Activity Workshop
 

Snowboarding - A Numpty's Guide

As I hope I have managed to explain on the first page, snowboarding is a fantastic activity which is enjoyed by many. And yet, there is still prejudice against snowboarders. Why? A couple of years ago the media claimed that there was a 'war' between skiers and snowboarders, and promoted the stereotypes of middle aged wealthy skier in designer all-in-ones battling with grungy teenager snowboarder with an attitude and baggy trousers.

Thankfully neither of those stereotypes are accurate, and the alleged 'war' never really developed. Now almost all resorts welcome both skiers and riders, and in general everyone gets along, but the same old chestnuts still get put around by the ignorant. One case in point, not so long ago, I was waiting for my friends at the side of the piste (being careful not to get in the way), when I was called a "snowboarder wan#er" by a complete stranger! Why? And why "snowboarder" - what's that got to do with me being a "wan#er" or not? Of course, he didn't stop to explain himself, he just carried on his way, apparently very proud of his clever wit. Let me stress, that this obnoxious man is not typical of most mountain-users I've met, in fact most are there for the same reason as I am - to enjoy the mountains and enjoy the snow.

So with the caveat that the majority of people are reasonable, friendly, chatty, and open-minded, this section is aimed at those who still harbour an irrational loathing of snowboarders. All contributions to this page, whether explanations of reasons for your dislike, or myths that you have heard, are very welcome, just email them to me.

Ignorant comments ... aka "I hate snowboarders because..."

They're all foul-mouthed yobs

Look around any international resort, and you'll find a huge cross-section of society riding an enormous and ever-growing variety of equipment. It's true that there are a lot of young snowboarders, but that's because the sport is still relatively new and young people are attracted to new sports. If you look though, there's an ever-growing number of, shall we say, 'more mature' snowboarders, who are also discovering riding. You see what you look for.

They're always stopping in the middle of the run

Unfortunately, learners fall over. And because it is sensible for learners to go down the middle of the run (you don't want them falling off the edge, do you?), that's where they'll fall too. It's no different for snowboarders than skiers. The problem is that as snowboarding is still quite new, and growing in popularity, there are a lot of learners, so you're going to see a higher percentage of snowboarders falling over than skiers. That doesn't mean that they're deliberately falling over in front of you, you know! Can't you remember when you were learning, and falling over?

Obviously, when a learner does fall over, they should attempt to get up and out of the way as soon as they can, out of courtesy for people behind. After carefully nursing their fresh bruises of course! But I personally haven't noticed boarders being any better or worse at doing that than skiers.

They're so lazy, always sitting or kneeling down

There's a good reason for that. Standing up on a board while it's stationary is very difficult. Everyone has to stop, whether for a rest or to wait for others, and whilst standing up with two skis and two poles is quite easy, standing up with just one board on the snow requires balance and a tolerance of static stress positions! So sitting or kneeling is more comfortable than balancing on tip-toes. It doesn't mean that snowboarders are more lazy, or that they're sitting around all day, it just means they're more noticeable.

Yes, it's a pain, but hey. On a good day I'm not waiting long and I'm resting in the cafe!

They're always rolling around on the floor

Well, noone said learning to snowboard would be elegant. Yes, unfortunately there can be a bit of rolling around, especially in the early stages of learning. Strapping in to the board can be tricky on a slope, and impossible if you try whilst standing on your toe edge. So if you want to start off on your toes, you have to flop the board over to get from sitting to kneeling. And yes, that can be spectacularly inelegant. The good thing is that learning is quite rapid, so it shouldn't be too long before you don't have to suffer such indignities any longer!

A similar problem occurs when the slope is too flat, and the boarder is forced to resort to frantic hopping, or awkward trudging with just one foot attached to the board. Yes, it's ugly, but the answer is to know where those flat spots are, and either build up enough speed to get through them, or just avoid those sections altogether.

It's stupid, you're going backwards half the time!

It's true that learners practice going backwards down the fall line, but that's to get used to controlling the toe edge and to practice braking. Similar to learning to snow-plough on skis.

Once beyond the initial day or so, the stance of a snowboarder is derived from that of surfers and skateboarders, so the upper body is facing forwards or slightly side-on. Think back to sliding across the school playground when it was icy, (or across the kitchen in your socks!), it's actually quite a natural way to travel.

I wouldn't like having my feet tied together

It can take some getting used to. Yes the boots are fastened securely to the board and they're not going to come off until you undo them. But that's not a hindrance, it allows you to pull and push on the board to get it to do what you want. No more problems of having to concentrate on keeping your feet together!

Of course it does mean that if you get slightly off balance, you can't just move one foot over to catch yourself, you've got to use your whole body instead. And that comes with lots of practice, after which it's automatic and you don't have to think about it any more.

All snowboarders hate skiers

No, that's not true, and a growing number of people regularly do both, choosing their board when the snow is deep and soft, and their skis when it's a bit harder or icier.

OK, rant over

Now I've got that off my chest, you might want to see some photographs of myself and others on the slopes, or check out some guides for resorts in Switzerland, Germany or Italy if you're in the area. Or go up to the main Snowboarding page.