What You Need to Know for Your First Time Snowboarding

Your first time snowboarding can be intimidating. Here are some tips from Snowboard Expert Kristina Spencer to make your first day on the slopes a great one!

Someone snowboards downhill near a chairlift of people coming up the mountain.

Photo courtesy of pxhere

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One thing I've found to be true throughout my life, regardless of where I live or what I do, is that people's perceptions don't always apply to my experiences. Skiing vs. snowboarding is no exception. There is a bit of a rivalry between the two sports with each side thinking their way is the best one. This rivalry is so entrenched in the industry that there are even some resorts, like Alta Ski Area, that still will not allow snowboarders on the mountain! If everyone you know is a skier, it can be hard to learn more about snowboarding from an objective source. So, here are some tips from a snowboarder to help your first time snowboarding go smoothly.

Snowboarding Isn’t Harder than Skiing!

Snowboarding is not more difficult than skiing—it's just different. With snowboarding, your feet are attached to one board which can feel awkward when sliding sideways, but at least your legs can't accidentally go into the splits. Standing up on a snowboard can be intimidating at first, but it can be hard on skis too. Each sport is challenging in its own way!

Here's a hack I've found to make standing up on a snowboard easier: when you want to stand up and doing it from your butt is too difficult, rollover to your stomach and stand up onto your toeside. You'll look a bit like a turtle trying to roll over, but your ab muscles will thank you later.

What to Wear

A woman walks through the snow holding her snowboard. She wears a long jacket, a helmet, gloves, and goggles.

Photo by Jones Snowboards

Wearing jeans to your yoga class is not a good idea and neither is wearing them to go snowboarding! The cotton will freeze, and jeans are stiff and uncomfortable on the slopes. So as a rule, no jeans on the slopes!

When planning your outfit, keeping it simple and not overdressing is key so that you don't overheat before lunchtime. To help know what to wear, I've listed a few items that are important to wear while snowboarding.

  • Base layers: A good base layer is essential, such as thermal underwear or leggings plus a top. Non-cotton leggings, such as polyester or lycra, for running or yoga, are a good option for under your snow pants.
  • Socks: One pair of socks, not two, will keep your feet warmest. Wool works great, but any tall sock (not cotton) will work. There are specific socks designed for snowboarders available with extra padding on the shin, but ski socks work just as well.
  • Gloves or mittens: You need a good set of moisture-repellent or waterproof mittens or gloves. Many snowboarders wear mittens since they don't have to grip poles, but either works just fine.
  • Waterproof outer layers: Waterproof pants and waterproof insulated jackets will help keep you warm. They will also keep the water off of you when you are sitting in the snow and keep the chill out on the chairlift.
  • Mid-layers: A sweater might make you too hot if you wear it over the base layer under your coat, but if you know that you get cold easily, then that would be a good option. Make sure it stays under your coat though because if it hangs below, it will freeze into a solid block of ice when you find yourself sitting on the slopes. Keeping a sweater or sweatshirt in your car to change into after your day of snowboarding is a good plan.

For more information, check out An Expert Guide to What to Wear Skiing and Snowboarding!

Protective Gear

Wearing protective gear for when you are flying down the mountain at what feels like supersonic speed is a very common (and smart) choice, and you won't look like a newbie just because you are wearing a helmet! I've listed the most useful protective gear for a first-time snowboarder below.

  • Helmet: A helmet protects you from damaging your head if you crash. If you find a helmet with MIPS protection, it can also help prevent a concussion.
  • Goggles: They come in so many styles, colors, and shapes that goggles might seem like just a fashion statement, but there is a protective factor to them. The sun reflects so brightly off of the snow that it can cause snow blindness if your eyes are not shaded, and goggles prevent that.
  • Wrist guards: Our wrists are rather delicate features on our bodies, and landing on them wrong can sprain them. The first thing you learn in ice skating is how to fall without landing on your wrists. For snowboarding, you can buy wrist guards that fit under your mittens and jacket but will protect your wrists from damage if you land wrong.
  • Pillow tied to your rear end: I'm just kidding about this one, but when my aunt learned to snowboard in her 40s, she actually did do this for her first few lessons! You can find butt pads to purchase to go under your snow pants if you desire extra padding.

