sit straight down again . . . usually 'cos you're looking at your feet. So until you're used to catching your balance or heading straight off down the slope, use the heel-side of your board to chop yourself a little ledge in the snow to give you a tiny physical advantage when finding your balance point. It doesn't need to be large or deep, just enough to keep your board from slipping away.

Once clipped in, some people prefer to roll over onto their knees, stick their toe edge into the snow and push up and out and stand up. The only problem most people experience is because they look down, into and up the hill their balance needs to be already developing to avoid going over backwards into one of snowboarding's nastier falls.

The only things that will really make a difference to how long it takes you to get your balance is to . . .
First: Look up and out, find the horizon and a horizontal
Second: keep your knees soft and your body relaxed.

All the above is a bit academic if we're further down the hill on the flat or a shallow fall-line and while it is possible to use the above techniques on the flat, you do need to be fit and flexible to achieve them. I can't do it from the heel-side but from kneeling, don't use your arms, raise your body up and lean gently back till your shoulders are over your heels and your toes are in the snow, then just snap up to standing. This can get a bit tiring and can give your quads a serious workout if they're not used to it.

Me? I'm lazy, if the slope's shallow I just kick a bit of flat into the hill with my board, step the board into it, slip my free rear foot into my bindings, bend over and zip'm closed . . . job done.

HOPPING AROUND or "that's another fine mess you've got me into"

You've made it so far, you've got both feet bolted to your plank and like everyone else, you're not going to want to unclip every time you get stuck on a little bit of 'flat' or you want to get a up the hill a wee bit. There's only one thing for it, you have to learn to hop, spin and Ollie.
Hopping and spinning are self explanatory but the technique's a little strange, you can't use your ankles or toes to spring from so you have to develop the 'tighten gut' and pull up knees jump. It's not difficult but it is a bit more effort than you're probably used to. On a slope you use the same technique but with your hands on the snow to get up the hill, you look just like a rabbit but it works.

The other way to get around is to use the energy you store in your board when you bend it and to do that, you need to learn to Ollie (coo, snowboarding tricks already) The only skill needed for this is a bit of co-ordination . . . to go along with a bit of brute force. The principle is the same for both the tail (ollie) and the nose (nollie).

OLLIE: The technique is a slight jump (like hopping around), but you take your weight slightly to the tail of the board and press down your rear foot while lifting your front and compressing the tail of the board into the snow, this will lift you like a springboard as long as you keep the board in tension with your front foot lifted. If you relax your front leg the board will just slap down flat on the deck. The more effort you put in the more you'll get out. The way to mess it up is losing your balance ... lose that and you're a lump of ballistic shrapnel, so head up.

NOLLIE: It's virtually the same for the front. Weight over the front foot, small jump, and press down hard with your lead leg while raising your back foot and bending the nose of the board.

Getting all the forces in balance and coordinated will give you a spring like a trampoline . . . get really good and you can get your board up to chest height. You can use this trick in two ways to get around on the flat:
a) Start off with a small 'nollie' but rather than direct it straight up, keep your weight forward and launch yourself in he direction of the board, when you're air-born swing your feet and board sideways underneath you so you land on the tail but keep your body moving to the nose so that you can repeat the exercise. It's a bit like hopping sideways with your board making the same lolloping motion of a seal up a beach. Get a good rhythm going and you can go some distance without a lot of effort.
b) Start on either nose or tail but instead of landing it flat you go straight into another ollie on he opposite foot. Essentially you're hopping from foot to foot and using the spring in the board to give you rebound and height. Now you get clever and start swinging the rising hip forward on each bounce and moving the board across the flat . . . watch out for other people, you can do some damage with that big scythe.

It really works your stomach muscles and until you get practised you will have a tendency to strain your abs. Persevere but don't over do it at the beginning, a strained groin or stomach muscle is not too dangerous but it will affect your riding for longer than you think.


It's at this point I'm going to push noses out of joint 'cos I really hate side-slipping.
I think it's one of the most destructive and counter-productive tools in the learning to snowboard cannon. Yes it is a necessary skill and we need to learn all the ways it can be applied . . . but for learning how to influence and control the way a board moves and turns it is completely counter intuitive to discovering your body language, understanding feedback from your equipment and actually having fun while you're learning.

