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Maneuvering Through Those Menacing Moguls

Snowboarding through moguls can be tricky—but that doesn't mean you can't learn!

A snowboarder at the top of a mountain with two buddies
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It’s a situation that has happened to all of us at one point or another in our snowboarding careers. You’re cruising along with all of your buddies, having a grand old time, when you are met by a sight that stops you dead in your tracks: giant Volkswagen-sized bumps as far as the eye can see standing between you and the bottom. These, of course, are moguls. Your skier buddies don’t seem to notice and charge on ahead, bouncing playfully between these monsters. But you, a dedicated student of the snowboard, are stumped on how to proceed. It seems that no matter how you struggle your efforts are always met with a terrifying series of lost edges and hard falls.

Moguls can be a very frustrating stumbling block for many beginner and intermediate snowboarders. Not only can riding moguls be an unnerving prospect for the inexperienced, but the inability (or unwillingness) to ride them could make entire sections of your hometown hill inaccessible. You may have even heard some claim that snowboarders just plain can’t ride moguls at all! But fear not, riders! Moguls are not nearly as unapproachable as you may think. With the right mindset, the right set of skills, and a little bit of practice, these once terrifying obstacles can be conquered and even (dare I say) enjoyed. Here are a few tips to help you better handle the bumpy menace of moguls.

A mogul field as seen from the bottom of the slope

Don't let this sight intimidate you. Photo by Marco Rossetti

Knees Are the Key

The most basic techniques of snowboarding can serve you extremely well when riding moguls. First and foremost of these is to keep your knees bent and activated. A lot of times when you see an inexperienced rider encounter an obstacle they are not familiar with, they will adopt a much less aggressive stance by standing up with their legs straight. While this may make you more comfortable at first, this means your legs are not ready for the impact of bouncing off of moguls. Stay low, keep your knees bent, and keep them ready. When you come up to a mogul use your knees like shock absorbers and cushion the impact. This way the moguls won’t throw you off of your line or, even worse, into the air.

Also, as you move between the moguls, use your knees to push off of one and slide you into the next one. Think of a series of moguls as a series of tiny banked turns. Ride up the side of the mogul, using your knees to absorb the impact, and then ride down the side of the mogul, using that absorbed energy to propel you to the next mogul. Taking this active approach when riding moguls will make you feel more in control and less like you are wildly pinballing down an icy chute!

Anticipate Your Moves

When world-class ski racers are speeding through gates, they don’t focus on the gate that is right in front of them. Rather, they look two or three gates down the line in order to better plot out their line and determine when to initiate their turns. The same logic applies when riding moguls on a board. If you only focus on navigating the mogul that is directly in front of you, there's a good chance that the next mogul is going to catch you off balance. Initiate your turns early and, as soon as you are set up to successfully navigate the mogul in front of you, start looking ahead to the next two or three turns that you are going to have to make.

Also, sometimes when fancy footwork is required on a board, there is a tendency for riders to look down at their feet. Keep your eyes up! Not only will this help you to anticipate the next couple of moguls but it will keep you nicely centered and balanced over your board. This also ensures that if something unexpected should occur in front of you (fallen child, surprise rock, gnarly ice), you are balanced, aware, and capable of taking evasive action.

Slow It Down

Your speed can make a huge difference when riding moguls. Riders who are newer to moguls may enter them with too much speed to navigate them safely or may even find themselves accelerating out of control once in the mogul field. When it comes to moguls on a board, start slow and easy and adjust your speed from there.

A snowboarder skids to a stop, sending out a wave of snow spray, which glimmers in the sun

Butt sliding through bumps is no fun... Photo by Mattias Olsson

First, as you begin to approach a mogul field, slow down. You aren’t trying to catch air off of the first few bumps. Take a few nice and easy turns before the mogul field to cut speed and scope out where you would like to enter.

Next, once you are in the mogul field, make your first couple of turns nice, easy, and slow. Get a feel for how big the bumps are, how evenly they are spaced, and how wide and steep the troughs between the bumps are. Use these first couple of turns to scope out your line and determine where you want to go. Remember, you do not have to take a straight line to get to your destination. A lot of beginning mogul riders get tunnel vision and end up following a trough that goes straight down hill. This leads to rapid acceleration and loss of control. Don’t be afraid across the hill in order to kill some of the speed you may pick up.

Finally, once you feel comfortable, start to move into the mogul field and pick up a bit of speed. Take it easy and focus on flowing your turns between the bumps. Keep a close eye on your speed and control. And please, please, PLEASE…

Don’t Be Afraid to Bail!

While you are riding you have to be honest with yourself about your comfort level. It’s very easy to see other skiers and riders blasting through moguls and think that you have to be moving at their speed in order to be “doing it right.” The truth of the matter is that every turn you make in a mogul field is one more turn closer to mastering riding moguls, no matter how fast or slow those turns are.

In other words, do not be afraid to stop. It is very easy to get overwhelmed by a lot of rough terrain rushing toward you when you aren’t ready for it. The benefits of a quick break cannot be overstated. First of all, it will give your legs a little bit of a rest. Riding moguls may be one of the most tiring things you can do in all of skiing and snowboarding, so stopping to make sure your legs are ready for more bumps is always a good thing.

Next, stopping can give you a chance to reevaluate your line. Moguls have a way of mesmerizing people. You may get so focused on making precise turns that you don’t realize you are heading somewhere you don’t want to be. Take a minute every once in a while to reorient yourself.

Finally, a quicker breather may let you know it’s time to move on. Plenty of riders have pulled over to the side for a moment only to realize that they were way more fatigued than they thought they were. A quick moment may allow you to take stock of what your body is telling you so that you can make the best choices for staying safe and keeping your stoke going for the rest of your day.

A snowboarder standing at the top of a slope with cloudy, white, snow-topped mountains in the background

Don’t let moguls deny you your view! Photo by Yann Allegre

Moguls may have a bit of a scary aura around them for the inexperienced. However, they absolutely do not have to ruin your day or keep you from enjoying every last inch of whatever mountain you find yourself on. Heck, you may even find yourself seeking out the bumps from time to time! If you need the perfect board to take on the moguls, reach out to a Curated expert for free, personalized advice and recommendations. Have fun, stay safe, and stay stoked!

Meet the author
Snowboard Expert Jacob Z.
Jacob Z.
Snowboard Expert
Jacob here! How can I help?
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Written By
Hey guys! I'm Jacob and for the last six years I've been living and working in the Vail Valley. Currently, however, I find myself back on my native east coast. Can't wait to get back to my roots and do some good old fashioned east coast ice riding! I've been riding for twenty years now and can't ima...

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