Renting vs. Buying Your Gear

Two snowboarders ride a chairlift. Snow-peaked mountains are clearly visible in the background.

Photo by Jason Blackeye

If you want to rent gear for your first day on the mountain, there are two options. You can choose to rent at the rental shop when you arrive on the mountain. It saves time in the mornings, but you are sometimes limited in selection. On the other hand, if you plan to go out a lot during the winter season, then a season rental at a more local shop is a great option, especially for kids.

Don't worry if you don't know which foot you want in front—left or right (also called goofy foot). Most people are left foot first, but if you are left-handed, you might consider trying riding goofy. Either way, snowboard bindings are easy to switch, and your instructor can assist you with figuring it out at your lesson.

If you would rather buy a snowboard setup to use instead of renting, talking with a Snowboard Expert on Curated is a great idea. We all know the best gear for you that will make your snowboarding season amazing. Some advantages to buying instead of renting are listed out below:

  • When you buy your own snowboard boots, you know they will fit your feet perfectly because they've never had anyone else's foot in them and they are picked just for you. Many snowboard boots can be heat molded to match your foot, and if your feet tend to get really cold, you can even find boots that have heaters in them.
  • If you take the time to purchase your own snowboard and bindings, you can be sure it will last you a few years. By talking to a Curated Expert, you can be certain that the board will be the absolute perfect match to your riding style, your size, and your personal style (the graphics on the boards are a beautiful art form)!

Taking a Lesson

The most important thing you can do for your very first time snowboarding is taking a lesson from an instructor at the ski resort. They teach snowboarding all day long and are very good at getting you proficient in a short amount of time. Every resort should have either group lessons or private lessons for beginners available. Lessons are also split out between kids and adults so you won't be grouped with a bunch of ten-year-olds! They will teach you a few basics that will make your day snowboarding go so much smoother.

I've listed the definitions of a few basic terms that your instructor will use so you can be familiar with them when you arrive on the mountain.

  • Front foot: This is the foot that you lead with as you ride down the mountain.
  • Back foot: The foot that is in the back as you head down the mountain.
  • Right of way: The person further down the hill has the right of way, meaning you need to avoid them.
  • Stance: How you stand on the snowboard for balance and control.
  • Skating: This is how you move around on the flat surfaces and get to the chair lift. It's just like a skateboard.
  • Skiers: The goofy ones sliding down the hill like they're getting ready to go jousting with their long sticks!

We have a guide to other snowboard lingo so you can talk like a pro right away!

Lunch Hour

People sit at outdoor tables at a snow park and eat.

Photo courtesy of pxhere

Stopping for a lunch break is a great idea to rest up and make a plan for how you are going to spend the rest of the day on the slopes. The line can get long, but the french fries and burgers are usually pretty good at any resort. Some resorts have an open-air mall at the base and have tons of selections of food. If you don't want to wait for food because you are having so much fun and don't want to stop, you can pack a lunch or just stuff your pockets with snacks to eat on the chairlift.

End of the Day

By the middle of the afternoon, you have had a very busy, tiring day. If you are feeling tired, it is perfectly acceptable to stop and be done before the ski resort closes. You aren't admitting defeat if you do this but rather are making a reasonable choice that even the pros will make from time to time. In the mountains, the shadows will start showing up on the slopes in the late afternoon, and for some people, like myself, this can make it trickier to see the differences on the hill. As the sun starts going down, the temperature drops as well, which can make you much colder, especially if you got snow inside your mitts or jacket. When it's time to leave for home, it's a good idea to have extra thick socks, comfortable boots or shoes to slip on, and maybe your favorite sweater to wear for the drive home. After the resort, top off at your favorite local restaurant for some greasy carbs and revel in your adventurous first day. You earned it—you are now a snowboarder!

If you have any questions or want to get geared up, reach out to a Snowboard Expert here on Curated. We'll be happy to help!

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Written By
Kristina Spencer
Kristina Spencer
Snowboard Expert
In college I was a ski and snowboard instructor in Colorado, focusing mostly on little kids (aka 5-10 year old mini rippers or 3-4 year old tiny skiers). Sometimes I'd get those amazing lessons that would allow me to have a fun day of riding all over the mountain, but sadly those riders don't usuall...
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