Which is why, for your first slides you'll be back down on your Bunny slope.
[sidebar] snow conditions and speed: Something you have to be aware of is how soft snow can slow you down. Most of the time you'll be learning on machined corduroy or well tracked and compacted snow. This surface is very fast, even with a fairly crappy wax job and you won't need much of a slope to gain a quite respectable speed 15-20kph. But get more than five cm. of fresh on top of that and the snow itself becomes a natural brake. You'll still slide, but at a slower pace and you may need to find a slightly steeper part of the hill.

Before that, we'll go over the basics of communicating with your board . . . and this doesn't mean flapping your arms around or whispering sweet nothings to it on a secluded gondola ride.

Remember we used the flag analogy for why a board will track true, straight and stable down the fall-line as long as your mass passes through the middle of the board ahead of the centre contact point? We're staying with that as I believe it's better to learn to turn OFF the fall-line than it is to persuade someone who's uncomfortable with the steepness of the slope to turn onto the fall-line, that's why basic turning skills are best learned on a slope that's safe and comfortable for you to let the board run out on.

The position where you place you mass in relation to the board is your primary method of control, your feet are the means of transmitting that into your board. Everything goes through your feet and in both directions. That's why comfortable, well fitting boots are really important . . . if your feet hurt, you won't learn anything. Moving your mass around the board is achieved through your ankles, knees and hips, above your hips it's just inertial mass that you have to keep in balance and that's the best use for your arms . . . counter-balance weights to absorb those small knocks and bounces that get through your lower 'suspension'

Suspension: is a really apt analogy for everything from your hips down as they perform both spring and damper roles. Your muscle springs keeps your backside off the deck and your fitness determines for how long you can absorb the moving inertia of your upper body and the forces created by your sliding board. The faster you slide, the better your 'suspension' needs to be.

Fast sliding (like fast driving) needs stronger springs to cope with bigger forces and stiff dampers to keep the forces and a wider movement range under control. If you stiffen and lock out your legs because you're tired or lactic acid build up turns your muscles into jelly . . . you're going to fall. The only reason racing cars with their tiny suspension range stay on the track is because their springs and dampers are incredibly well constructed to fine tolerances and they have several ton of aerodynamic down-force pushing them down into the road . . . without that, they'd never make it past the first corner.
As a beginner you don't need buns of steel and thighs of hemp to slide well, strength and endurance will come with practice. But to progress beyond most red runs you will need to be able to complete a set of two dozen or so full squats to standing without any 'discomfort'.

Now you understand the metaphor of your legs as suspension, try the even worse one of your hips as 'steering wheel' as this is where your steering effort originates . . . however the last thing you do is turn or twist them. Think of them more as a lever acting through your legs to move the point where your mass passes through the board.

At slower speeds this is most easily expressed as two capital 'Y's attached at the descender and laid lengthwise along the board Figure a:. The amount of movement you put into each arm of the 'Y"s is a matter of the speed your travelling at and the pitch of the slope. As you're on a gentle slope, your movements will be quite subtle and small Figure b:.

At higher speeds and when you start carving at speed, that movement will become a flattened figure '8' Figure c: as you alternate toe and heel-side carves.

Moving your hips along or around these paths needs you maintain a 'soft' stance, the position we learned in part one. Only now you have to soften or relax a little more to allow you keep your torso perpendicular to your board and still be able to move your hips. It's this movement of your legs that levers the forces into the board through your feet. Your ankles are there for delicate control only as the major forces are put into your board through your bindings.

When you move your hips out over your toes you need to relax into your boots and bindings. Let the stiffness of your boots support your shins and pass the energy of you pressing down through the bindings into the board. You should only need light effort through your ankles to maintain or adjust the pressure going into the leading edge. Let all this effort pass through your forefoot and NOT your toes . . . you should be able to wiggle your toes at any time during any manoeuvre.
On the heel-side it's a little different in that as you move your hips back you don't relax down as far and you let your calf press against your highback to lever the pressure into the board. Again, your feet and ankles are making minor adjustments and not trying to lever the board up and back with your toes.

