The winter sports season is still a couple of months away and you may be considering trying out snowboarding. Or you may have tried it already with your friends but felt you didn’t really get it. Maybe you slid down the mountain on your heel side edge the whole way or maybe you couldn’t find enough balance to stay up for very long. Maybe you struggled to control your speed as you watched your buddies spinning off rollers, weaving in and around trees, and doing flat land tricks. Oddly enough, all those tricks and tree-riding are built off of one simple action- you have to learn to turn your snowboard, a.k.a. carve.
Instead of jumping into it again with little or no direction you should definitely think about taking a lesson or two before you get further frustrated or develop some really bad habits. A trained snowboard instructor can give you the tools you need to get up and start turning your board correctly in the shortest amount of time compared to trying to figure it for yourself. And the more time you spend turning the correct way, then the faster you will progress into different styles of snowboarding. In the meantime, here are a couple of pointers on how to turn your snowboard.
Step 1: Get Up to Speed
In order to turn your snowboard properly you first need to get going down the hill with a little bit of speed. This initial speed will allow the side cut (the concave, middle section of the board) to engage once you begin the turn. Start with a flat base and move your weight forward onto your front foot. BEND YOUR KNEES and stay low for stability and remember to keep your weight forward onto your front foot. If you lean back you will keep going straight down the hill.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to pick up speed and keep your knees bent (stay low) before initiating the turn. It may seem counterintuitive but the more you lean forward, looking down the mountain, the more stable and in control you will be. If you lean back onto your rear foot you will lose control of your speed- scary.
Step 2: Look and Point
To start the turn, move your head and look in the direction you want to go. Turning your head will make your shoulders turn, which will make your hips turn. To facilitate this hold your front hand out and point to the spot where you are looking. Keep your knees bent and let the board’s side cut engage. DO NOT try and force the board to turn- it won’t happen and you will end up falling.
Step 3: Weight the Edge
As your head, shoulders, and hips turn towards the direction you want to go, you will feel your weight begin to shift onto your toes (toe side turn), or heels (heel side turn). As this happens, lean into the turn, putting pressure on your toes (toe side turn) and heels (heel side turn). At that point the board’s side cut will engage and start turning on its edge. When doing heel side turns you will hang your butt out over the back edge of the board as you turn your head and shoulders in the direction you want to go.
Things to Remember
Learning to turn your snowboard correctly begins by following a few simple steps:
A) Lean forward, shifting your weight onto your front foot with knees bent, head looking down hill keeping the board flat on the snow, and pick up speed.
B) Turn your head (look), shoulders and hips in the direction you want to go. Use your hand when first starting out to guide you.
C) Lean forward while bending your knees so that they are directly over your toe side edge for toe side turns. Bend your knees and hang your butt out over the heel side edge for heel side turns.
Once you make that first turn, whether it’s a toe side turn or a heel side, then continue going across the slope until you stop. Then shift your weight onto your front foot again and nudge the nose of your board downhill. Once you pick up speed begin to turn in the opposite direction. You may have to practice this for a bit before you feel comfortable not stopping completely before heading downhill again, but that’s ok. Take your time and soon enough you will start blending the steps together. Once you do it the first time you’ll have an “AH HA” moment. Let muscle memory take it from there.
Carving is the key to all that is snowboarding. Without it there are no tricks, tree riding, jump spins, or anything you’ve seen snowboarders do, short of flat basing straight down the mountain (otherwise known as suicide). Also, when you learn how to turn using the rails of your board you develop better edge control and therefore better control over your speed and maneuverability. So be patient and learn your turns well. I guarantee down the road there will be a huge pay off. Good luck!