Although Easter is approaching the season is not yet over, and many of you could still be heading to the Alps these holidays. The snow is reported to be excellent, but can the same be said of your snowboarding skills? Although there is a steep learning curve when starting to snowboard progression often stalls when an intermediate level is obtained. Have you ever felt frustrated and disappointed that you cannot seem to move forward and ride those steeper slopes, or nail that trick? Maybe you have felt envious of all those riders you see heading off into the deep powder fields or carving on-piste like a pro. Harness those negative feelings, and turn it into something positive; get better at what you do rather than bitter. To see what is possible checkout the list below:
Getting lessons from professional snowboard coaches or instructors is a must and you can access these in a variety of ways:
Group lessons: group lessons are a great way to get good value instruction. The cost is cheaper per student than one-to-one teaching, plus it can be less intense and good fun interacting with other students.
One-to-one teaching: this can lead to faster improvement as the coach or instructor can spend all their time concentrating on your needs rather than spreading their attention across several students. It is more costly, but often worth shelling out for this type of instruction now and again.
Camp or course: these are usually five to six days and specialise in a specific level of skill (beginners, intermediate or advanced riders) or type of snowboarding such as freestyle or backcountry. They allow you to hone-in on the specific area of riding you wish to improve or just allow you to spend time with people of a similar level. These are great if you have only a few snowboarding friends or all your buddies ride at a different level to you. As a group you are often pushed out of your comfort zone to gain new experiences, which means you end up doing things you would not have had the confidence to do otherwise.
Indoor slopes: particularly useful in the UK where there is little outdoor terrain with the exception of Scotland, which can often be blighted by inclement weather. As we approach spring and summer indoor slopes can be quieter and it allows training and teaching to be accessed year-round. Indoor slopes have their own instructors but they also allow external companies such as Snowboard Coach, Definition and Maverix to teach students.
Instructional clips or videos: cyberspace allows anyone to occupy YouTube and other electronic means of communication. Be aware of charlatans, but typing ‘snowboarding instructional videos’ into a search engine will turn up in excess of 115,000 clips, so be select in your viewing habits!
Alternative therapies such as hypnotherapy: use of sport psychology has shown that the mind is a powerful tool and harnessing this can improve performance. We often have psychological issues which hold us back from progression, and these centre around fear of physical injury or fear of failure. Strategies such as visualisation and techniques like NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) can be used.
One of the key elements of improvement is the desire and determination to succeed at raising your skill level. Know what you want to improve: is it on-piste riding, freestyle or back country and let the instructor know your goal. You need to find an instructor that is well-qualified (your pal who can hit the rails, get big air and slash the pow will not cut the mustard). It is important that your chosen coach is someone you feel you can work alongside. We all have different learning styles and some instructors will suit you better than others; it may take several attempts to find one that you are comfortable with. From my own personal experience you need to look for a company that specialises in snowboarding rather than one which covers all snowsports; do not entertain the idea of a skiing-focused organisation if you snowboard – you have been warned.
I have used the following companies both on the mountain and at indoor snowslopes: McNab Snowboarding (Chamonix); Mint Snowboarding (Morzine/ Avoriaz, France and UK); Snowboard Coach (UK); Synergy Snowsports (Switzerland); Alliance Snowboarding (Tignes, France); Definition (UK); and Snozone (Xscape, Castleford). All have proved important at different parts of my snowboard journey and many continue to do so today. There are, of course, many other companies out there so the choice is yours. Below is a clip taken during a freestyle lesson which my friend Claire and I had with Tammy Esten from Mint Snowboarding.
Maybe you feel that you are happy with your level of riding and that is totally fine, but with enhanced skill comes abundance of fulfilment, greater access to all the mountain has to offer, and ultimately to more fun and enjoyment. Why wouldn’t anyone want to improve?
Here’s to your progression and stoke.