Rag-dolling down the mountain? Spending more time picking yourself up out of the wet snow, than on your feet? Snowboarding is not easy, if you’ve never had a lesson it can be hard to know if you’re doing it right.
Or if you have had a friend teach you some questionable techniques, you could be hammering in some bad muscle memory which can be quite the mission to fix. To help we have compiled a list of the most common mistakes to avoid and look out for.
1. Wrong Snowboard Stance
Getting your stance right is probably one of the most important skills you should be making sure you have correct. If you’re not balanced over your board well, any bump is going to throw you off balance.
Any skier, snowboarder cutting you off, the need to react quickly to avoid plowing down a mini shredder or any unexpected situation is going to throw you. If you are in a balanced athletic position however, you will easily be able to deal with challenges, charge down the slopes, chewing through any bumps or difficulties that might arise.
Your basic stance should be, your weight evenly distributed over both feet. You want your knees bent and relaxed, so they can absorb bumps, and your shoulders aligned on the snowboard, with your arms evenly over the nose and tail, not twisted.
When balanced over your edges your body position is very different on your toe edge versus your heel edge. If you picture how you would stand on your heels, and then how you would balance on your toes. Due to body mechanics these are very different.
While on your toe edge you want your hips forward, your shins should be pressing on the front of your boot. Your knees and your belly button should be over your toe edge, with your shoulders relaxed, arms ideally by your sides.
If you need your arms for balance it is no problem to hold these out, just ensure they are above your nose and your tail (not twisted). The majority of your weight is in your torso, you want this stacked evenly over your toe edge.
The position on the heel edge is completely different than the toe edge. To be balanced over your heel edge you now need to bring your weight back to your heels. To achieve this your basic position is like you’re hovering over a chair.
You want your shoulders directly over your hips (so your back is straight), your hips directly over the heel edge, your knees nice and bent and relaxed. To help get into this position you can push your knees out, this will center you and help keep the back straight.
2. Breaking at the waist
It is very common for beginners to break at the waist, this means rather than standing up straight, being well balanced over their board, they will bend over in two.
The reason for this is people want to look at what they are doing, so they look down at their board to see how they are getting on. As you look down it creates this issue of breaking at the waste.
If you are bent over, your weight is no longer over your snowboard which creates a difficult balancing act. If you stand on your board correctly, with your weight over your snowboard this will give you better stability.
3. Rocking the snowboards edge
When side slipping we want to engage our edge, then ride down the mountain balanced steadily over the edge, keeping the board at much the same angle the whole way down.
To increase or decrease speed you increase or decrease pressure on your edge, this is achieved by bending your knees to sink down, or standing up. Remember to keep your torso straight, and not bent over as mentioned above.
What is very common for beginners however, is to rock the snowboard up on the edge then down. This will be very hard to maintain speed, as effectively you are jamming the breaks on then releasing them. This means you speed up, then slow down.
This rocking motion will be harder to control and eventually you will rock that opposite edge up nice and high…..and then it will slam down into the snow resulting in the dreaded scorpion (when you catch your edge, fall face forward with the board hitting you on the back of the head).
Focus on setting your edge, once you are in a nice position hold this the whole way down. You can stand up and sink down a little to adjust speed, but you want to keep the snowboard at much the same angle the whole way down.
4. Kicking your back foot
When learning to turn, many people will achieve this by kicking their back leg to brush the snowboard around. The correct way to turn your snowboard should be, by using both your legs, when you do this the board will pivot from the center and give you the most efficient turn.
If you kick your back leg, the snowboard will pivot around the front leg. This results in you brushing off speed with each turn, resulting in always putting the breaks on and losing speed with each turn.
You want to drive your turn with your hips and knees, therefore driving the snowboard through the turn. As you get better with this you can maintain and even increase speed through your turn.
5. Improper Alignment
The correct body position is keeping your shoulders aligned over your snowboard. It feels unusual for people to travel sideways, like we do on snowboard.
Therefore a common mistake we see is people twisting their shoulders out of this aligned position, so they are facing down the hill to see where they are going.
This twisted position results in the board wanting to twist into the same position as the shoulder, therefore to achieve the turn people will kick their back leg to turn, which we also want to avoid doing.
As stated earlier with side slipping, you should have your shoulders aligned with the board, and preferably your arms down by your side. When you start your turn, you should dip your front shoulder a little into the direction of your turn.
As you do this your snowboard then wants to follow in this direction, ending the turn with the shoulders aligned over the board again.
6. Incorrect set up
Now we know how we should be standing on our board, how to use our edges and how to properly execute a turn. If you are still struggling to do this as stated above, it could be because your equipment is set up wrong.
It is very common to see beginners riding around the mountain with some extremely funky setups. A standard stance for beginners, that have not yet refined their own stance, is to have the front binding +9 and the back – 9 degrees. Also known as duck feet.
This allows better mobility and allows the back leg to also drive turns. If your back binding is straight, or pointing forward this will result in you kicking your backfoot for the turn and will also affect your alignment. So if you are struggling with the points above, check if your bindings are set up correctly.
How wide should your stance be? – this is typically shoulder width apart.
If you have too narrow a stance, you can feel a little unstable. It can also be hard to turn and maneuver the board as there is a lot of nose and tail to deal with.
If you have too wide a stance it can also feel hard to control the snowboard. There is little nose and tail to use, but a lot of snowboard directly under you, this can be hard to manipulate or use very well.
Many people ask me what my stance is. I walk with crazy duck feet, therefore my duck footed stance is very extreme, most people can not ride (or would not want to ride) my stance. As we are all individuals, it is of little use copying other people’s stance.
You have to find what works best for you. I would recommend starting with the plus 9, minus 9 degrees, shoulder width apart then play about with it from there. Once you are comfortable on your board, try changing the angles by a couple of degrees here and there, try a slightly narrower or wider stances, and see what feels right.
If you work on any, or all, of these points your snowboarding will gradually improve. Remember it takes time to create new muscle memory. For best results, regularly work on these for short periods of time. Focusing on a certain skill can be challenging and get frustrating.
After your warm up, play about with a new skill for 15-30 mins, maybe an hour max, then spend the rest of the day enjoying the snowboarding you are comfortable with
At 21, I left Scotland to travel but ended up becoming a snowboard instructor instead. For 4-5 years, I worked internationally in many countries. As my passion for park riding grew, I transitioned into building snowboard parks. I’ve gained sponsors for my snowboarding, won rail jams and small competitions, and contributed to building X Games courses. I’ve also been involved in significant park events like The Stomping Grounds project.