My Journey to Snowboarding: First Time in the Snow to Instructor in Two Years

Self-taught Snowboard Expert Corey Hicks shares how he became a snowboard instructor in only two years. Follow along with his inspiring story!

The author rides on the back edge of his board on a snowy day.

Photo courtesy of Corey Hicks

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Who would've thought that a thirteen-year-old kid riding a skateboard in the streets of Florida would have picked up snowboarding like this? I think it all started by playing video games, watching YouTube videos, and skateboarding.

Skateboarding on a Hand-Me-Down Board

When I was in middle school, my dad's friend, who happened to be a maintenance man at my school, found a skateboard while he was doing his duties. He passed it on to me, who he had nicknamed, “Gator.” The name came from two places. First, I was probably one of the few Florida Gator fans that were from Seminole Country in Tallahassee, FL. Second, because I was an angry kid—like a gator, just ornery for no reason.

I knew about skateboarding, and a group that always stuck out to me was DGK, along with skater Terry Kennedy. I liked how they rode in the street, all over the sidewalks, benches, and curbs. From there I took to the streets myself, trying to do what I watched them do on YouTube, just like the disclaimers said not to!

As I began riding my skateboard, I was never one to go in bowls or “drop-in.” In fact, I am someone you might refer to as a scaredy-cat when it came to that. Don’t get it twisted—I tried it and it didn't go in my favor.

And although I grew up in Florida, I was never one for the beach or the pool. While I liked skateboarding, I wasn’t a kid who wanted to wakeboard or surf. I never even tried it, to be honest.

First Time Seeing Snow

The author stands on the flats of a ski resort and holds up a green snowboard. He smiles and poses for the photographer.

Photo courtesy of Corey Hicks

Fast forward, and at this point in my life, it's January 2019 and I just graduated from the University of West Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and Kinesiology. I found out that one of my life-long friends from middle school had moved out to Denver, and I began to coordinate a trip out to visit him.

It was snowing when I landed, and I was instantly excited. Walking outside, I immediately did the classic kid thing and stuck out my tongue, trying to catch snowflakes.

On this first trip, my buddy and I went to the 16th Street Mall and ran around all over downtown. Though we talked about it, I didn't get to snowboard because I had no idea about all the things I needed for my first time. I had no pass, no board, and no outerwear suitable for snowboarding. I was ultimately unprepared to go snowboarding this trip, but it was the beginning of the marathon I am still charging at today.

I used that visit as a learning experience, and for my second visit a year later, I came with my significant other, and this time I was on a mission! I was determined to go snowboarding for the first time.

I first rode on snow at Keystone in Silverthorne, CO. I went out with my Burton rental system and began to teach myself how to snowboard. Leading up to the trip, I spent weeks in anticipation, watching Snowboard Pro Camp videos on YouTube.

Once there, I found a little itty bitty hill where I could work on skating and one-foot J-turns. Once I started to pick up on those, I began to take the learner chair up. After that, I tried some side slipping. After I was able to side slip safely down the hill on both sides, I decided it was time to take the Peru chair up. Somehow, I was able to slide down that run twice.

I fell more times than I can count and even had one of those moments, sitting on the side of the run, where you’re rethinking all your recent decisions. But no matter what, I got two runs on a big mountain my first day ever riding snow. I was hooked.

Moving to Denver

The author stands on his board on an empty, snowy hill. Dramatic, foggy peaks are in the background.

Photo courtesy of Corey Hicks

Later that year, after our second visit to Colorado, my partner and I paid to break our lease, packed our belongings into a pod, and shipped it off to our new apartment in Denver. We didn't want to leave our vehicles or spend money to ship them, so we began our cross-country road trip with our doggo, Sasha, and our cat, Oliver. The trip from Pensacola, FL was 14 hours long, but finally, after two days of driving, we arrived in Denver on August 30, 2020.

Within days of arriving in Denver, I purchased my first snowboard. It was a Capita Mercury 159cm, and it was a lot of board to handle for a beginner. With no knowledge about snowboards and all the types available, it was definitely tough to learn at moments, but I didn't let it defeat me. My roommate and I purchased Epic Local passes and started on opening day.

Becoming a Snowboard Instructor

The author in his Eldora jacket standing with and hugging a family.

Photo courtesy of Corey Hicks

In the same year that I snowboarded for the first time, moved to Denver, bought my first snowboard, and started my first season, I was hired at Eldora to work for base operations. I worked to set up outside areas around the lodges, clear snow out of walkways, assist guests, and countless other tasks throughout the day. Once I started working at the resort, I began riding more and more.

Eventually, I transferred over to lift operations where I assured the lift remained in proper operation and assisted guests with loading and unloading the lift. Outside my work, I was able to take multiple runs a day which allowed me to progress a ton. Even though I still couldn’t ride that well, looking back on it, I began trying things out in the park.

Over time, through practice, trying tricks, and riding with people who were better than me, I started to improve. Through that, I was able to plead my case as to why I should be a snowboard instructor.

In February of 2021, I officially started as an uncertified snowboarding instructor. Once I started this position, I was able to see the science behind the riding, and that elevated my understanding of snowboarding as a whole. At the end of the season, I was confident in my ability to pass the PSIA level 1 snowboard examination, and I did!

Now, midway through my second season, I have my eyes set on getting Freestyle Level 1 certified, certified as a children specialist, and potentially passing the PSIA level 2 snowboard examination.

For more on being a certified instructor, check out How to Become a Snowboard Instructor.

These days, I'm teaching at Eldora two to three days out of the week. On my off days when I go ride, I usually take a nice long lap to warm up, hitting side hits, doing butter tricks, and spins, then I find myself hiking a single feature countless times until I get tired of hiking. Once I finish getting my hits in, I head to the trees for some peaceful, relaxing chutes.

What motivates me to make these drives to the mountains is the desire to learn more tricks while riding so I can pass on the knowledge I know in my future lessons, to my family, and my friends.

If you have any questions or you want to jump into the world of snowboarding yourself, reach out to me or another Snowboard Expert here on Curated, and we'd be happy to help!

Snowboard Expert Corey Hicks
Corey Hicks
Snowboard Expert
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I too was in your shoes of looking for the right kind of gear to make. Recently I moved to Colorado from Florida and just like you was super excited for my first snow season. Already purchased my pass, helmet, cool goggles, but I was unsure of what to get when it came to the rest of my gear. So I pu...

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