Nothing in that last paragraph can be achieved efficiently or comfortably with straight legs.

Back on the hill, walk up to where you feel comfortable with sliding down from and chop yourself a flat ledge that you can stand on when clipped onto your board. Preferably this will be a little higher than where you were learning with just one foot clipped in, as by now your confidence should be rising. But don't feel forced to climb higher than you want . . . this is all about expanding your skills not enlarging your b*lls.

As before, once you're buckled in, get your head up and find your balance, relax and wriggle the board under you to get a feel of the snow . . . it does change day by day and even during the day.
It doesn't matter if you're facing down the fall-line or up the hill, you'll be doing both anyway.

Before setting off on ANY manoeuvre, check up the hill and around you to make sure you're not setting off into anyone's path or that you're likely to run into anyone. While the person above you on the hill carries the major responsibility for people below them, you can't blame the bus driver for the idiot that walks out in front of their bus . . . It's down to you not to do something stupid!

Now bring your weight along the board and over your lead leg, give the board a wiggle and slide off the ledge. Don't fight the board, just keep your weight forward*, your knees relaxed, your torso in line with the board and your head up with your arms relaxed and out to the sides. Like before the board will turn gently gown the hill and track true along the fall-line. It's now entirely up to you whether you let the board run out till it stops to experience that fall-line glide. If you fall it's because you either looked down, bent at the hips or let your weight move back behind the centre of the board. Ideally you should be able to glide down this without a fall or a worry before you attempt to turn. It is surprisingly useful to be able to glide long gentle green links between lifts and pistes. These are often narrow and can be busy, your skill will be much appreciated by your fellow sliders. Practice this and all drills by setting off from both face up and face down the hill.

*This is the first time your binding settings will have a true test of their position, While you were using just your front foot, your mass was staying ahead of the board centre by default. Your rear foot is now three or four inches further back and your weight distribution has changed. You need to be quite positive in your positioning, but if you find your board spins round no matter how far forward you try to get, bring your back binding forward a setting and try again. If that doesn't help, move your front binding, but try making your stance a bit narrower first as too wide a stance can stop you moving your hips far enough.

Once you're sliding straight confidently you can start playing about with edge pressure. This is exactly the same as when you were practising with one foot clipped in:


toe-side turn to traverse:
As you're heading straight down the fall-line, lower your lead hip and knee and rest your shin onto the tongue of your boot, let your ankle flex a little and feel the pressure in your foot move the board slightly onto the toe edge. You don't have to worry much about your trailing leg, it will follow along on its own. The harder you press down through your boot the more the edge will engage and the quicker you'll turn. Keep your torso in line with the board, your head up looking where you're going and preferably where you want to go, keeping your balance.

Once you've turned across the hill, if you bring your weight diagonally slightly back to centre and share the weight distribution into both your boots keeping the whole of the board edge engaged in the snow, your board will track a clean line across and down the slope "traversing". In this position you can relax and trundle on for as long as you like. Don't try to push down with your toes, if your feel the board start to side-slip (you'll hear the scraping noise) relax your knees down a bit more and increase the edge angle.

Releasing the Traverse:
You only need to release the toe edge by rising up out of the crouch and moving your weight forward along the centreline of the board and it will easily turn back down the fall-line. You can force this a little by moving your weight slightly to the leading heel-side, but until you're familiar with the feeling it's best let the board move naturally while you concentrate on staying relaxed and balanced.

toe-side turn to stop: (the side-slip)
Stopping your board is a turn. The difference is that immediately after you initiate the turn you move your weight back toward centre but still with your lead leg pressing the toe edge. At the same time, instead of keeping toe pressure on your rear foot, release it and your board will skid in a pivot around that front contact point. Your skill will be in learning when and by how much to re-apply edge pressure to stop the rotation and to balance the 'side-slip' you're now in.
Rule 1 in side-slipping Keep your knees soft. Your board is creating ridges of snow to bounce over, it may well be catching on a rough surface under soft snow and on wet sticky snow it could come to a very sudden stop . . . you need to be prepared to absorb the shocks.
At the speeds you'll be travelling at here you won't get the chance to experiment with moving your weight along the board and back or playing with the amount of edge angle to steer the board while you slip down the fall-line
Rule 2 in side-slipping Head Up. This is one exercise that is entirely based on balance and feel for what's going on under your feet. You need to keep aware of your surroundings. Don't bend at the waist and try to keep your shoulders in line with the board..
Rule 3 in side-slipping It's better to fall into the hill than it is to catch the downhill edge and flick yourself over. So while learning it's good practice to be a little aggressive with the engaged edge, avoiding that problem.

