How Hard Is It to Learn How to Snowboard?

Wanting to get into snowboarding but a little intimidated? How hard can it be anyway? Snowboard Expert Gaelen Mast answers this question and gives a few tips for beginners!

Snowboarders and skier sit on a chairlift.

Photo by Derwiki

Published on

If you're thinking of picking up a snowboard and hitting the ski slopes, it’s only natural to wonder what the process of learning is going to look like for this sport. While it’s not exactly a straightforward answer, as everyone has a slightly different beginner experience learning to ride, I’m going to do my best to give you an idea of what to expect!

As someone who’s worked as a snowboarding instructor for several years, I’ve observed consistent progression patterns and milestones amongst new riders that indicate where a snowboarder is in the learning process. I hope by sharing these with you today, you can get a better idea of what you’re in for with the learning process—and don’t worry, in the end, it’s all worth it!

The Beginning

Two snowboarders stand on the snow. One is fixing his boot as the other watches.

Photo by Jess Lee

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; the beginning is the hardest. This is true of many new activities, but especially of snowboarding. The first few days at the ski resort, you’re going to feel totally out of control, your muscles are going to be exhausted, and the snowboard will seemingly have a mind of its own. Be prepared to fall, because there’s no way around it. In fact, be prepared to spend a decent amount of your time on the ground, so dress accordingly with extra waterproof layers.

The hardest part of learning to snowboard is simply understanding the basics, such as turning, slowing down, and stopping. While I’m not going to get into how to do these things in this article (there are plenty of other articles that break these things down), I will offer some crucial advice: have an idea of what you’re doing!

Snowboarding is hard enough as is when you first start, so don’t make it any harder on yourself by going in blind. I would highly recommend taking a lesson, going with an experienced friend, or even just watching some tutorial videos if it’s your first day out. Knowing what you’re trying to accomplish makes the learning process far easier and manageable, and the progression will be much more tangible.

Every person works through this “beginning phase” at their own pace. I’ve seen some new snowboarders figure out the basics in just two to three days, and I’ve seen others take several weeks to understand how to get down the bunny hill without falling. However long it takes you is fine, and you shouldn’t stress about it! It took me nearly a year to learn the basics and get off the bunny hill, and yet 10 years later here I am, thriving on my snowboard!

It Gets Easier

A snowboarder turns down the mountain.

While the very basics of snowboarding are difficult, it gets exponentially easier. Once you start getting confident using your toe and heel edges (the two most crucial techniques in snowboarding), everything is simply going to fall into place. This isn’t to say that you’re going to become the next Shaun White overnight once you master the basics—getting really good at snowboarding is still going to take plenty of work. However, once you get a handle on the basics, progression becomes much more obvious.

When teaching snowboard lessons, I’ll often tell my clients to think of snowboarding as a steep learning curve. It’s going to be difficult at first and there’s no way around that. You will probably want to give up more than once. But if you persist, your skills are going to take off and you’ll be shredding before you know it!

Once you pass the phase of spending most of the time on your butt, progress gets easier and faster for two main reasons. First, the more time you’re upright on your snowboard, the more time you’re working on your skills, rather than just trying to stand up again. Being able to make your way down the mountain even at a very slow pace is going to do so much more for your progression than falling every five feet.

Secondly, the more time you’re on your board, the easier it becomes to analyze your mistakes and figure out how to correct them. This makes it much easier to stop bad habits quickly and practice proper techniques.

If You Can Do a Green, You Can Do a Black

A snowboarder turns down the mountain under a chairlift. The chairlift is full of people and there are mountains in the background.

Photo by Ri Ya

Simply put, if you’re able to confidently ride down a green circle trail (green is the easiest trail rating), then you can at least make your way down a black diamond trail (black is the hardest trail rating). Now I’m not saying to go send it down the steepest run on the mountain once you conquer the mellow family trail; what I am saying is that once you reach a certain point, snowboarding becomes largely about your mindset.

While learning the basics of snowboarding is very much a physical struggle, progressing beyond the basics becomes more of a mental battle. If you’re able to link your turns down a green circle, one that goes from the top of the mountain (not the bunny hill), the main thing stopping you from doing harder-rated trails is not believing you can. Once you embrace the mindset of being able to do any trail, progression takes off! Trust that you can take on “that harder trail” and just go for it!

Progression Slows Down Once You Get Technical

While it would be nice to believe that once you get past the basics of snowboarding everything is smooth sailing from there, unfortunately, it is not. Once you start getting into more technical riding, such as doing tricks in the terrain park, progression begins to slow again.

Going into the terrain park and trying to hit your first jump or rail is going to make you feel as if it’s your first time on a snowboard again. It's a very humbling experience. Riding down a trail and riding on a rail or box are very different things, and it’s a new skill that takes some time to learn. Progression with freestyle is also generally slower, simply because it’s more dangerous, and most riders take things slowly, so as to not get hurt.

A Simple Trick To Progress Faster

It’s no secret that being prepared is going to help with your progress, and one of the best ways to be prepared is to have the proper equipment. Your snowboard, bindings, and boots (as well as other attire) can play a huge role in your learning experience.

You see, snowboard gear isn’t a “one size fits all” kind of deal. There are dozens of different models of boards, bindings, and boots, and they’re all meant for different riding styles and experience levels. If you end up on a snowboard that isn’t designed for your skill level or ability, it will needlessly hinder your progress.

You could literally spend hours researching snowboards, trying to figure out the best one for you, or you could simply talk to a snowboard gear expert for direction. Here at Curated, you can connect with a Snowboard Expert, chat with them, and get the best possible recommendations, totally for free. If you’re looking for a new snowboard, feel free to shoot me a message at any time! Let me know what you need and what your goals are in snowboarding, and I can almost guarantee I’ll be able to find the perfect piece of equipment. I look forward to hearing from you and getting you out onto the mountain!

Like this article?
Share it with your network

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...

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

Read Next

New and Noteworthy