Snowboarding isn’t the most complicated sport in the world, but it does take determination and persistence to get through those first few days of being on your bum more than you’re on your feet. Once you have that eureka moment though, you won’t look back.
If you’ve decided this is the year for your first snowboarding holiday, but you’ve not yet strapped into a pair of bindings, there’s a few things you need to consider. Most importantly, how and where you’re going to learn, and where your first holiday is going to be.
Learning in the UK or in resort – which is best?
If you want to arrive in resort knowing the basics – how to carry your snowboard, how to put it on and how not to place your board on the snow so you end up tumbling down the mountain after it – it’s a good idea to get yourself some lessons before you go. Rather than spending the first days of your holiday learning how to stand up, you can do that in the UK and spend your holiday getting out and exploring the mountain.
One of the best ways is to visit an indoor snow centre. They’re essentially a huge fridge with a realistic manmade snow on which to learn. Nothing feels closer to snowboarding in the mountains than the cold air and real snow of an indoor slope.
While the slopes are short, they often have dedicated learning areas and you can choose a lesson plan that suits you. Many go for an intensive day of around six hours, but if your muscles aren’t used to a full day of exercise, you’ll be better off choosing a course split over several weeks.
What about a dry ski slope?
If it’s too far to an indoor snow centre, you may find an outdoor ‘dry’ ski slope somewhere closer to home. These consist of plastic bristle matting laid across a hill and actually work best when wet. While these are often a cheaper option if you’re trying to save some money for your après-ski or a cool snowboarding jacket, they can be less forgiving when you fall and make learning your turns a little harder.
Do I need tuition while I’m away?
Even though you’ll have picked up the basics, it’s best to book into board school for a few hours of daily tuition. That way you’ll still have time each day to practice and hang out with family or friends. One thing’s for sure, while it may be tempting to teach yourself or get a mate to show you the ropes, this is a bad idea. You’ll end up picking up their bad habits, and when they get bored of hanging around on the nursery slope after day two, you may be taken to slopes beyond your ability and confidence. When you eventually get down, there’s a risk you won’t want to go back up again.
Best resorts for beginner boarders
Alpe d’Huez, France
The huge beginner area is used by the largest snowsport school in the Alps – ESF – and the variety of confidence-building blues and reds make it among the best for new snowboarders. Over the last few years, Alpe d’Huez has updated several chairlifts across the beginner areas into telemix lifts, which mix gondola cabins among the chairs on the same lift – great for beginner boarders that haven’t yet mastered the chairlift but want to get up the mountain.
It’s said to be the snowboarding capital of Europe. There are very few drag lifts – a type of lift that’s designed to pull you up the mountain, but aren’t beginner-boarder-friendly, and Avoriaz was even one of the first ski areas to open a snowboard-only section. With the nursery slopes right next to the resort centre and lots of wide, gentle runs, it’s a beginner’s paradise. In 2018, celebrate the 20th anniversary of the world-famous boarders’ snow park, The Stash. Designed by Jake Burton – founder of the Burton brand – the park has won several awards for its ecological and environmentally friendly ethos.
Newbie boarders have been travelling to Söll for years, so the board schools there know exactly how to help you get going, and there’s a dedicated beginner area too. Wide and well-maintained blue runs make up around 40% of the SkiWelt ski area – many of them around Scheffau as well.
The Penkenbahn gondola in Mayrhofen whisks you right up to the Penken beginner area, so you’ll be in lessons and on your way in no time. If you’re looking to spend some time in the snow park, there’s a collection of jumps and rails strictly for beginners. For quieter beginner blues, head to the Ahorn Mountain, which is also known as Leisure Mountain.
It’s simple, the more time you can get on the snow, the better. So if you’re planning your first trip this winter, get yourself to a ski slope in the UK to pick up the basics and book some tuition for when you’re there too.