Take the above two exercises up a notch by shortening the interval between the turn to toe-side and the release. Build up the level of effort you put into it each time till you can feel the board track along the edge and start to curve around and up rather than just hold a straight line across the slope. You're just feeling the beginning of a 'carve'. If you find your back foot 'washing' out and slipping around against the direction of travel it's because your releasing the edge. All you need to do is ensure you stay low and relaxed until you rise up and release the turn

As you should just be starting to experience a small 'carve' before releasing to turn back down the hill, you can begin to challenge yourself by letting your board run straight till you reach terminal velocity for your slope and then really drop down aggressively to begin that toe-side turn and stay there as the board rolls onto its edge and tracks a nice carve. Let your body stay perpendicular to the board and incline into the slope to balance the centripetal force. If you keep your weight forward and low the board will continue to try and tighten the turn till you come to a stop and drop on your face. Releasing the carve is just the same as above.

heel-side turn to traverse:
Again, after you've slid off your ledge, weight in front of the centre-point, head up and letting your board turn down the hill, you move your weight further forward and to the heel-side. You can't press down through your boot this time so it's not quite as automatic for the board to roll slightly onto its edge with you staying in absolute balance.
As you move your hips forward keeping your torso in line with the board you need to go a little further than on your toe side and not quite as low, let your calf and the back/side* of your boot push into the highback to twist the board and your contact point into the front heel-side edge, letting it cut into the snow and lifting the toe-side away from the surface..
*Binding angle plays a role in this as the more alpine the stance, the easier it is to relax your leading knee and hip, transferring mass into the heel-side without having to lever hard on the bindings. The more 'square on' or 'duck' you ride at, the greater effort needed to learn your balance points. You have to adjust your technique quite radically as your foot angle moves away from forward facing and into 'duck'
To counteract this or make it a little easier, it's time to apply a little torque or 'pedal'. You'll use this more aggressively when you work to improve your carving technique. It's simply using your rear foot to twist the board. In this case as you move your mass forward and as far to the heel-side as you can without getting unbalanced . . . raise the toes of your trailing leg against the toe-strap, twisting the board and levering the leading edge into the snow and enhancing the start of the turn.

As you turn across the hill the same thing happens as on the toe-side. If you keep your weight going into the leading edge you'll continue to turn till you stop. You need to partially release the pressure and equalise your stance to let tip and tail edges weight equally into the hill. This requires a bit more finesse and balance than on your toe-side to keep your leverage going through your bindings. Rather than straighten your legs and bend at the waist to tip your board edges into the hill by forcing your highbacks down figure d. Rather, you drop your hips down and back. Keeping your torso as perpendicular to the board as possible figure e.
There are two reasons for this:
a) stiffening your legs locks off your suspension and your board will bounce out of its track and you'll end on your butt.
b) Adopting the straight leg bent waist position moves the insertion point of your mass into the board above the point where the board contacts the snow surface, meaning that not only do you need to keep an acute angle of the edge into the surface but you also suffer from greater leverage going through your ankles, this increases the shearing force between edge and surface.
Softening your legs and dropping your hips means that all the forces are entering the edge contact point, increasing its grip.

Releasing the Traverse:
Is straightforward; from the balanced traverse, bring your hips and weight forward and centre, releasing the edge and the board will easily turn down the slope. Again, you can force this by dropping a little harder onto your lead leg and moving the pressure point into the toe edge. DON'T start leaning until you're into the turn itself and look where you want to go. Remember, keep your shoulders in line with your board and your arms relaxed, they're there to maintain your balance and not steer your board.

