How to Snowboard with Friends of Different Levels

Going snowboarding with your friends and worried about managing different ability levels? Snowboard expert Skye F. overviews how to maximize your time on the slopes.

Photo courtesy of Curated snowboard expert Mick O'Hare
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There’s nothing better than planning a ski trip with your buddies, renting a cabin near the mountain, and spending a weekend shredding the mountain, tailgating in the parking lot, and (if you’re lucky) relaxing in a hot tub at the end of the night.

A log cabin in a snowy forest
Photo by Adriaan Greyling

This all sounds like a recipe for an ideal weekend, except for one small thing—your friend group has different levels of ability when it comes to snowboarding or skiing. You might have some bunny-slope regulars, someone who wants to take park laps all day, and some others who want to charge down double blacks. Chances are, if you’ve ever gone snowboarding with a group of people, there will be some variation in the group’s abilities. Sometimes it can be frustrating, and you may find yourself waiting a little longer than you’d like. Or if you are a beginner, you may feel anxious about going out for the first time with a crew of advanced riders. Whatever the situation is between you and your friend group, there are still ways to have an epic day shredding!

Snowboarders carrying their boards on a ridge of a snowy mountain
Photo by Naomi Hutchinson

For the Experts of the Group

If you’re the friend of the group who is always pushing for one more run before taking a break and loves dashing in and out of the trees and charging down the double blacks, you may find yourself waiting and waiting throughout the day for those friends of lower riding capabilities. One trick that I’ve learned to help stave off the boredom of being the fastest one in the group is to let your friends take off before you. Give them some time to get a ways down the mountain, and then you can charge to the bottom without feeling like you have to stop and wait every 30 seconds for them to catch up!

Sometimes, I will also see if my friends want some tips and tricks. If your friends are okay with you giving advice, watch them as they go down and help them out. Give them some tips on their turns, their stance or body positioning, or anything else you notice that they can improve on.

Another thing that I tend to do when I am spending most of my day on greens and blues is to practice some new tricks. Maybe try to ride switch, and practice your butters and tripods or any other flat-ground tricks that you can think up. By doing this, you’ll be slowing yourself down—which will benefit your friends—and you’ll be keeping yourself entertained! A win-win for everyone.

Here are some easy tricks to try when you’re more advanced than your friends who you’re riding with:

  • Butters: Learning how to butter is a key step in learning to spin. Buttering is when you lean heavily on one of your legs and lift up the other in the air so that there is one point of contact (one foot) on the snow. It’s the equivalent of a wheelie. These are fun to practice and quite simple once you get the hang of it!
  • Spins: Once you learn how to butter, you can easily translate that into a ground spin. To learn to spin, you basically want to make a toe-side or heelside turn and keep turning once your board is facing the other direction. Tail spins with your nose in the air are the easiest to learn, especially if you got buttering down.
  • Tripods: Tripods are a fun, simple trick that you can practice anytime. A tripod is when the nose of the board is in the air and your hands are placed on the ground by your tail.
View from below of a snowboarder executing a jump
Photo by Skitterphoto

These tricks are just some of my personal favorites to work on when I’m riding with friends who are at a lower level than myself.

For the Beginners of the Group

In my not-so-humble opinion, the absolute best thing that you can do if you’re with a group and you are a beginner is to enroll in a half-day private lesson. By doing this, you make sure that you’re getting up and making the most of the day. You also will take some pressure off yourself and your friends to ski together, letting everyone go where they want and ski the terrain they want. By lunchtime, your friends will be ready for a nice, long break and you will be feeling confident in what you learned during your lesson. Grab some lunch and drinks with your buddies and catch up on the morning, and then make a plan for the afternoon. Lessons truly are a great way to get the basics down and build your confidence before you go out on your own or out with your group. Remember, coaches have truly seen it all on the mountain, so you should never feel embarrassed or worry about being a beginner.

Tips and Tricks

I’ve included some extra tips and tricks for everyone to follow to make sure that your crew has the best day of shredding, even with riders of different levels. The way that I figured these out is through multiple years of being the beginner snowboarder of the friend group then getting better each year. Then, when I brought friends from college to my hometown for a weekend at the mountain, I found myself way above their levels and had to figure out ways to keep the weekend fun for them, but also keep myself from staying on the magic carpet all day. Try out some of these tips on your next weekend snowboard or ski trip, and relax knowing that everyone is feeling safe and having fun!

The Buddy System

If you have enough people who share similar abilities, pair off using the buddy system for part of the day. That way, you are still hanging with your crew, except nobody feels pressure to stay behind on the greens and nobody is pushing themselves into dangerous territory by going on trails beyond their expertise. Using the buddy system is also a smart plan because it keeps everyone safer. Keep track of your friends, even if you aren’t riding on the same trails.

Check In!

Warm-up breaks, Snapchatting or texting, and sharing lift rides are a common and easy way to check in with each other, share a laugh, and make a plan for the rest of the day! On that note, it’s also important to…

Have a Common Meet-Up Spot

Maybe your crew has an uneven number or only one person is a beginner in the group. Or maybe you all start the day together but get lost or go your separate ways for a run or two. It may be best to have a meet-up spot and a specific time to meet up. Everyone can go their separate ways for a few runs, then plan on taking the chairlift up together at a certain time. Great spots to plan to meet up are outdoor fireplaces, specific chairlifts, or the aprés spot…

Ride Switch

Along with the ground tricks that were mentioned above, if you are the advanced rider of the group, try to work on your switch riding. Switch riding is when you lead with your non-dominant foot. If you’re regular, you’d be riding goofy… and vice versa. Riding switch is a fun way to practice your skills and lay the groundwork for a lot of different tricks. You’ll also be going slower and perhaps falling at times, so it will be like you’re learning the sport all over again, just as your beginner friends are learning for the first time.

Go with the Flow

At the end of the day, the best advice I have for everyone involved is to go with the flow. If you’re an advanced rider, chances are you might be taking a few laps on some greens with your buddies. If you’re a beginner, enjoy the ability to learn at your own pace if you’re taking a few laps by yourself!

What matters about going out with your friends is making memories and enjoying time outside. Whether you’re a beginner rider, a fan of green and blue groomers, or a powder chaser, don’t fret about the abilities of those around you—focus on having a good day and making memories, and the rest will fall into place.

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Written By
Native to the east coast, aka "ice coast" I've been a snowboarder for the past 12 seasons, and a coach for the past 6. I spend my summers above treeline in the White Mountains, and my winters chasing snow. ​ I have lots of experience with youth gear- I know the right boards, size, and setup to get y...

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