Ready to take things up a notch this year? Here are 10 tips for making a big improvement.
1. Persistence Pays Off
“The biggest learning curve is overcoming the fear of not being able to get it right away,” says Romi Kristl, a professional snowboarder who has been riding since he was five years old—and on skis since age two. “But persistence pays off. If you put in the time that first season, making small improvements every time you go, you will be ready to go for the next season.”
“The biggest mistake I would say is getting frustrated and giving up before you even get the hang of it,” he says. “Learning a new sport that is not native to a human’s natural movement is going to be weird, and it’s going to take time. However, you can’t give up just because you get frustrated! If you are committed to learning, know that you will probably fail the first 2-3 times you go at it. But don’t worry, it will come around!”
2. Learn to Fall Correctly
“It takes many hours to get good at anything,” says Jack Hessler, a professional snowboarder from Stratton, Vermont. “What keeps most people from getting good at something like snowboarding is not giving it the time it really takes. I constantly see that people stop from progressing because of a fear of falling and bad habits. To avoid those, you must learn how to fall safely. Learn how to roll out of tumbles instead of—splat. How to feel your edge catching and go with it, rather than resisting and hitting the ground harder.”
3. Get Good Instruction
“Invest in professional ski instruction,” says Chris Marshall, an AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide who has been working in the snow, skiing, and avalanche world since 2006. “Even a single day with a good and qualified instructor is beneficial to anyone, no matter where you are in your skiing progression.”
“Find someone you are really comfortable with and who is very patient to teach you,” he says. “This will make all the difference in the world.”
4. Learn One New Thing Every Day
“Try to focus on learning one new technique every day,” Kristl says. “First, start with the feeling of sliding on snow. Strap in and have someone push you along a flat surface—you don’t even need to go up a chair for this. Next, getting up and making one turn. Then focus on turning and stopping. Then focus on the linking turns. You get the point, small progression each and every day! Make goals before you go out each time.”
5. Focus on Your Center of Gravity
“The best advice anyone can get is to bend your knees, notice and maintain your center of gravity, and turn with your shoulders,” says Hessler, referring to snowboarding.
His top instructional tips include:
- To snowboard well in varied conditions requires instant adaptability and the collusion of power and finesse. You must be able to charge as hard as you can, yet be ready to make a last-second maneuver before you can consciously process it (i.e., avoid a tree, absorb a mogul, etc.). This is initially accomplished by bending your knees, so they are like a loaded gun—ready to fire whenever. Suck up your knees when riding over bumps, then extend them once you’re on the other side, and suck up again. Never lock them out.
- He often returns to focusing on the center of gravity: “It’s usually somewhere around your belly button. The best posture is knees over toes, hips over knees, shoulders over hips, head over shoulders. Any bending at the waist changes and disrupts your balance and trajectory both on the snow and in the air. Instead, you should bend your knees and keep your back vertical. If you’re in deep powder, shift your hips towards your tail to help float. On an icy ridge on your hillside edge, shift your weight toward your front foot and stay in your squat like stance.”
- Make your snowboard an extension of your toes by using your shoulders and head. “We think about snowboarding as controlled by the feet and hips, as they are closest to the action, but this is false,” he explains. “Every movement is initiated by the eyes, passed to the head and neck, then shoulders to the hips and finally to the feet. I think of my front shoulder as my rudder. If I open it up (move it in the direction of my back), I will do a heel turn. Toward my chest, I’ll do a toe turn. To delve a bit deeper, the initial movement is made by the eyes. Where you look, your body ‘looks’ (pivots you to move in that direction). It’s about flowing and weaving the energy between your bent knees, center of gravity, and shoulders to elicit the exact response to your snowboard that you’re looking for.”
6. Remember to Ride the Wave
“A big mistake people make is resisting the shape of the snow and mountain,” Hessler says. “This happens by being rigid and stuck in one position. It’s better to ride the wave than to fight the wave, so bend your knees and dance with the mountain. A way to ensure you bend your knees is to add forward lean to your bindings. Your quads will burn at first, but you will learn how to glide.”
7. Understand the Pump
“The last piece of advice that I’ve learned is to understand the pump,” Hessler says. “If you don’t know what I’m talking about, type ‘vert skateboarding’ into YouTube and watch someone skate. Every time they go down the halfpipe wall they contract their knees then extend, precisely at the right time in the contour of the ramp to give them a Super Mario like speed boost. Then when they get to the other wall, they do the same thing again. Learn to pump and you will be able to fabricate speed and stay on your feet in any conditions.”
8. Remain Humble
“Skiing is a tough sport to learn, especially as an adult,” Marshall says. “When beginning any sport, a healthy dose of humility is in order, especially with skiing. I often see adult beginners trying to keep up with friends at the expense of focusing on dialing in their fundamentals and technique. It’s much easier to learn and practice good form than to try and correct bad habits that have become ingrained in our muscle memory.
“My focus these days is on backcountry skiing, which requires a huge addition skill set of skinning (uphill travel) skills, avalanche knowledge, map reading and navigation, and mountain sense. Some hurdles for people moving from resort skiing into the backcountry is understanding how to ski powder, developing efficient skinning and track setting techniques, developing avalanche knowledge, and finding reliable and safe backcountry ski partners.”
9. Moving to the Backcountry
“For skiers that are looking to get into backcountry skiing, an essential step is to take a level 1 avalanche course,” Marshall says. “There are lots of good options out there, and I encourage people to take a course with experienced and qualified instructors. After this course, which can be overwhelming, it’s important to find backcountry partners that you can go out with you. You can have conversations about the snowpack and terrain and make good decisions.”
Marshall also recommends taking an Intro to Backcountry Skiing course. Many guide services offer these programs. He also suggests hiring “a qualified guide; one that is certified through the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA), or a guide that has been trained by the AMGA or whatever the mountain guide association is for your country. When hiring a guide, it’s important to realize that cheaper is not better and you get what you pay for. Get a few friends together, and you’ll pay a little bit more per person than you would for a lift ticket. When you hire a guide, you are paying for them to work with you on whatever your day(s) objectives are, whether that is taking you to the best powder stashes, or a day full of skills and techniques, or both. Even if you hire a guide just to take your group skiing, you’ll learn some awesome tips and techniques along the way. Remember to keep asking questions: A good guide will be an open book with what they are thinking, how they are choosing their route, and how they are managing avalanche risk for the day.”
10. Have Fun
“Remember that skiing is always a work in progress and is really fun,” Marshall says. “Skiing can be addictive. It taps into our flow state, induces chemical changes in our brain, and is a healthy and fun way to experience winter. Go get it!”
Written by Jeff Banowetz for RootsRated Media in partnership with 37.5.
Featured image provided by 37.5 Technology