Heel-side turn to stop: (the side-slip)
Again, stopping your board is a turn. After you initiate the turn don't pull you trailing leg toes up, instead let the trailing leg 'wash out', pivoting on the front contact point, them move your weight back toward centre until pressure ids equalised between the ends of the board.Once again, your skill will be in learning when and by how much to re-apply edge pressure to stop the rotation and to balance the 'side-slip' you're now in. . . . The 'rules' stay the same. . .
Rule 1 Keep your knees soft. Your board is creating ridges of snow to bounce over, it may well be catching on a rough surface under soft snow and on wet sticky snow it could come to a very sudden stop . . . you need to be prepared to absorb the shocks.
At the speeds you'll be travelling at here you won't get the chance to experiment with moving your weight along the board and back or playing with the amount of edge angle to steer the board while you slip down the fall-line
Rule 2 Head Up. This is one exercise that is entirely based on balance and feel for what's going on under your feet. You need to keep aware of your surroundings. Don't bend at the waist and try to keep your shoulders in line with the board..
Rule 3 It's better to fall into the hill than it is to catch the downhill edge and flick yourself over. So while learning it's good practice to be a little aggressive with the engaged edge, avoiding that problem.

Take the above two exercises up a notch by shortening the interval between the turn to heel-side and the release. Build up the level of effort you put into it each time till you can feel the board track along the edge and start to curve around and up rather than just hold a straight line across the slope. Again you're just feeling the beginning of a 'carve'. If you find your back foot 'washing' out and slipping around against the direction of travel it's because your releasing the edge. Keep a little 'pedal' uplift on your back-foot and stay low and relaxed until you rise up and release the turn. You shouldn't need to pedal at the speeds and slope angle when you start to learn, your body position should be more than adequate . . . but it's a technique that will be useful later.

Again as you repeat the exercise you should begin to experience a small 'carve' before releasing to turn back down the hill, you can challenge yourself by letting your board run straight till you reach terminal velocity for your slope and then push forward and down to begin that heel-side turn and stay there as the board rolls onto its edge and tracks a nice carve. Keep your hips low and your head up. If you keep your weight forward and low the board will continue to try and tighten the turn till you come to a stop and drop on your butt. Releasing the carve is just the same as above.

By the time you've finished the exercises above, you have already accomplished linked turns, just at a diagonal across the hill. Now's the time to repeat the drills alternating down along the fall-line. Pick a target point and go for it even if you only manage two or three turns. Each time you do this your turns will get shorter and quicker.

You already know the feeling of turning off the fall-line, dropping and moving your mass into the leading edge in the direction you want to turn. And you know how to use your mass to slide into the fall-line, joining these two movements just needs a little adjustment in that from the traverse you drop onto your lead leg earlier so that you begin to turn on your edge before you are pointing directly down the hill. You stay low and forward through the turn till you get to the point where you want to release and rise up and transfer your mass to the other edge by dropping and weighting it. It's much easier to do this in nice big gentle sweeps but as you practice you will find that you can tighten the turns into very short swings.

An exercise that you'll find very useful is to take these short swinging linked turns and turn them into 'half-stops'. As you get past the fall-line, release the trailing edge and let a little pressure go into the tail (this can, with practice, be done by leg pressure alone, but you may need to bring your body back a little) and let it 'wash around' the front pivot point a little and scrub off some speed before re-engaging the edge with toe pressure and moving your mass back over the lead leg. And completing the turn to repeat the same on your other edge. This is an ideal way to control your speed on a narrow cat-track. If the track is very narrow, you can confine the manoeuvre to just one edge . . . but that's being sloppy.

It's important that you practice all of the above exercises both on your lead foot and on your switch leg. Becoming ambidextrous right at the start of the learning process will bring huge dividends when you get higher up the hill and further into your learning curve.

All of the above shouldn't take you more than a day and a half and added to the half day learning to ride on one foot totals two days to get to the point where you know what your doing and to start adding both pitch and speed to your sliding


SIDE-SLIPPING EXERCISES Bet you were wondering when I'd get around to this?
They're not much use to you on a gentle slope but when things get steeper it's a useful technique to adjust your place on the hill. The position is the same as you use when stopping, keeping the force of your body mass passing through the edge into the slope surface, the difference being that you adjust your edge pressure through either releasing the engaged edge by loosening your ankles or moving your balance point in front of the edge . . . more likely it will be a natural mix of both.

