10 Pieces of Advice from a Snowboard Instructor

New to snowboarding and not sure what to expect during your first few days on the mountain? Check out these tips from Snowboard Instructor and Expert Gaelen Mast!

A snowboarder sits down at the top of a run

Photo by Ostap Senyuk

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As someone who’s worked as a certified snowboard instructor for the past three winters, I’ve taught over a hundred lessons ranging from complete beginner snowboarders to those who already have their turns down and need a little extra guidance. Throughout my time teaching lessons, I’ve observed many similar themes from clients that can really help or hinder their progress. So to better prepare you for the world of snowboarding and accelerate your progression, here are 10 of the best pieces of advice I have as someone who teaches people to snowboard for a livelihood!

1. Overdress

This piece of advice is about as simple as it gets: wear more than you think you need! If you’re on the fence about what to wear, always err on the side of being too warm because you can always remove layers to cool off quickly, but it’s a lot harder to warm up when already cold!

There’s hardly ever a snowboard session where I don’t de-layer at some point because I’m overdressed. While this may feel like a pain at first, I can promise you it’s a lot better than getting cold out on the mountain because you didn’t wear enough.

2. Humble Yourself

A snowboarder snowboards down the hill. He is wearing a white helmet.

Photo by Petr Sevcovic

If it’s your first time snowboarding or even one of your first few times snowboarding, expect to suck. I don’t want to create the illusion that snowboarding is nothing but rainbows and butterflies because while it can be one of the most fun things you ever do, it can also be brutal to learn the basics. I’ve seen plenty of people try snowboarding once and never return because it was harder than they expected it to be. Snowboarding is definitely not a walk in the park when first starting out, but just like anything in life, it gets easier the more you practice. For your first few snowboard experiences, you should lower your expectations, expect to spend a lot of time on the ground, and be ok with being bad and trusting the process that you’ll get better.

3. Start Slow

One of the biggest mistakes I see many newer snowboarders make is biting off more than they can chew—that is, going on more advanced terrain than they’re ready for. The bunny hill is there for a reason, if you’re a new snowboarder, use it! By starting slow and small, you can give yourself a much better chance of success even if it’s not the most thrilling. Think about it; the bunny hill provides a low consequence environment to learn the ropes of snowboarding. You won’t pick up speed too fast, there aren’t as many fast-moving skiers/snowboarders to worry about, and most bunny hills are wide open without obstacles.

Too many times, I’ve seen beginner snowboards go right up to the top of the mountain, realize they’re in way over their heads, tumble their way to the bottom and hate the whole experience. There’s no shame in riding the bunny hill until you’re totally confident! Almost every single lesson I teach starts off at the bunny hill to get an idea of where everyone is at and what they’re ready for!

4. Put a Helmet On

The helmet talk can be a touchy one, maybe you’re a teenager who doesn’t want one because it seems uncool, or maybe you grew up during a time when no one wore helmets for skiing or snowboarding. Obviously, your personal safety is up to you, however, if you’re a beginner snowboarder I would highly encourage you to throw on the ol’ brain bucket. Beginner snowboarders are most prone to nasty falls because they haven't learned the art of falling yet, and are much more likely to get randomly thrown to the ground with no idea what hit them. If nothing else, throwing on a helmet acts as a nice confidence booster and makes it easier to focus on learning techniques instead of worrying about falling.

5. Have a Learning Buddy or Buddies

Two snowboarders sit on a chairlift with snowy peaks visible in the background.

Photo by Jason Blackeye

I recognize this may not be possible for everyone and it’s certainly not crucial to your success as a snowboarder, but if possible find someone to learn with! Having a learning buddy who you can progress with makes a world of difference because you can help each other out through the process, motivate each other to keep going, and celebrate each other's accomplishments! Sharing the common struggle of snowboarding with someone is a great bonding exercise and can go a long way toward keeping committed to success!

6. Have a Goal

Having a goal or a vision makes it much easier to take the steps you need to reach success. This is something that can be said for plenty in life and is quite applicable to snowboarding. If you go out there without the faintest idea of what you’re even doing, chances are things aren’t going to go too well. After all, how can you progress if you don’t even know what you’re progressing towards?

Before going out to snowboard, try to get an idea of what you want to learn or accomplish. One of the best ways to do this is to watch some tutorial videos! This will help you focus your efforts when snowboarding and give you a measurable target to reach.

7. Fall On Purpose

A snowboarder turns on snow. He is wearing a helmet.

Photo by Bradley Dunn

Now this one may seem a little counterintuitive, but I promise it’ll make sense in a minute! I give the same piece of advice to every student regardless of skill level: if you feel out of control, fall on purpose. The idea here is that purposely doing a controlled fall such as crouching then going to your butt is going to be a heck of a lot more pleasant than catching an edge and getting tossed 10 feet to your face. Being out of control on a snowboard is NOT a good feeling, unfortunately, it’s one of those things that every new snowboarder will experience along their journey. By learning to purposely fall on command, not only do you learn how to properly fall quicker (a vital skill), you also mitigate the risk of seriously injuring yourself by taking a high-speed out-of-control tumble!

8. Observe Others

Sometimes simply watching others is the best way to learn what to do or what not to do. Seriously! By observing others you can actually learn a lot that you might not pick up on your own. Of course one of the best ways to learn is to go with someone who already knows what they’re doing, like an experienced friend or an instructor, but if you are alone, let the other snowboarders at the mountain be your guide! Try to observe how people’s bodies move as they ride, pick up what seems to be working, and imitate that. Or on the flip side if you see someone struggling, try to make note of where they’re going wrong and avoid that mistake yourself!

9. Give It 100%

A snowboarder turns on his way down the mountain.

Photo by Federico Persiani

This piece of advice is CRUCIAL! If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this! When learning to snowboard or learning a new trick or whatever you may be doing on your board, give it 100%! Snowboarding is so much harder to learn if you’re not giving it all your effort! It stunts your progress and makes it difficult to tell if you’re doing things the right way.

To be honest, the physical aspect of snowboarding really isn’t that hard. It’s the mental part that gets people, so mentally prepare yourself to give it your all! Through personal experience and watching so many others, I can confidently say things will go much smoother and you’ll be successful much faster if you just commit to doing it and go for it!

10. Celebrate the Wins

I want to keep this last one short and sweet; celebrate the wins, big or small! Snowboarding is about getting out there pushing yourself, and having fun while doing it. Keep it that way! Make sure you give yourself credit where credit is due, celebrate your new accomplishments, and be excited for yourself! You’re amazing, now treat yourself like it!

If you have any questions or want to get geared up with the perfect beginner setup, reach out to a Snowboard Expert here on Curated. We’d be happy to chat with you and help you get prepared for the slopes!

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Written By
Heya! my name is Gaelen and I've been snowboarding for longer than I haven't! I was practically raised by the mountain resort industry, my mother and father were both full-time "snowboard bums" when I was young and so I've been around ski resorts since I was a kid! As soon as I was legally able to w...

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