Are you off on a snowboard holiday, figure you would rather save the money on lessons and teach your buddy? I have written out some basic steps to help take your friend from a first timer, to intermediate – and beyond.
As an ex instructor I would like to point out how important it is to learn the fundamentals correctly, this will allow more advanced snowboarding to fall into place with ease. It is a lot easier to teach someone a new skill, than to correct something they have been doing wrong for many years.
Therefore I would advise you, to pay the money, and get the basics learnt properly from a professional instructor. However if you are eager to teach your friends or family, read on.
The first thing to point out, which we often see, do not take your friend up to the top of the mountain and just yell “do this” as you go flying off down the hill, showcasing your rad shred skills.
You will need to be able to clearly explain what you are doing. For a lot of snowboarders they have been riding for so long and it now comes so naturally, it can be difficult to explain what you are doing.
You not only need to be able to explain what you are doing but most people will have follow up questions to your explanation. Why are we doing that, and how do we do it, and how will this help with “proper snowboarding”?
- How to Teach Someone to Snowboard (Basics)
- Getting the message Across
- teaching someone to snowboard requires Patience
- Teaching More Advanced Snowboarding Skills
- Don’t Just Explain, Demonstrate!
- Video feedback
- Tailoring Your Snowboard Lesson
- Have fun!
How to Teach Someone to Snowboard (Basics)
To teach someone how to snowboard you will need to be able to break down your snowboarding into more manageable skills and isolated maneuvers.
To do a basic turn there are a lot of components in that, you should not just jump straight into a turn. You need to be able to break down the turn into much smaller, more manageable things for your friend to learn before trying to link turns.
Make sure to start on some easy terrain at the beginning. In the early hours, and days, of snowboarding it’s important to build confidence. You do not want to take your buddy up the chairlift on their first day.
Pointing them down a black slope with no control, that’s highly likely to go very wrong. One bad experience like this can put someone off snowboarding or massively hinder their confidence, always keeping them in fear of the scary dreaded black runs.
So be sure to actually teach your friend how to snowboard before exploring the mountain. It’s important to understand the skills you should be comfortable with before tackling the next aspect of snowboarding.
A quick break down of the skills required to be able to turn a snowboard:
- One foot mobility on flat terrain
- Side slipping
- J turns
- Linking turns
- Taking the drag lift
These can be broken down again into smaller easier steps, however for this article we keep them brief, and highlight the most important aspects a beginner should learn to improve their snowboarding skills.
1. One Foot mobility on flat terrain:
Often when people are teaching friends they are eager to get going and will just drag their buddy up the mountain and try to explain what to do once at the top of the hill. As snowboarders we have very little mobility with two feet strapped in on flat terrain, we will need to “skate” a lot throughout the day.
Whether it’s to get past a flat section of the hill, to get onto the chair lift or to get off of the chair lift at the top. Your friend will need to know how to move around on flat terrain. So before taking the lift up, familiarize your friend with how they can move around the mountain with one foot strapped in, using the back foot to push.
You can also use this time to explain different aspects of the snowboard and how we use our edges. On the flat terrain a beginner is going to be within their comfort zone, so now is the best time to explain some basic points of snowboarding.
Everyone learns differently, some people will need to spend a lot of time doing this to build confidence. An athletic person that has a lot of experience skateboarding is most likely going to want to move onto the next thing as soon as you have shown them this, before they have even tried it.
You need to be able to gauge how much experience your friend needs with each step before moving onto the next.
2. Side slipping
As a beginner this is the most important skill to master. This is our braking system! If we have this dialed in, linking turns should fall into place pretty easily. It’s best to take your snowboard off, show your friend the body position of how we balance on our heel edge.
Do the same toe side, you should note the two body positions are very, very different. Make sure to explain:
- How you’re going to increase or decrease pressure to slow down or speed up.
- How you are going to increase or decrease pressure (by flexing down or standing up),
- How they would move from left to right, or how they might allow the board to point down the hill for a second to start picking up speed.
While trying this with their board off, your friend is going to be within their comfort zone. They are able to take in what you are saying and ask questions if needed. If you try to explain this while they are strapped in, sliding down the hill they are going to be concentrating on what they are doing, not taking in much of what you are explaining.
So take the time with the board off, explain what you are doing. While they try this for the first time, give them a helping hand. Walk down with them so they can use you to balance if required. I can not stress enough how important it is that your friend can comfortably side slip on both edges. You should spend the vast majority of your first day, or two mastering side slipping.
Once your friend has mastered side slipping, the next step is what we call J-turns. This is where we start in a side slip position, point the board straight down the hill, then return the board back to the same side slip position you started in.
This is a lot easier than jumping straight into a traditional turn as the traditional turn requires you to transition between a toe side, side slip, to your heel side, or vice versa. The j turn allows them to feel how the board slides straight down the hill for the first time, but eliminates the difficulty of transferring from one edge to the other.
4. Linking turns
Once your friend can do J turns on both edges competently, can slow down and speed up in a side slip with confidence, then they have all of the components to start linking their turns. Be aware this can be a big step for many and may take many, many hours or days for them to master.
You might want to introduce this, try it a couple of times but go back to side slipping and J turns for the majority of the lesson. People can only push outside of their comfort zone for small periods of time.
If linking turns is proving to be too difficult do not hesitate to go back a step, or two, and allow your friend to have fun with an aspect of snowboarding they are comfortable with. Working on the basics for longer will always improve your snowboarding and help with the more advanced techniques.
