12 Introduction to Snowboarding and Basic Skills

Basic Orientation to the Board

Every snowboard has a nose (or tip) and tail. The nose of your board is the front of your board when you are riding in your normal riding position (regular or goofy). The tail is behind your back foot. The bottom of your board, that is in frequent contact with the snow, is called the base. Contrary to surfing, this is the part of your snowboard that gets waxed to keep you gliding over the snow. It is made of a material called polyethylene that has tiny pours that soak up wax when heated, and close over when cold. This way, your wax is slowly extruded through the base. The top of your snowboard is known as the top sheet, and is where your bindings attach. Around the base of your board there is a metal edge, which allows your edges to dig into the snow to make turns. The edge under your toes is a toe edge. The edge under your heels is called a heel edge.

Regular Versus Goofy Stance

In boardsports a stance refers to the placement of your feet on the board, with one foot in front of the other foot while standing sideways. Because of this sideways orientation, balance is extremely important, and most riders naturally select a stance that provides maximum stability. But when it comes to snowboarding there are a few more critical details. In snowboarding, stance includes four main factors: footedness, width, angle, and setback. All of these factors work together to allow the rider optimum comfort and control. It is worth noting that stance is largely preferential, and we recommend that you modify your stance based on what feels best for you and your riding style. There are two types of stance: regular and goofy. Regular footed means your left foot is in front and your right foot is in back; goofy footed means that your right foot is in front and your left foot is in back.

Note: Regular does not mean correct and goofy does not mean incorrect.

Generally, your more dominant foot will be in the back to power the board and control steering while the front foot provides the balance. Interestingly, there is a strong correlation between handedness and footedness, resulting in more people riding regular (right foot back, left foot forward) than goofy, but there are no rules that say this is required.

Ways to establish your snowboard stance footedness:

  1. The slide test: Wearing thick socks, run and slide on a smooth hardwood or tile floor. Whichever foot is in front during your slide is most likely the foot that should be in front for your snowboard stance.
  2. The push test: Stand up straight with your heels together and look straight ahead. Have a trusted friend surprise you with a gentle shove from behind. Whichever foot naturally reacts to brace you from falling is most likely the foot that should be in front for your snowboard stance.
  3. The stair test: Approach a set of stairs. Whichever foot starts the climb and touches the first bottom stair is most likely the foot that should be in back for your snowboard stance.

Stance Width

Until you have developed a comfortable riding style, the general recommendation for stance width is to place your feet (and bindings) slightly wider than shoulder width to start; this offers the ideal balance of stability and responsiveness. To make this simpler, most manufacturers include a reference stance that is optimized for the specific snowboard model. After riding for a period of time you may want to adjust your stance. Widen the stance if you are struggling with balance and shrink the stance if you have a difficult time initiating turns.

Body Positioning

Our basic stance is the fundamental standing position on the snowboard that enables us to perform certain body and weight transfer movements with the smallest amount of snow friction resistance and maximum board performance possible. In addition, having your body in alignment gives you better balance and stability over your board.

Correct alignment includes:

  • Upper and lower body in line with your board.
  • Looking forward with head up. By avoiding looking down you will find it easier to stay well balanced and in control.
  • Back straight and arms and shoulders loose and relaxed. Hands comfortably by your sides.
  • Weight centered.
  • Knees slightly bent directly over your feet.
  • Hips soft and relaxed.

Note: For a good snowboard stance you should only turn your head to face the direction you are riding in. A common mistake is to turn from the hips and let your torso completely face forward (counter rotation movement). This should be avoided as it will throw you off balance and make turning harder.


Basic Skills

1. Skate and Step

Skating and stepping are the first skills you’ll learn on snow, and ones you’ll use every time you strap on a snowboard. First stand in an athletic snowboard stance. Again, the proper snowboard stance is: feet about shoulder width apart, back straight with shoulders square, hands at your sides and ankles, knees and hips slightly flexed. Press the back foot into the snow and push off to move forward. Whether you skate on your heel edge with your foot behind you, or on your toe edge with your foot in front will largely depend on two factors: your preference or the terrain.

2. Glide

Gliding is a basic snowboard skill that you’ll use every time you hit the snow. It introduces the balance, pressure, and edging skills you will need for turning later on. With your front foot strapped in, get yourself moving, then rest your foot up against your back binding. For a straight glide, simply get moving down hill and stay put until you naturally run out of speed. Like coasting on a bicycle, once you get moving, you just want to maintain your balance. This is a great chance to get accustomed to how your snowboard moves across the snow. If you need to turn around, plant your free foot in the snow either in front or behind the board and pivot around it. Once you are comfortable, start playing around with your toe and heel edges. This small amount of pressure into the side edge will allow you to move to the right or left.


3. Control and Stopping

Stopping is a motion controlled by the heel- or toe-side edge of your board.

Heel-Edge Stopping

Begin by standing on a gradual slope or a beginner slope with your entire body facing downhill and your board across the incline. Stand with your knees bent, and stay low. Think about pressing your heels into the back of the board and lifting your toes very steadily off the ground. Pressing your heels hard into the snow is what is going to make you stop.

