Banal tips that people don’t tell you about snowboarding

Here’s some stuff it would have been useful to know before our first snowboarding trip.

Wrap around sunglasses are fine for learning with, but heed all the advice about strong ones that won’t break and UV protection. They are also more likely to come off than goggles and goggles are much better when it’s actually snowing (at which point sunglasses fill up with snow when you fall over!). So, if you’re choosing between buying sunnies or goggles, get goggles (double lenses are best). If, however, you’ve already got some sunglasses that will do the trick, try ’em out and get goggles at the resort if you really need ’em (for about 30 quid).

No matter how good your gloves are, chances are they will get wet after a day (or even half a day) of falling over and sweating into them. I had Burton ones that fit me well and I dried them off each night just fine. The three people I was snowboarding with all had two pairs of gloves each, and alternated each day. Some gloves have removable linings, that can help with drying them off.

I was in La Plagne in France in early January. For snowboarding, I wore one wicking long sleeved top, one tightly fitting long sleeved fleece and my coat (without its super-warm lining). It’s amazing what a difference windproof coats make, and the wicking layer is essential to get the sweat away from the skin. I kept a hat in my pocket but only really felt the need for it when I stopped snowboarding and cooled down a bit. I got a neck tube thing, too, which would have been good in the snow, but wasn’t necessary for the days without snowfall (Sarah had a modern balaclava that worked as a neck tube when it wasn’t snowing so hard she needed it as a balaclava). As for trousers, I got slightly padded trousers and didn’t need to wear thermals under them. The only thing I’d have done differently would be to get trousers with extra padding or reinforcement around the bum and knees, but these are quite hard to find and a good fit that you’re comfortable in makes more of a difference. In the evening, you’ll want some waterproof boots. Shoes would do at a push, but if you’re stomping through deep snow, boots are better. If you’ve got walking boots or similar waterproof boots, they should do. It’ll also be colder.

Socks and boots
It’s really important your boots fit right. They normally don’t fit just like regular boots. They should be really snug, and your heel shouldn’t lift in them. Wear an extra pair of socks if necessary. Your toes might touch the end of the boot slightly when you lean back in the boots standing up, but not when you lean forward. We found it best to do up our boots while we were standing up, to get a tight fit without cutting off all blood circulation. Get good socks. We got a couple of £18 pairs, designed for snowboarding (not skiing), and they were worth their weight in gold.

Learning to fall and protective clothing
The key thing when learning to snowboard is working out how to fall so you don’t hurt yourself. Wrists are the things most at risk so learn to fall forwards onto your knees and forearms and back on to your bum and then shoulder. Careful when pushing yourself up on your hands, as that will put an unusual amount of strain on your wrists and may end up hurting them. The downside of falling on your bum is that you will hurt your bum. Expect huge black bruises :-). Actually, this is worse than it sounds as it really hurts, so we tried to fall in different directions to spread the pain. It’s worth seriously considering knee pads (if you’ve got some for skateboarding, take them with you) and wrist guards. There’s a real difference between the wrist guards you use for skateboarding / rollerblading and the ones for snowboarding. The snowboarding ones are more flexible, while the street ones lock your hands in position and we were worried that would be bad if you landed badly backwards. Some are designed to go over the gloves and some go under. I managed without, but Sarah and Gabriel swore by them (having bought them at a decent price in the resort).

Essential medicines
Arnica – for all the bruises you WILL get.
Deep Heat or some anti-inflammatory gel – for all the muscle aches and pains

Useful gadgets and other stuff to remember
Lift pass holder – you really don’t want to lose it
Photograph for your lift pass – why didn’t they tell us this??!
Bindings tool – not essential as instructors carry them, but can be useful for fixing bindings
Are you going foreign? If you are, all the normal stuff about being in a different country (language, is the water safe, etc.) applies even though you’re hurtling down mountains
Hire board and boots for the first time – you won’t know what kit you like until you’ve tried it

You’ll hear that the first 3 days are the worst, and that’s true. Try to get fit before you go (sit-ups, leg exercises and general fitness) and when you’re there try not to get too tired, as the more tired you are, the more you’ll fall, and the more you’ll hurt. Also, I’d say don’t go for more than a week first time round – if you get hurt it’ll be REALLY annoying, and if you don’t get hurt, more than 6 or 7 days of bruises might just be too much. Enjoy!