10 tips for snowboarding on ice and hardpack

If you live in the northeast and you snowboard, you probably know plenty about snowboarding on ice.  Some years that’s all we’ve got- manmade snow, and a series of thaw and freeze cycles.   So when the options are snowboarding on ice or not snowboarding at all, these 10 things can make life a little less treacherous for you.

Just kidding…this is actually our parking lot.  If you see this on the mountain, walk carefully back to the ticket window and get your money back

1) Relax…DO NOT panic!  Without fail, when I see a patch of ice coming I’m tempted to dump speed.  That’s not really the best way to go about things.  It’s like when I am driving and a bird flies right across my windshield and I duck.  No good.  Hold yourself together.  We’ll get through this.


2) Keep scanning the terrain ahead of you so you know when you are going to encounter ice, look for differences in color and sheen of the snow.   With that, plan ahead if you can see a patch of ice look for spots before or after it where you can dump speed if you feel it’s necessary…but don’t try to do that while you are riding over the ice.


3) Keep your base pretty flat as you ride over a patch of ice.  It’s good to keep an edge in contact with the ice, but don’t get too much up on edge.  Don’t try to sideslip or stop, your edge will slip out.


4) Try to avoid sudden moves.  Keeping a consistent, moderate pace will make adjustments easier.  It’s easy to over-adjust on ice, and chances are really good that if you do that, you will end up on the ground.


5) Bend your knees…you’ll be better able to adjust to changing conditions and sketchy situations, and you will already be closer to the ground should you go down.


6) Magne-Traction from Gnu, Arbor’s Grip TechMagne-Traction from Gnu, Arbor’s Grip Tech or other companies’ versions of it can be very helpful. These add extra contact points to your board so you have more edge in contact with the ice and hard pack.  If you think of how a serrated knife cuts through a crusty loaf of bread vs a regular knife you can get an image about how the extra contact points bite into the ice and snow better.

7) Ask a local or ski area ambassador where to go on the mountain at particular times of the day.  The way the sun hits the mountain will make certain areas better at different times of day.  They should be able to give you the scoop.


8) Popular trails tend to get scraped off sooner.  That can make things scarier as the day goes on.  So you may want to avoid those trails later in the day, or at least ride on the edge of the trail where the snow tends to land when it gets scraped from the middle.  The top of the mountain is often the most exposed part and can result in icy conditions from heavier winds blowing off the snow.


9) Don’t forget to wear your snowboard helmet.  And you might want to consider wrist guards, knee pads and/or padded shorts.



10) Sharpen your snowboard edges before you venture out.  A dull edge will not bite into the ice at all, a sharp edge will and the friction of your edge against the ice and snow will melt a little track for you.  Not only will dull edges not grip the ice, they will cause you to wash out.

What doesn’t kill you….well, you know.  You will be a better rider for your scary, icy outings.  So stick with it.    It’s still better than staying home, and it’s a reality of east coast snowboarding most years.  Keep it tame when you are in dicey conditions for your safety and that of everyone around you.  If it’s so bad that you feel like you are putting yourself in danger, then by all means, call it day.   Many resorts let you test out the conditions for an hour or so after you pick up your ticket.  Each ski area is different so check the policy before you venture out.  In some cases you are better off just getting a voucher for a future outing.  It’s more important that you stay safe so you are able to ride another day!


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