Toe-Edge Stopping

Press the toe-side edge of your board into the snow, and lift your heels slightly. Staying bent and low as you place more pressure on your toe-side edge will bring you to a stop. Think not about pointing and standing on the top of your toes, but instead about pushing your toes down as if you were standing on the balls of your feet. Stay entirely facing uphill with your board horizontal in order to stop.


4. Getting Up from the Ground

There are two ways to stand up from the ground:

1. From the heel-edge

Keeping your toe-edge high will provide the best grip on the slope and keep you from sliding. Using one hand, pull the edge of the board closer to your glutes which will help with positioning and stability. In one smooth motion push yourself up and forward with your back hand.

2. From the toe-edge

If you are limited on flexibility it is easier to get up from the toe-edge. Start by fastening your bindings from a seated position. Next, flip over to the toe edge as your roll over. It is helpful to pull from under the back knee to assist the board in flipping.


When you fall in the middle of the slope be sure to keep your board perpendicular to the slope to keep from sliding down.


Riding the Magic Carpet

First time snowboarders start out learning how to move around on the flat and then progress to sliding and stopping on a very gentle slope. This takes a bit of practice and repetition, which means you have to keep getting back up that gentle slope. Walking up is no problem as you don not have to go far. However, as you gain more skill and confidence and are comfortable sliding further, walking up a long way can become very tiring.

A magic carpet is essentially an escalator without stairs that will carry you up the beginner hill. The conveyor is typically made of rubber or grippy plastic, so when you ski onto it, your skis owill stick to the material and you will not fall backward. At the top of the hill, the belt gently pushes the passengers onto the snow and they slide away.

Before magic carpets, a more common beginner lift was a ski tow. This style of lift required skiers to hold onto a rope (usually metal) that would pull them up the slope. Due to the difficulty of riding a rope tow, many ski resorts have switched to magic carpets.

  1. Getting Onto the Lift

As you approach the base of the magic carpet, ensure your board is pointed forward and lined up with the magic carpet conveyor. Skate your way forward towards the conveyor. It will grip your board and pull you onto the magic carpet.

You should leave enough space between you and the skier in front of you before you ski onto the magic carpet. The appropriate spacing distance is often marked with orange cones.


  1. Stay Balanced and Pay Attention

Once you are on the magic carpet, all you need to do is keep your balance and enjoy the ride. Because you will be standing, you should ensure that you are standing with good posture. It is usually relatively easy to stay balanced once you are on a magic carpet. It is like riding the escalator, but your feet cannot move too much.

  1. Be Ready to Glide Away From the Lift When You Reach the Top

When you reach the top of the lift, glide off the magic carpet and skate out of the way for other skiers and snowboarders riding the magic carpet behind you.

Snowboarders do not need to worry so much about using a lift of this kind. Beginner snowboarders find it easier learning on slightly steeper slopes than the skiers. As a result they end up using the chairlift much sooner.

Riding a Chair Lift

Chair lifts are the most common type of lift that you’ll likely use on your ski trip. It is a metal bench suspended in the air by cables that takes you from the bottom to the top of the slope. They are typically used for longer and steeper journeys and to carry you over the terrain at speed. Chair lifts can fit between two and eight people depending on the lift. The lifts generally slow down when approaching the beginning or end of the journey and are evenly spaced out so you have enough time to get into position.

Getting on a Chair Lift

  1. Pick a Slow Lift if You are a Beginner

It is good to know that not all lifts run at the same speed. Lifts that serve beginner terrain and the bunny hill will often run slower to make it easier for new snowboarders to load and unload.

  1. Prepare to Load

Skate over to the loading area. On a busier day, skiers and snowboarders may be coming in from several directions and etiquette usually dictates that you alternate whenever the queues merge, however there should be signage instructing you as to how to proceed. As you reach the front, you will form a line and you may find yourself standing shoulder to shoulder with up to five other skiers. It is important to load the side of the lift with your lead foot forward.

  1. Load the Ski Lift

As soon as the group in front of you is on the chairlift, slowly skate forward to the marked loading line and wait for the chair to come to you. Keep the board straight. Look behind you as the chair approaches. When the chair is right behind you, sit down. Lift the nose of your board slightly to avoid the edge from catching the snow and dragging.

  1. Pull the Safety Bar Down

As soon as you are seated, reach up and pull the safety bar down, communicating with others that you are doing so. Once the bar is down, you can rest your board on your free foot.


Enjoy the View on the Chair Lift

Now you can sit back and enjoy the mountain views.


Getting off a Chair Lift

  1. Prepare to Unload

When you get near the top, you will see signs on the lift poles telling you to prepare to unload. When you see the sign telling you to raise the bar, lift it up and scoot your weight so that the board is pointing forward and the front end is lifted.

  1. Unload

If it seems like you are moving really fast, the lift will slow a little as you come in to land. Place the board on the snow and your rear foot directly on the board in front of your rear binding. Confidently stand up and let the chair push you forward. Keep your balance and direct your yourself out of the way of the lifts. If you are by yourself, you will simply glide in the direction of the run you want to take, however if you are unloading with others, it is best that you all simply go straight ahead until you are clear of the unloading area, then you can figure out if you need to go right or left. Now you can strap in your back foot and enjoy a run.



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Skiing and Snowboarding Copyright © by Dr. Renee Harrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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