Learning to Snowboard in New Zealand
Snowboarding Gear: Buy or Rent?
Before renting or purchasing equipment, ask yourself a few questions: How much do you think you'll be skiing? Will you be skiing only on a vacation or also near where you live? Determining your projected commitment level will help you decide whether to rent, lease or buy equipment.
Your equipment options include:
- Renting equipment at your local snowboard shop or at the mountain resort. You can rent equipment by the day or week. This is often recommended for novices. (Note: Some shops will apply the price of rentals toward purchasing new equipment.)
- Leasing equipment for an entire season. Some shops offer this service and it can especially make sense for children who quickly out-grow gear.
- Buying used equipment at a local ski shop or snowboard swap. Stay away from garage sales and be careful at ski swaps because you may wind up with gear that is outdated and inappropriate.
- Buying new equipment. You might want to consider a package deal that offers a discount when you buy the board, boots and bindings together.
Snowboarding Gear: What is Your Style?
In general, snowboards are made of a wooden core wrapped in fiberglass and coated in a fiberglass or plastic cap with metal edges. A number of things influence the performance of a snowboard, including combination of materials, stiffness, length, weight and shape (twin tip, directional or extended edge). Make sure that your boots are compatible with your board and bindings, and the style of riding you plan to do. Unlike ski bindings, snowboard bindings are designed not to release when you fall. Make sure your bindings are compatible with your board and boots and the style of riding you plan to do.
There are basically four styles of riding a snowboard, and a specific type of board, bindings and boots for each:
If you want to spend as much time as you can in the half-pipe or snowboard park, getting big air, jumping and learning complicated spins and tricks, buy a technical freestyle board. These boards have twin tips, meaning there is an identical, blunt tip and tail shape for riding forward and backward. Technical freestyle, freestyle and freeride boots are called "soft boots" because they are usually made of softer materials such as waterproof leather and nylon. The support generally comes from the rigid structure of the high-back or low-back bindings that you strap the boots into. Some of the newer step-in bindings, however, have more support built into the boot. Technical freestyle riders generally use a low-back binding with two straps for increased flexibility and range of motion.
If you want to go anywhere and do anything; forward or fakie (backward), powder or hardpack, in the air or on the snow, get a freestyle board. This type of board usually has a directional shape, with a longer tip for better flotation in chopped-up snow and a stiffer tail for more power. Freestyle riders generally use a high-back binding with two straps for more support.
If you want to ride any terrain in any snow condition, and you spend most of your time on the ground, get a freeride board. Sometimes referred to as all-mountain boards, these very versatile models usually have directional shapes and a varying flex. This is a good type of board to learn on, and can be used anywhere on the mountain. Freeride snowboarders generally use a high-back binding with two or three straps for added support and control. These riders are also using the new step-in bindings, which eliminate the need for straps.
If you want to go really fast and lay down inch-deep tracks on hardpack or groomed snow, then a freecarving/alpine board is for you. These boards tend to be the stiffest and narrowest. The nose (or front) of an alpine board is curved while the tail (back) is flat. Although they are stable at high speeds, these boards generally aren't for doing tricks or all-around riding.Freecarve/alpine boots are called "hard boots" because they resemble ski boots and have more rigid, plastic shells. Hard boots are used with plate bindings. Freecarve/alpine riders use a plate binding.
Measure up: Getting the Right Fit on your Gear
Riding stance: Regular-foot riders stand with their left foot forward on the board. Goofy-foot riders stand with their right foot forward. If you skateboard, surf or wakeboard, you probably already know what your stance is. If not, have someone push you lightly from behind. Whichever foot you put out first to balance yourself is probably the foot you should have in front.
The two most important measurements of a snowboard are length and waist width. Snowboards are measured in centimeters (cm). Your board length will depend on your weight, your riding style and the type of conditions you will ride in most often. A shop employee can help you decide on the appropriate length. The waist width will depend on the size of your feet. The toe and heel of your boot should be flush with the edges of the snowboard. This will give you the most leverage and allow you to turn easier.
In general, snowboard boots come in traditional American sizes and also "mondo point," which is simply the length of the boot in centimeters.
Fit tips for boots:
- When trying on boots, wear one pair of medium-weight or light-weight socks.
- The fit should be snug. Your heel should remain in place when you bend your knee and ankle forward.
- Make sure there aren't any pressure points or spots that pinch your feet.
Binding stance angles: All snowboard bindings are adjustable, allowing you to change the position in which you stand on the board. Freestyle snowboarders usually have wider stances (feet farther apart) with their feet pointing more directly across the board, while freecarvers have narrower (feet closer together) stances with their feet pointed more toward the front. Freeriders are somewhere in the middle. Talk with a snowboard shop employee and then experiment to see what works best for you.
Hitting the Slopes for the First Time
- First-time snowboarders should always take a lesson from a qualified instructor. A lesson will help you learn much faster and you probably won't be as sore the next day.
- Call ahead to the local area or destination resort to find out about beginner lessons and any special deals that might be available.
- Don't give up. The first day on a board can be challenging, but once you learn the basics, the learning curve for snowboarding is very steep. Stick with it for a few days and you'll soon be riding the whole mountain.