Once you are slipping away, all you need to do is move your weight slightly along the line of your board and it will track diagonally across the hill toward whichever leg is applying the greater pressure. At any time you can release the slip by dropping into a turn. Repeatedly turning down the hill then edging into a side-slip on the same edge is called a 'garland' and alternately side-slipping from side to side down a slope is called a 'falling leaf' . . . personally I'd prefer never to hear them again.

Yes you must practice them and they are an essential tool when you do get into a situation or pitch that your not ready for. The side-slip is not part of riding your board, it's part of your safety repertoire. Practice and prepare for its use but please don't use your ability to deploy it just to go higher and steeper than is sensible in the first week or two of learning.


Are down to you, with a bit of luck and application you could well have got to this point in a couple of days without falling too much and you're feeling fine about heading off straight down or turning into the fall-line, All the above is not meant to replace lessons, just an attempt to provide you with insight into why you and your board do things and to give you the confidence to challenge the hill on each step of the journey to its progressively steeper runs. When your instructor tells you to do something, you'll know and understand some of the body language and physics involved.

You could take the above and go and find some nice big open greens or shallow blues to repeat the same exercises, but you really will benefit from the feedback and encouragement of instruction.

If you do venture up on the hill without instruction, there are a few basic rules you must follow.

1)The skier or rider below you has right of way . . . but don't assume that they've any common sense.
2)Always check up the hill before setting off
3)Don't stop or congregate below a rise or where the piste narrows markedly.
4)Always stop at the side of a run.
5)Always stop if you collide with anyone.


1)Don't drink too much.
2)Come to a stop on your toe-side so that you can see what's coming behind you and you can adjust you stopping point if necessary.
3)Buy your instructor lunch.
4)Don't go on steep runs just 'cos they're there
5)Don't follow tracks off piste.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Thank you Masque.

Although I don't consider myself a beginner (others might though!), reading Part 1 and 2 makes me realise how much I DON'T know.

Very informative and helpful.

Very Happy
latest report
 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?

As always, a massive 'Thank You' must be extended for a thoroyughly good read and some valuable tips that will be promptly printed out and taken with me to read again on the flight this Saturday.
Masque wrote:
. . . more commonly you strain your sphincter muscle and 'enjoy' a period of 'seepage' while things repair themselves...

I'm getting the fear just reading this part - better take the Vanish tablets this time!!! Very Happy Very Happy
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.

5)Always stop if you collide with anyone.

Maybe needs a slight re phrase as maybe not stopping caused the collision Toofy Grin

Maybe this should read 'always find out if the person you have collided with is ok'-then moan about them in the bar later that evening. Very Happy

Some great advice so far-keep it coming,we will soon have our bible! Toofy Grin
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Masque, as someone firmly in the beginner stage I have found this to be extremely useful information and the style in which it is written is very helpful and accessible. The only problem is that it makes me keep thinking about it and I just can't wait to have another go! Keep up the good work! Very Happy
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
bump, still working on the illustrations . . . been a bit busy on other stuff
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Specialman wrote:
Masque wrote:
. . . more commonly you strain your sphincter muscle and 'enjoy' a period of 'seepage' while things repair themselves...

My friend broke his coccyx bone this thursday landing on a tree (don't ask... rolling eyes )..Just sent him this sentence/paragrah to cheer him up in a "could have been worse" manoeuvre! Toofy Grin
You should see the bruise on his bum/back!!! Shocked

Anyway, great read! I somehow missed it in May...
Main learning points for me are learning to fall and also learn to link turns using with either foot at the front..never thought of doing that!..That'll be next year unfortunately..
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Masque, I know this is still draft but can you make this a Sticky so its up next to your first installment. Great reading by the way as a soon to be newbie boarder I'm soaking it all up I'm sure some of it will make more sense after the first face plant Toofy Grin
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Masque wrote:
. . . more commonly you strain your sphincter muscle and 'enjoy' a period of 'seepage' while things repair themselves...

My brother was adamant this happened after a nasty landing from a park jump. Quick check of the fabric, no unexplained marks, so all was well Laughing
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