When I’m teaching beginner snowboarders, one question I often get asked is ‘How long does it take to learn to snowboard?’
I normally answer by asking what do they mean by ‘learning to snowboard’? I’ve been snowboarding for over 20 years and I’m still learning something new every winter, and for me that’s what’s so fun about the sport!
For most people ‘learning to snowboard’ means being able to link turns down an easy run, with good technique. Being able to control their speed and stop, whilst being relaxed and without falling.
When a snowboarder can do this I would say they are no longer a beginner snowboarder and are now intermediate. At this point, you have mastered the basics and a whole load of new possibilities opens up. You can work on freestyle or carving or riding powder, its basically where snowboarding starts to get really fun!
How long does this take?
Over my years of teaching, how long it takes to get to this point can vary hugely. The quickest 10% of learners can learn the basics in just a few hours. Whereas the slowest 10% can take over a week.
In my experience, the average would be 2 to 3 days to learn the basics of snowboarding and be able to link turns.
For example, if I get a new beginner or group of beginners who have booked 3hrs every morning then my goal for the first few days would be:
Day 1 – Start on the bunny slope. Learn the basics of the board, side-slipping, and controlling speed. Then working towards trying their first turns on both heel and toe edge by the end of the lesson.
Day 2 – Back at the bunny slope, and by the end of the day be able to link turns top to bottom without too many falls.
Day 3 – Go up the mountain, take a chair lift and be able to ride an easy blue run, top to bottom by the end of the day.
How you can learn to snowboard faster.
In my experience, the big variation in how long it takes to learn to snowboard and to reach the intermediate level can be explained by a few different factors.
Learning to snowboard is hard work! Especially the first few days when you are learning a completely new skill and getting your muscles to do new things.
Normally, after 3 hrs most beginners start to get tired, and their performance begins to slide backward. Over the first few days and this tiredness and sore muscles only accumulates, so it really helps if you are in good shape.
The good news is that once you’ve cracked the turns, snowboarding gets a lot easier, and it’s oftentimes the first few days that are on the body. But in order to get past this stage, it really helps if you are in good shape. This means having a decent level of cardio fitness and strong legs and core. You don’t have to be superhumanly fit but if you do other sport on a regular basis that gets your heart rate up then that will really help.
your first few days of snowboarding are going to involve a fair bit of falling and sitting in the snow fixing your bindings, so a key skill is being able to stand up! To be able to stand up easily you need a fair bit of flexibility in your hips.
You should be able to do a deep squat past 90 degrees so that your butt almost touches your heels. If you can do this then getting up will be a breeze and you’ll be able to save yourself a bunch of energy and time.
snowboarding involves getting different parts of your body to do different things at different times. If you got good coordination then you should be able to get your turns down in just a few hours.
I always ask the people I’m teaching what other sports they do and the ones which really seem to help are sports that require lots of coordination. For example – skateboarding, surfing, dancing, martial arts etc all seem to really.
having the right equipment and having it set up correctly can make a big difference also. The main things that I see that need fixing are that boots aren’t tight enough, that binding angles and stance are set up funky or that the board is not right for a beginner. If you want to give yourself the best chance of learning fast then get yourself a beginner specific board. These boards are designed to get you up and riding as quick as possible and minimize the number of falls.
Take a lesson
this may seem obvious but lots of people (me included!) try and give it a go themselves. Snowboard lessons can be expensive but even if you just take a couple of hours on your first day it can set you on the right track and save you time. I still get a bunch of people coming for a lesson on their second day riding having just gotten some pointers from their buddy/boyfriend/girlfriend on the first day. It normally never ends well!
Like I said before if you can commit to 3 days of lessons that will normally be enough to get you over the first big hurdle and able to ride most of the mountain
This one is probably the biggest factor. Fear can do strange things to you and unfortunately if you start to freak out when snowboarding it tends to make you do exactly the wrong thing!
For example, to learn to turn on a snowboard you need to get your weight on your front foot, and when we start to get scared the natural reaction is to lean back. It’s basically our ‘fight or flight instinct kicking in, we are literally trying to run away!
So learning to snowboard can be a real head game. I find that the less scared you are of falling over the better. Normally this means kids learn pretty quickly, as well as anyone who plays any other sport which can be kind of physical. On the other hand, if you are an adult who sits behind a desk all day and who hasn’t fallen over for 25 years it can be a struggle.
My advice is to take it super slow so that you can gradually build up your confidence. You should also wear some extra protective gear when learning that when you do fall you can laugh it off and get right back up again.
However long it takes you to learn the basics of snowboarding it’s well worth the effort! I can still remember the exact moment when I linked my first few turns together and knew instantly that I was hooked!