How to Carve on a Snowboard

Looking to learn how to carve? Snowboarding Expert Andre Santos provides you with an easy to follow guide on how to improve your carving skills.

Snowboarder carving on the mountain and sending up a spray of snow with their hand.

Photo by Stefi Luxton, courtesy of Monument

What Is Carving?

Carving is a snowboarding term used to describe the motion when a rider makes precise and smooth transitions from heel edge to toe edge on each turn. When a rider is able to keep control underfoot, manage a strong S-shape during downhill, and stop on a dime—that is when one can say they have reached proficiency in their carving abilities. Achieving the carve requires an athletic stance coupled with superior control of your entire body weight all on the edge of your snowboard.

While you may be an absolute beginner on the mountain, the majority of the tips below will best apply to those who have some experience and can get down the mountain relatively okay by stopping and turning!

How Do I Learn?

Man snowboarding on snow

Photo by Алина Хабарова

Carving has a lot to do with the hips and your ability to be continuously traversing your body weight throughout the snowboard edge. In this article, we suggest some tips for preparing your board, visualizing your movements, and putting it all into practice. With time, and yes more practice, this should get you carving your way down many mountains.

Before you can consider carving, you must first master both heel-side and toe-side turning, as well as the ability to stop relatively quickly. These steps are crucial in getting into the carving more, without being able to confidently turn on both sides it’ll be hard to put the entire movement together, for more reading this article has some tips on setting up your stance and working on turning. Also, check out this YouTube video for a better visual!

Where Do I Start?

1. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and your snowboarding goals

The first thing to assess up front with total honesty is your skill level. Is it reasonable to expect to be carving up black groomers on your first week out? Probably not, but that's okay! Many of the riders we see sending it off completely massive jumps have spent 1000’s of hours (yes, an immense amount of time) practicing, practicing, and practicing. It’s super important to set small goals when beginning, so you can build momentum.

I can remember taking a friend out for their first snowboard day, and the first thing I had them do was practice kicking around with just one foot strapped in on flat surfaces. Then I got them comfortable sliding down a slow grade with one foot strapped in, and went small steps all the way to hoping on the chairlift for a blue run on day one! Breaking your goals down into micro-steps is super useful for your carving journey and really any other goal you might be working on!

2. Take a look at your setup. Does your gear match the level of riding you aspire to?

The second thing you’ll want to assess is your gear. Do you rent or do you own the equipment you use? How old is your setup? Width is also an important factor. Are you on a board that's too wide or too narrow? Are you using a board that doesn't get waxed very often? This will eventually affect the edge of your board and how well you are able to precisely apply pressure control to the carving edge. Another thing to consider is your boots—are they stiff, loose, tight, or old? When getting into advanced snowboarding and hitting carves it is imperative that the rider has the quality gear to match these skills.

Expert note: Even when you arrive at the kingdom of carvers and no longer need the advice in this article, always make sure to prioritize your board’s maintenance!

3. Consider taking a few lessons or making the time to practice your skills more consistently.

The third consideration is time. Have you been snowboarding for the past three years but still don't feel like you’ve progressed much in your carving? If you feel like you’re stagnating with your progress… If you want more info on more ways to get better, check out this Burton article on how you can be exercising for succes!

How Does Carving on a Snowboard Work?

There is a good deal of physics involved in the art of carving, and depending on who you ask you’ll hear different perspectives on how to get the best turns out on the mountain. For me, snowboarding came a bit like walking—I knew that I wanted to get from “here” to “there” and over time my muscles were able to practice enough to get to the point that I could reliably carve without having to think too much about the process. For other people, the journey might look a little different.

This leads to the next question: What is the process? Your boots are on, you just strapped in at the top of a freshly-groomed run, you’ve gotten plenty of days under your belt learning how to toe-side and heel-side for turns. Now you want to start moving faster. Imagining you’re standing on a pretty chill slope, your first move is to:

1. Target where you want to go.

This is an integral step in starting the practice of carving. Pick out a certain tree, a trail sign, or even just another spot on the trail. This will set you up for the next important question…

2. How am I gonna get there?

This is an equally important step in the process (crucially, you should still be standing up at the top of the run while doing this). Asking this question at the beginning of the carving journey forces you to assess the terrain. Consider where the lumps and trees are, which parts are steeper or flatter, and what sections look good for a heel-side turn versus a toe-side turn. This allows you to envision your run and allows you to picture yourself getting down the slope and carving up the run. By charting out a course, you’re essentially creating a little map in your head for yourself. Once you do this the next step is to execute.

3. Executing a carving run

Man in blue full zip jacket on snowy field

Photo by Visit Almaty

Now that you know where you’re going (let’s say, to the waffle cabin) and you know how you wanna get there (you’ll drop on the left side of the slope, hit that powder pocket on the heel side and transfer to the toeside etc.) you can really start to put your skills into practice.

4. Practice

Woman warming up while coaching

Photo by Julia Larson

You can start applying this process to increasingly smaller turns and challenges as your muscle memory improves and your reaction times get quicker, but overall this should be all you need to get out there and get going on your carving journey!

Make sure your knees and ankles are good to go. Like any other exercise make sure you adequately do some warm ups (anything to get the Heart Rate up some and blood flowing through the muscles and joints)

Final Tips

Like most sports that require physical and mental coordination, practice makes perfect. The ultimate way to improve on your carving skills is to just get out there on the mountain and carve! Any questions or just want to chat more about snowboarding? Reach out to a Snowboard Expert here on Curated!

Snowboard Expert Andre Santos
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Andre Santos
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Written By
I've been in the Outdoor Industry for the past decade. From ski clubs, to outdoor education courses, to helping friends get sweet setups and good deals on lift tickets. I also have spent a good amount of time in gear shops and resorts working and talking with other gear experts. I'd love to help you...

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