With five seasons of teaching snowboard lessons under my belt, I’ve interacted with countless “never evers” who are experiencing the sport for the first time. Here are five tips for how to enjoy your first day on snow, so you end up wanting to come back for more.
1. Arrive to the mountain early
This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but you’d be surprised how often customers neglect to account for the rental shop lines, especially on holidays and weekends. The earlier you arrive, the more time you’ll have to book your lesson at the ticket office or snowsports school and get your equipment squared away. You may even get lucky and land a private lesson for the group rate if more spots are open.
2. Dress for the conditions
One of the main reasons people give up on snowboarding after their first day is due to being unprepared for the weather. Far too often, folks will show up in jeans or sweatpants, or even worse, forget to bring their gloves. It’s a lot harder to pay attention when it’s freezing cold and all you’re thinking about is your numb fingers or wet pants. You can always shed your extra layers if it starts to warm up.
3. Let your parents relax in the lodge
If you’re still too young to get your license and your parents are driving you up to the mountain, encourage them to grab a coffee or hot chocolate inside while you take your lesson. It isn’t helpful for instructors to be checking over their shoulder every few minutes for helicopter parents telling them what to do.
While that isn’t typically the case, both parties certainly benefit from more of a hands-off approach. Your instructor has been trained to teach all sorts of skill levels and work toward the customer’s goals. I think you’ll find it easier to have a good time if you’re not worried about mom or dad watching your every move.
4. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself
Even the world’s best snowboarders competing at the X Games had to start somewhere. Everyone falls their first day on snow. There’s no avoiding it. While safety is always the top priority, it’s okay to have fun with it when you catch your first edge and bail.
My first time going down the top at my home resort, Tussey Mountain, it probably took me 45 minutes and 45 spills to get to the bottom. Of course it was frustrating, but I had my friends there to keep my spirits up and playfully rib me with jokes. After all, snowboarding is just like riding a bike — once it clicks, your muscles will always remember what they’re doing. Then, you’ll be amazed how quickly you pick things up.
5. Be sure to wear a helmet
This one is by far the most important to me. While instructors and clients aren’t required to wear a helmet on the mountain, the way I see it, there’s no good reason not to. Sometimes all it takes is an awkward crash (even at low speeds) for you to smack your head in the wrong way. If smart professionals do it every time, why would a beginner feel “too cool” to wear one also?
Wearing a helmet saved pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s life in 2009 when he was training for the Olympics in superpipe and sustained a traumatic brain injury. Plus, it’s warmer for your ears than a hat anyway. Here’s a link to his site called Love Your Brain, which supports the TBI community and promotes brain-healthy activities like yoga and meditation.
I hope these tips were helpful for those who are interested in taking their first snowboard lesson. This sport is a great way to stay in shape and enjoy the outdoors. Who knows? Maybe it’ll become a lifelong passion for you, too.