Snowboard: Who Me?
Twenty- five years ago, snowboarders at ski resorts were conspicuous by their absence. In fact, snowboarding was forbidden at resorts such as Aspen Colorado, Taos, New Mexico, Deer Valley, Alta, Utah and Mad River Glen, Vermont. Times have certainly changed. While snowboarding was once in the exclusive domain of males under age 25, even baby boomers of both genders are embracing the sport. Many have found that it is easier on the knees. Others welcome the chance to wear a pair of soft and comfortable boots, as opposed to the stiff boots worn for alpine skiing.
Today, most resorts have eliminated their ban on snowboarding, and there are only few areas where riding is prohibited. Initially, snowboarding may be harder to learn than skiing. However, once you learn the basics, many find that the learning curve is much shorter than the learning curve of alpine skiing.
A Brief History of Snowboarding
While many people credit Jake Burton with the invention of the snowboard, its history actually began in 1965. During this year, a chemical gas engineer by the name of Sherman Poppen decided that it would be fun to tie two skis together and put a rope at the end. His invention was inspired by surfing and skateboarding. Poppen called his new toy a 'snurfer.' Poppen's daughters adored their new play thing. Soon, their friends decided that they too wanted this new 'snow toy,' which was much cooler than a sled. Poppen decided to sell his idea to a manufacturer. By 1966, over half a million snurfers were sold in the United States.
While the snurfer was usually regarded as children's toy, Poppen organized snurfing competitions across the country. One day, a man named Jake Burton attended one of these events. He immediately fell in love with the sport, and decided to expand on its possibilities. Thus, when he moved to Londonderry, Vermont in 1977, he created the first laminated, hardwood board. Burton improved on the snurfer by adding bindings, which made a huge difference in safety and efficiency. In fact the improvements were so significant, that when Burton entered another snurfing competition, he inspired the envy of his fellow competitors when he beat them by a long shot. The rest is history. In 1994, after a long fight, snowboarding was finally accepted as an Olympic sport.
Snowboarding: the Ultimate Balance Sport
Many people are concerned that they might not be in good enough shape to learn to ride. While being fit certainly helps, snowboarding is more about dynamic balance and less about brute strength. To prepare for your snowboarding lesson, spend time on a balance board, a stability ball or a bosu. You can combine snowboard-specific strength by performing squats and lunges on any type of balance device, and train your core muscles by performing crunches on a stability ball.
Dress for Snowboard Success
How much enjoy snowboarding is directly dependent on your ability to stay warm. You should choose snowboard clothing that can wick moisture, supply warmth and allow for freedom of movement. The layering approach can accomplish all of this.
Begin with a pair of long thermal underwear and a long thermal undershirt. Fabrics should be synthetic. Never use cotton! It will store moisture, instead of wicking it. Stored moisture makes you feel wet and feeling wet makes you cold. Polyester or polypropylene materials are the best materials for snowboard underwear.
Your next layer of clothing is responsible for insulation. A fleece turtleneck works best. In extremely cold weather, you will want to wear a pullover over the turtleneck. The outer layer of snowboard clothing is the most challenging, because it needs to be waterproof, windproof and breathable. It also needs to be big enough to fit over your base and insulating layers. Since snowboarding might take more upper-body motion than skiing, snowboard jackets tend to be a somewhat baggier.
Snowboard pants should also be composed of waterproof, breathable and windproof materials. Be warned! Many snowboarding movements might cause your pants to shift while riding. Avoid embarrassment, and look for pants with belt loops. You might also want to consider snowboard pants with padding around the knee and butt, which will make life more comfortable when you are kneeling or sitting on the slope.
Keeping your hands nice and toasty will help the rest of your body nice and warm. Snowboarders are lucky. Since they do not use ski poles, they can wear mittens, which are often warmer than gloves. A helmet will keep your head warm and safe, and goggles will protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
Snowboarders ride in either of two stances; goofy or regular. If you ride with your right foot forward, you are goofy, and if you ride with your left foot forward, you are regular. Goofy or regular snowboard stance has nothing to do with whether you are right-handed or left-handed. While there are a variety of ways to establish whether you have a goofy or regular stance, the easiest is to observe which foot you use first when climbing stairs and taking a step forwards.
Learning to Ride
Learning to snowboard requires a sense of humor. You will probably fall, but if you relax, you won't get hurt. Laugh at your wipe-outs and applaud your accomplishments. Have fun!