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Eight years after my very first snowboard lesson, I knew had room for improvement. A Front Range weekend warrior (and mom), I average about 12-16 days a year on the mountain. I could make it down a black run, but I normally stick with blues. Improvement wasn’t happening fast enough for me. My skidded turns could be tighter. My confidence could be greater. I wanted more control of my board. What bad habits have I picked up? What is keeping me from progressing? Maybe it was time for a refresher.
I was paired up with instructor Michael Douglas at Breckenridge’s Ski & Ride School for two, full-day lessons. We started on a green run so Michael could evaluate my flaws. I say that because nothing will make your flaws stand out more than knowing a pro is watching. I quickly got over my self-consciousness, reminding myself that Michael had seen it all, and his job was to help, not judge. It helped that Michael was super easy-going and patient. Didn’t matter how long it took me to learn a skill, Michael acted as if we had all the time in the world. I never felt rushed. And contrary to how my first snowboard lesson went eight years ago, I even had fun. Besides improving my riding, Michael helped me with my lingo while on the lifts, including pointing out the steeze (style) of the riders below us. I was being fully immersed in snowboarder culture, and I loved it.
So, what did I learn from my snowboard lesson that I didn’t already know? Lots. The things that were keeping me from progressing were all things I wasn’t even aware I was doing, or not doing.
Day One of My Snowboard Lesson
1. Knee steering
One of my bad habits was using my upper body to steer. Your upper body should remain perfectly motionless, while your knees and feet do all the steering. Michael had me try an exercise that really brought it home for me: riding with my arms behind my back. It’s impossible to turn with anything other than your knees. I still practice riding this way to help me narrow in on using only my knees to steer, giving me much more control over my board.
2. Weight distribution
I was riding with my weight on my back foot, which gave me very little power over my steering. 60% of your weight should be on your front foot, 40% on your back foot. With my weight distributed properly, I have far more control.
3. Drop your lead shoulder into your turns
I’ve always had trouble with my heel-side turns. This one small technique, combined with mastering knee steering, has made a huge difference.
4. Flex out of your turns:
When approaching a turn your knees should be bent and your center of gravity low, then extend your legs and shift your weight upward as you travel through and out of the turn. Return to knees bent as you traverse. This “pumping” motion really helps to create momentum, generate speed, and absorb bumps.
The simple act of timing my turns has me riding like a pro. Rather than being in my head where I can shake my own confidence, I’m focused on counting out loud and turning at 3, 4, or 5-second intervals using all the above techniques. When I’m counting – or even singing to myself – everything comes naturally, and I’m not thinking about the grade of the hill or my rate of speed and checking myself like I used to.
Ironically, this is something I was doing without even knowing it. Now that I am aware, I can work it more to my benefit. Twisting is when you work your feet independently, forward and back for direction or to slow your speed. The more flexible your board, the more twist you can achieve.
Unlike skidded turns, a carved turn is when your board travels through the snow on a single edge, toe-side or heel-side, from the traverse through the turn. This was a new concept for me, but one I sort of do naturally on hard snow in order to maintain control. Now, I need to use it for speed!
What will you learn about your snowboarding style, habits (good and bad) and ways you can improve? If you’re ready to take it to the next level, an intermediate/advanced snowboard lesson is for you.
Chris is a designer, WAHM and pilot’s wife living in Aurora, Colorado. She writes about family travel standby as Standby Traveling Mom
Disclosure: Breckenridge Ski & Ride School hosted me for the purposes of writing this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are my own and without influence by Breckenridge Ski & Ride School.