How to Start Snowboarding Again After an Injury

Coming back to the slopes after an injury can feel intimidating. Here are a few tips from Snowboard Expert Alex Dolan to make your return a bit smoother!

Two snowboarders sitting on a chairlift with mountains in the background.
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Injuries are tough, and they often hit us when we are least expecting them. Most of the time, there isn’t even a cool story to go along with an injury! Something unexpected just happens, and suddenly we’re forced to confront our lifestyles in a whole new way. Injuries show us how fragile our bodies can be. And they are lasting proof of our limitations. But this article isn’t about how to mope around and feel sorry for yourself. (After an injury, you’ll be able to do that pretty easily on your own.) This article is about how we can pick ourselves back up after an injury, get back out there, and enjoy every magical moment snowboarding offers us. How we respond to failure and how we react when things don’t go according to plan shows a lot about our character. A very wise butler once said, “why do we fall? So we can learn to get back up.”

Make sure you are physically fit before jumping back into snowboarding

Snowboarding isn’t the most ergonomic activity. Being able to go on an extended hike, jog, or bike ride is a good way to determine whether or not you are ready to strap on your bindings.

I found that riding a bike was a great way to build strength in my knee after an accident I had a few years back. A stationary bike can allow you to ease back into pedaling without having to worry about technical terrain or traffic. As an experienced mountain biker, I started slow with bike rides and walked through the neighborhood. I find that it is important to do what you can without overexerting yourself. I’ve gone a mile or two too far and felt the repercussions of stunted healing.

Healing takes time, and there is no getting around that. Focus on what you can do, and keep in mind that any movement that doesn’t hurt is a step in the right direction.

Take it slow after any injury

A snowboarder sits on a ski run in front of a "slow" sign.

Photo by Jakob Owens

It is important to take the time to assess your mobility and strength limits. There is a pretty cool app that can help you do just that. MOVR is a self-proclaimed “health technology company focused on measurably improving movement health.” Their app walks you through a movement assessment and then provides feedback as well as a personalized workout based on your results. It is a great tool to see what works for you after an injury and take steps to safely and gradually recover while developing healthier movement habits in your daily life. After a few months with this app, you may hit the slopes feeling better than ever as the app is scientifically proven to improve the way you move. Start with the free version of the app to see how you like it, then explore what else this hot new company has to offer.

Stretch

A group of women do yoga outside on a field next to a group of streets. They wear long-sleeve shirts and leggings.

Photo by Amauri Mejía

I know we’ve all heard it before, and I definitely feel like the pot and the kettle saying it, but stretching before and after rides can drastically decrease your chances of injury and improve your overall health. I also try to turn TV time into 15-30 minutes of stretching whenever I can. Or, just unplug and take a few moments to breathe and relax while you stretch. I’ve known many snowboarders who claim that yoga and stretching saved their snowboarding careers. It can feel daunting at first, but a couple of minutes into stretching, it can be immediately apparent how beneficial elongating tight muscles can be.

Snowboard Expert James C. has written a great article highlighting some stretches that he likes to do after a day on the slopes. Check it out here.

Warm-up

Warming up on an easier run not only allows your body to get the blood flowing and loosen up tight muscles, but it also sets a mental tone for the day. I like to remind myself, “I’m not in a rush. I’ve made it to the mountain, and now it’s time to have fun and enjoy the slopes.” Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of getting all of your gear together and driving up to the mountain, it can be easy to feel rushed and anxious about maximizing your riding time.

Here are a few words of wisdom from some experienced riders:

  1. Haste makes waste.
  2. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

Finding the presence of mind to slow down and take each moment step by step can allow us to develop a smoother rhythm and often maximize our time more effectively.

Change your mentality

It amazes me how often an injury can lead to unexpected positive outcomes. Injuries often force us to SLOW DOWN and more fully appreciate our present world. Taking walks through the neighborhood may allow you to notice interesting details that you may never have noticed before. Or maybe, you’ve made enough of a recovery to get back on the slopes. Slowing down and piecing together a run will not only allow you to take in your surroundings and enjoy the view, but you’ll probably find a few extra secret stashes of pow or fun side hits to try later or develop a new way of exploring the mountain.

Wear a brace

Wearing a brace while recovering from an injury can help support areas that may need a little extra help. Wearing a knee brace after my injury restricted my lateral mobility, preventing me from overextending damaged ligaments. This did take some getting used to, and it did, at times, slow me down, but it gave me the support I needed to get out there and breathe in the cold mountain air while carving up the slopes. After a while, I felt like I didn’t necessarily need my brace, but it did give me more presence of mind to consider my injured knee and reconsider some bad decisions I may have made without it.

I am NOT a health professional; consult a doctor if you are unsure which brace to use.

Focus on technique

A snowboarder turns down a mountain.

Photo by Oliver Schwendener

Accepting our limitations can allow us to focus on different aspects of riding that may have been overlooked or neglected when we were healthy. Slowing down and breaking down the movements of snowboarding may be something you haven’t done since you first learned to snowboard. After developing these skills, you’ll likely have a whole new outlook on the fundamentals of riding.

We’re all in it together…

I hope this article gave you the confidence to recover safely and mindfully after an injury and provided some motivation to endure the hard work that comes with successfully recovering from an injury. I would love to hear what you think! Are there any tips that you think I should add? Did you have a successful recovery from an injury that you would like to share? I’ll even chat with you about any good movies you watched while you were laid up on the couch. Happy shredding!

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Written By
My humble roots as a rental technician at a small ski and snowbaord shop in the hollers of North Carolina in combination with my eventual migration west toward bigger mountains and more snow have shaped me into a master at gearing up any customer, no matter their ability level. I LOVE SNOW! Fortunat...

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