Moving to Colorado meant all kinds of changes to our lifestyle after 7 years of Florida living…and one of those was finding ways to enjoy the long winters.
We decided to head out to Winter Park Resort for a first go and learning to embrace what the majestic mountains offer for us crazy athletic people who like to spend our weekends being active rather than on the couch.
As a COMPLETE newbie to all things ski, snowboard related I had no idea what to expect and at least a few things would have made my day a whole lot less stressful….probably not less painful, there’s going to be a few falls!
A few things I gleaned from friends before heading out and few I learned the hard way:
1. Clothing: Whatever the temperature is in town, you can assume it’s much colder up in the mountains. Start with a base layer of wicking clothing to ensure once you being sweating you don’t hold that moisture against your skin making you colder. You’ll also want waterproof pants and a jacket because you’ll probably spend some time laying in the snow and they day is much more pleasant when you aren’t wet.
2. Gloves: Poor circulation seems to be an issue for me, which means my fingers are always cold…but beyond that again snow is wet. While doing some initial practice I didn’t have on my gloves because it was pretty warm, but a few drops into the snow gave me that HOLY CRAP it’s cold feeling and my waterproof Columbia gloves suddenly became the best purchase of my life.
3. Falling: Well I think the above two points have made it clear there should be an expectation that you’re going to fall. Butt pads were recommended to me since we opted for snowboarding, but I skipped them because honestly I can’t even stand bike shorts so that sounded awful.
Instead, I really just wish the instructor had taught me how to fall. David really wished that after coming down hard on his tailbone and whipping his head back into the ground. I found this great video with tips that I’ll use text time.
4. Find your lead foot. Most snowboards are reversible, as the front and back are the same. These boards can be used for snowboarding downhill and for doing freestyle tricks on a flat surface, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What really matters is figuring out which foot will be your leading foot.
One way to figure this out is to pretend like you are kicking a soccer ball, which foot do you plant to the ground and which foot do you kick with? The foot you plant to the ground is the one you want in front as your driving foot.
Great graphic from OnBoardMag.5. Weekdays are usually better days to start. Of course the weekends are going to be busier, it doesn’t mean the slopes are crowded, but it does mean when you’re brand new and feel you have zero control over steering yourself or stopping you spend a lot of time fearing that you’ll plow into someone.
Especially when you’re on the bunny hill, you can expect a lot of groups to be taking lessons and from adults to kids you’re all kind of a wild card, so the weekdays are much slower giving you more freedom to move without concern for others.
6. Always take lessons. Whether you’ve skied before or this is your first time on a board, lessons are tremendously helpful in brushing up on a new skill, additionally you’re taking the pressure off of a family member or friend. They may not have the patience needed to get you through all the basics, instead of spending their precious mountain time snowboarding.
We opted for a Max 4 lesson, which means a maximum of 4 people per instructor. The benefit is someone to truly hold your hand if you need it, but don’t shy away from the larger groups. They will move down the hill together practicing one skill at a time, which gives you time in between falls to watch and learn from others.
Another benefit to the weekday is you’ll likely be in a much smaller group without any additional cost.7. Rent before you buy. It’s probably a no brainer to mention this, but don’t let your excitement for this new sport have you dropping money at REI before you’ve spent a few days on the mountain. You may not even be aware of all the pieces you need.
Snowboard equipment, which will include your board, boots, bindings, helmet and goggles, can usually be rented for around $20 to $40 a day at most ski resorts. In fact, if you are at Winter Park, you’ll be riding a top of the line Burton Method board.
8. UP the mountain. My instructor kept pointing to the nearby ski slope and saying we were going up the mountain, which had me ready to not get up from my next fall during practice. What she failed to mention is that the “bunny slope” is in fact at the top of one of the ski lifts. AH HAAAA…so when they start telling you you have to ride the ski lift, don’t worry you aren’t going to be plowing down the blue slopes right away.
9. Ski lift scares. One of everyone’s biggest fears tends to be the ski lift and that is in fact because you will wear your board up the lift. You’ll have your lead foot strapped in and the other foot free, which means the weight of the board can be a bit uncomfortable on the one foot while going up. Your instructor will show you how to get off, but no fears if you do fall they stop the lift, no one is going to mow you down.
After our first day, I was sore from head to toe. It turns out keeping your upper body tense the entire day doesn’t actually make snowboarding any easier and results in being very sore!
I was in fact told by the instructor a few times, to just relax. What can I say, that’s not in my nature. BUT with our first day jitters out of the way, I think another few days on the mountain will have me feeling immensely more comfortable.