“I went from a super-steezy tail-butter to floating through the air switch, and I landed exactly one hard left turn in front of a massive tree trunk.”
(Not so) Obvious Disclaimer: Until this year I worked at a resort. That is how I have managed to ride almost everyday, and thus still think of snowboarding as a rather routine activity. Most people that read this won’t ski or snowboard more than a dozen times per season, if at all. If you don’t understand the terminology used herein, please read on. Chances are it will all come together as you continue. I try my best to find a comfortable medium in with my vocabulary, constructing all blogs so they’re “universally comprehensible”. Thank you for understanding. Enjoy the show.
“Be, Creative! Be, Be, Creative!”
There isn’t much snow coverage yet in the Lower 48. After all, December is still just around the corner. But that doesn’t mean now isn’t the perfect time to get your legs into shape and practice more technical skiing or snowboarding. Although many would disagree, I enjoy having to put together pieces of a puzzle on my way down the mountain. Most people won’t ride the resort until there is more snow on the ground, usually due to the greater chance of beating up their skis or boards on rocks. Others claim to get bored fast when there are only a few trails open. Some may have been injured riding too early in the year, therefore hold a grudge against early-season turns. However, there are many ways to make more from less if you think creatively.
Unless a sponsor hooks you up with multiple boards per season, I don’t recommend taking your favorite pleasure stick on exploratory missions through rocky terrain. Either bring your rock-board – your beater board, park board or last year’s board – or try not to care so much about a core-shot or a busted edge that you can (almost) always repair later. The more often you ride, the better you become and, in turn, the harder you ride. Eventually you learn not to become attached with snowboards because they rarely last more than a season, anyways.
As Frost would have put it, take the road less travelled. If there is enough snow off-piste to put together turns and make your way downhill, take that route. But don’t just ride recklessly through a snow field without a proper pre-inspection, and don’t ever assume any soft snow will be “safe”. Usually, the lower the snow coverage, the higher the hazard level. But on harder snow that doesn’t give or allow sinkage (hahahaha, he said “sinkage”), weaving between and ollieing over patches of dirt, rocks and bushes can be great practice. It’s also a lot more fun than sticking to the groomed trails, unless they’re decorated with features like boxes, rails and jumps. Or, even better more often than not (in my opinion), moguls.
Moguls are a good on-piste (on a groomed trail) solution to unnatural terrain. Many skiers love moguls. Most snowboarders don’. I like to think of them as mini-berms on a banked slalom course, and I have tons of fun lapping bump-runs until my legs turn to Jello. It’s good to ride uneven terrain and learn to gauge your turns a few moves ahead of time, as if you’re playing a game of chess. If you can get into the moguls early-season, when the snow eventually gets good your legs and core will be strong and shready for action! Which leads us to our next topic, and a justified mantra of mine, if you will:
Ride moguls everyday.
Ride switch everyday.
Ride moguls switch everyday.
Practice riding switch-stance. It’s difficult at first, but definitely worth the investment. I learned from experience how useful this can actually be.
I went from a super-steezy tail-butter to floating through the air switch (backwards), and I landed exactly one hard left turn in front of a massive tree trunk. Luckily my superior muscle memory kicked into gear before I collided head-first with the pine tree I was flying toward at mach speed. I landed switch-stance, dug in my toe-edge and popped out onto a groomed trail, sliding about twenty feet on my butt on a flat surface – dazed, astounded, and speechless. I smacked myself in the sides of my helmet to ‘smack myself out of it’ and patted body down as if I had lost something in one of thirty pockets. The only thing that saved my ass was my training, and that day has been with me ever since.
Early season, before the entire mountain had opened and we were still confined to a few particular trails, we would practice riding the moguls. They’re like a more timid version of what it’s like to ride steep terrain. We made it a point to take a mogul lap every day we went out, and in due time that turned into riding them switch. At the time I knew that I was training, but had no idea what for. Well, I had plenty of ideas: switch 360’s, switch 270 blunt slides, switch rodeo flips. I mostly just wanted to get better at riding switch. Little did I know, all that training would lead up to one switch left turn. And I’m thankful for that turn, because ever since I have made a million more. Turns out it saved my ass…and quite possibly my life.
To this day I make it a point to ride switch every time I go snowboarding. Early season is a great time to practice fundamental work, before the snow gets deep and the time for “learning” has passed. By then, most people (including yourself) probably won’t have enough patience to wait while you figure things out. Nor will it be very practical to work on the basics when the snow is deep and soft. You’ll receive a lot more feedback from your board on hard-packed snow. Plus, although hilarious at times, falling over and getting stuck in powder can be really frustrating. Rarely does this occur without leaving you in an awkward, helpless and pretzel-like position. And you should count on falling when practicing the basics. If you can’t, you’re not trying hard enough.
So get out early and practice the fundamentals. As with any activity, start small and start early. That way when it’s time to play with the big dogs, you’re ripe and ready. Or as I like to put it, Shready. ‘Nuf said? Thought so.