5. Taking the drag lift
I have listed this as our 5th point, however this can be used after you have shown your friend how to skate around with one foot strapped in. The reason I have listed this as the 5th step is, it can be very difficult for many snowboarders to learn.
Many people will spend a huge portion of their early hours of snowboarding figuring out how to take the drag lift. If your friend is one of these people they will gain better experience through walking up the hill and learning the steps before this.
Many athletic people that have experience skateboarding or skiing will grab the lift with no issue, if your friend is one of these people show them the lift early on. However if your friend is a little more cautious, gaining experience and confidence with learning steps 1-4 first will benefit them the most.
Getting the message Across
Ok, so we have our basic steps of how to take someone from a complete beginner to an intermediate, linking basic turns. But how do we teach these steps? How do we pass on our wisdom if they are not understanding your crystal clear explanation of “just do this”. Here are some points that will help you understand how to teach:
The first thing to point out is whatever you do on a snowboard should be fun! The number one focus should always be fun. You may want your student to progress or hit certain milestones, however if they are not enjoying what they are doing, then there is little point, and they might not come back for a second session.
teaching someone to snowboard requires Patience
When teaching anyone anything you will need to be incredibly patient. People need time to try new things, over and over again, or may need something explained several times. Just because they are nodding along to your explanation, does not mean they understand what you are saying.
To add to the difficulty of this, people will always get much more frustrated with a partner, friend or parent teaching them. So be aware you always need to be very patient when teaching, however if the person you’re teaching is your significant other, it’s going to involve a whole new level of patience.
If your student is not grasping something they are likely to get frustrated. If you also get frustrated this is only going to exacerbate them. Whether they are 4, 14 or 40 they are going to flourish and learn best with positive reinforcement. So be patient and positive, reinforce anything done well with positive feedback. Focus on the positive, not the negative.
Teaching More Advanced Snowboarding Skills
We have broken down the basics of snowboarding already and laid out a basic progression from first time snowboarder to beginner turns.
However if you want to teach anything more advanced, or focus on certain parts of the beginner progression, it is important you can identify individual skills required within these techniques. You need to be able to break down snowboarding and teach individual skills.
You are not going to start teaching someone how to spin with a 720. You are going to teach the technique of spinning with a 180 first. Once they have done many of these, and are comfortable with that, then they can try some 360’s.
After many, many 360’s they will move onto 540’s and then start thinking about 720’s. It is the same with any aspect of snowboarding, always break it down into easier, more manageable tasks.
Don’t Just Explain, Demonstrate!
While everyone learns differently, some people will want, or need, detailed explanations of what they are doing, and why they are doing it. Some will need minimal explanation, however everyone will benefit from seeing what they are learning.
It is important you can demonstrate the skill clearly, preferably being able to exaggerate the movement they are working on. If you are not the best at demonstrating the skill they are working on, point out other riders on the hill doing it well or watch tutorials online.
SnowboardAddiction.com has very good tutorials on most snowboard techniques or tricks. There are ample ways to find good demonstrations of snowboarding.
Carrying on from demonstrations, allow your student to see what they are doing. In this day and age most people will have a camera on their phone. If you can video your student and allow them to see what they are doing right, or wrong, this will be very beneficial to them.
Especially if you can show them what they are doing versus what they should be doing, straight away. This is a hugely beneficial tool that should be utilized while out on the hill in the process of learning. Reviewing back home at the end of the day or before heading up the mountain in the morning is also going to be very beneficial.
Tailoring Your Snowboard Lesson
You would not explain something to a 7 year old the same way you would to an adult. Similarly you would not explain something to a sporty 20 year old that skateboards regularly, the same way you would explain it to a middle aged lawyer, attending a lesson with his kids. You need to be able to change your explanation for whomever you’re teaching, whether it’s the skateboarder, lawyer or the lawyer’s kids.
Although you may want to show off your knowledge on the subject, you would be amazed at how little spoken words people will actually take in. Be sure to keep your explanations as short and concise as possible.
Touch on the key points, keep the key points simple, and don’t overload your student with information. If you explain ten things, you will be lucky if they remember a couple of these points. So focus on one skill at a time and keep your explanations simple.
Regardless of how good a teacher you are, how good you are at breaking down the movements and how good you are at explaining the skills, your student needs mileage to learn these. After teaching any part of snowboarding, allow your student to try it, repeatedly.
Repetition is key! Once someone has learnt a new skill, they will need to do it over, and over, and over again until the muscle memory kicks in, and the body knows it. The goal is for your body to know these movements, and for your body to do it naturally, without the thinking mind “thinking” about what it is you’re doing.
Allow your student to have ample mileage with each skill, before moving onto the next. If they are struggling with something, go back a step, or two, gain more mileage with something they are already confident with. Improving the basic skills will always help with the more advanced techniques.
As stated earlier, the only point of snowboarding is to have fun. If your student is struggling with a certain aspect of snowboarding, if they are starting to get frustrated and not having fun, don’t push them to learn the skill.
Go back to something they have some confidence with and allow them to play about with this, let them have fun with it, come up with a game or two within that skill, so they can have fun doing it. People can only push themselves for a small percentage of the day, so spend as much time as possible having fun with the skills they have already learnt.
Although you may want them to progress to enjoy the whole mountain. It’s highly likely they will have a lot more fun where they feel safe, on the nursery slope, doing something they are good at. If they want to side slip the nursery slope all day rather than being terrified going up the chair lift, allow them to go at their own pace. Remember your first time snowboarding? Always be patient, and supportive!
If all else fails, book them into a lesson with ski school 🙃.
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.