Snowboarding Made Easy    "How-To" for Beginners


Before you get on a chairlift you will want to make sure that you are getting on the correct lift. The correct lift is one that will take you up to appropriate terrain. Appropriate terrain for beginners is Green Circle terrain. The four main terrain distinctions are: Green Circle – Easiest, Blue Square – Intermediate, Black Diamond – Advanced and Double Black Diamond – Expert Only. The difference in the terrain has to do with how steep the run is. As a beginner you will want to ride chairlifts that have a Green Run from the top of the lift to the bottom of the lift. Check your trail map to make sure you are getting on the correct lift for your abilities.

There is a lot to learn about chairlift safety. Let's begin with the concept. We do not want to hike up the hill so we invented chairlifts. There are many types of chairlifts and I use the term generically for any type of lift. Some of the most popular types of lifts are Aerial Lifts (Chairlifts, Detachable Chairlifts and Gondolas are typical) and Surface Lifts (T-Bars, Pomas, Rope Tows and Magic Carpets are typical). There is a great history with chairlifts which will not be addressed here.

This is an editorial section – I feel that if your local mountain does not have a Conveyor Belt Surface lift for beginners then your local mountain does not care about beginners learning safely. The better set up the beginner terrain is directly relates to how much your local resort is dedicated to beginners. If you have a choice you should go to a mountain that has the better beginning terrain.

When snowboarders get to the chairlift we need to un-strap our back binding to release our back foot so that we can push ourselves through the lift line and load the lift. The name for this is one-footed. The movements that I have described for you in the Movements section are exactly the same whether you have one or both feet strapped in. (Insert Diagram Here) The difference is how you will place your back foot on the snowboard. If you decide to have a stomp pad you will place it on your board between your bindings next to your back binding so that when you are stepping on it you will be able to touch your back binding with the outside of your back foot.

Let's discuss the chairlift – There is a loading and unloading area. There is a proper way to sit while on the chairlift. The best way to sit on a chairlift with your snowboard is to have your back against the chair back and then bend your front knee and place your snowboard on your back foot so that both of your feet are supporting the weight of your board while you ride the chair.

The bottom of the chairlift or the loading area will have a lift line. Here is a great place to be polite. You will need to have your back foot unstrapped and your front foot strapped in with your leash attached to your front boot or ankle depending upon which type of leash you have. I usually will push myself along (called Skating) with my back highback down so that I do not accidentally trip on it. When I push myself along I try not to let my back foot get past my back binding. I will try to get the snow off the top of my board so that I am not carrying that extra weight. The snow in the lift lines may become very slick. I try to make really small movements so I stay balanced. Until you are very comfortable riding the chairlift, try to ride it on the far right or far left. If your left foot is your forward foot – try to ride on the right side and vice versa for left foot forward.

At the bottom of the lift there is a line in the snow and usually a sign that will say something like wait here as well as another one that will say something like load here. The wait here line is when you are next in line to load the lift. It will be where you wait until the chair passes in front of you and then you will skate out to the load here line in the snow. If you can get the attention of the lift operator you can probably get them to slow the lift down with the “Thumbs Down” signal. You will stand on the load here line with your snowboard in line with the the chairlift and be looking over your back shoulder. When your chair comes you will sit down and push your feet out in front of you so that you do not catch an edge and get flung off the chair.

Once you can no longer touch the ground with your snowboard you will want to lower the safety bar which may have a foot rest. Use the foot rest because it will conserve energy so that you can ride longer. When I ride a lift I try to watch other snowboarders and see if I think that they know how to snowboard or not. I will try to see what good riders are doing with their bodies and attempt to emulate them. There are the resort rules (Skier Responsibility Code) posted on the lift tower poles. Read them as you ride the lift. You are responsible for your actions.

Now you are approaching the top of the chairlift and will need to raise the safety bar.

There is an upward slope, a flat area and a downward slope as well as a sign that will say unload here or something to that nature. You may be able to make eye contact with the lift operator and with a thumbs down signal get them to slow the chairlift down to allow you more time to off-load the chair. You will skooch a little and get your board aligned with the direction the chair is moving and keep your board tip up so that it does not catch on the snow. When the board contacts the snow again and you are at the flat area you will place your back foot between your bindings and push it back so that your foot is against your back binding and on top of your stomp pad. You will stand up when you reach the unload here sign. You will want to push up off the chair to help you stand up. Then you will let your board run down the slope and not try to slow down until you are off the ramp. If you attempt to slow down while you are still on the ramp you will inevitably catch an edge and/ or fall down. If this happens do not panic. Just collect yourself as quickly as you can and get out of the way. More people are going to be getting off the lift behind you. Remember to keep your shoulders in line with your hips which are in line with your snowboard.

There will be an area at the top of the chair which is dedicated to unloading. Once you have come to a stop you will want to move out of this area. I call it getting out of the way. You will move to where you will strap in your back foot – an area where it will be easy to begin moving down the hill.

You will want to sit down with your board placed across the fall line and strap your back foot in. You will want to make sure that both your feet are securely strapped in – tight, but not cutting off circulation. Now we will discuss getting up from the snow. You will want to flip over so that your back is toward the hill and you are on your knees. Place your hands into fists and put them next to your knees. If your board is not exactly across the fall line you will begin to move as soon as you push yourself up. Now you will want to get into your centered stance and move your hips and hands over your front edge (toe-side). This will help you balance and keep you from starting to slide before you want to.

You will want to begin sliding across the hill and then make a turn. Remember that you do not want to travel down the hill when your board is pointed across the hill!!!! You will want to Make turns and lose speed gradually – across the hill – and then make another turn and repeat until you make it down the hill. If you get going too fast, just make a turn and keep riding it across the hill until you are back in control of your speed.

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