For those of you wondering if snowboarding is something you’d see yourself doing, stop thinking and just do it. When in the past I would find myself in a conversation about snowboarding I would always say it was too cold for me and I wasn’t that sportive anyway. But there was always a part of me wondering if this might be wrong, and so I went for a trial round in an indoor skiing hall. This got me so excited that I wanted the real deal, so we planned to go to the Alps for three weeks. I would never have imagined this happening, but since then all I can think about is riding down the slopes with my snowboard. I’m still far away from being a pro, but from the moment I stood on that board it made me eager to become better at it. Though every person is different I’d still like to give you an insight in what it's like to learn to snowboard.

The basics
First thing to do is getting familiar with having both foot strapped on one board, it will be a little unusual at the beginning, but you’ll get used to it soon enough. Start at a (short) beginners slope; every ski area has one or more of those where you can make your first descent plus getting used to getting in and out of a lift. When you don't participate in a class – like me – it’s actually a bonus to look around you at a slope like this, because there are always people around you – including classes – that you can learn from by watching them. The most useful thing to learn is how to slide your board in a horizontal way – if you can do that, you can practically come down from every slope, even the black ones (we accidentally ended up on one and that’s how I safely found my way down). And most important while standing on your board is bending your knees, it will help you to be looser which will prevent you from getting injured. If you’ve found your balance and feel comfortable enough you can leave the beginners area and plan a longer route, starting with the blue slopes.

Go at your own pace
Up until now I haven’t taken a single class – other than having my very own private instructor – so I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be in one. What I do know that it is best to follow your own pace when it comes to learn to snowboard, or anything for that matter. The first week my learning curve was rising pretty fast, but the second week it was like I had to start all over again. Because I wouldn’t accept that – it felt like some kind of set back – I pushed myself too hard and had some nasty crashes, resulting in a bruised coccyx. The consequence of this injury was a few days of rest, which pretty much ruined the second half of that week. Fortunately we were in a position in which we could choose to take a week off and go for another week after that. But it’s always better to prevent injuries and take precautions, especially when one or two weeks is all you have!

Watch other people
Somehow watching other people on their snowboards – beginners and advanced – helped me in the process of learning. At the point I knew I could do it but my thoughts – like ‘oh no, I’m losing my balance’, and yup THEN you’ll definitely fall – were in the way, it helped me to look at people who were less secure and skilled than I was. It reminded me of the first few days I was bumbling down the slope and empowered me to get myself together and stand on my board with more confidence. That is actually what is all about – don't think, just feel. And if I watched a more experienced snowboarder it challenged me to ride down the slope just as comfortable and confident as he or she was looking. Besides that, watching a movement and trying to reproduce it immediately will help you to get that feeling.

How to protect your body
From the one time I stood on a snowboard in an indoor skiing hall, I knew would need wrist protectors. They are a little tight around the hands and wrists – otherwise it will lose its cause – so I wore thin gloves underneath them, which will immediately keep your fingers warmer!

After a few days of falling on my knees they began to turn blue and sore, so I also got knee pads. They have all kinds of things in the knee department, but the simplest ones will do.

By the time I got my back protector – a sleeveless vest that in the back goes down to your coccyx – it was too late to prevent that injury, but I would highly recommend to wear one from the moment you start. They also sell some sort of underpants with protection on your buttocks and hips, but those are more for skiers, because when snowboarders fall it’s usually not on the hips. To protect me from any more pain in my coccyx we invented our own – a boxer short with two socks in the back, not really charming, but it certainly did the trick!

I’ve been contemplating to buy a helmet from day one, but haven’t done it yet. From experience I'd say a helmet is highly recommended, because from the times I fell on my back there were a couple of them where my head hit the slope as well.

Wrist protectors: Burton
Knee pads: Burton
Back protector: Rossignol

Snowboard gear
If after a week or two you’re really enthusiastic about snowboarding and planning to keep doing it, it might be time to think about buying your own gear. It’s somewhat of an investment all at once, but if you’re serious about it, it will really be worth it. The average price of a snowboard, bindings and shoes lie between 400 and 600 euros – renting gear cost me 150 euros per week, so for three weeks that would have mounted up to 450 euros – which is practically the down payment of your own gear. Besides that it’s really important to have the right shoes that perfectly match your feet. I kind of learned my lesson during the search for snowboard shoes that would match my board. In a last attempt I walked into a shop on the day we would drive to La Plagne, where the vendor told me that your eyes don’t choose the shoes, but your feet do. Because his story was actually really plausible, and he was the first to really be honest with me – instead of just wanting to sell me a pair of shoes – I went with his advice. And actually after all – totally unintended – the shoes do match my board, lucky me!

Most importantly, have fun!
Either you’re learning slow or fast, don’t forget to enjoy it! Whether I had a good or a bad day, I loved being outside, having fun together and being able to see the most breath taking views from the mountains. There’s something magical about a world all covered in snow, oh-so-beautiful.

Did some of you learn to snowboard this season, or do you remember your first time? How did it go? Please share your experiences; I’d really much like to hear from you!

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