Floating over powder and carving through corduroy lines might look easy, but snowboarding can be difficult to learn. The age-old debate of whether you can teach yourself to snowboard continues to fire up the snowboarding community.
While it may be possible for some to teach themselves to ride, namely people with experience in other sports, learning how to snowboard on your own is not recommended by most riders.
Hiring a teacher will help you perfect the basics of snowboarding and iron out nasty habits while giving you the mental confidence to progress. Learning on your own can take a lot longer and can even cost you an injury. It’s generally advised to take at least one day’s worth of lessons before going it alone.
Although lessons can be pricey, skipping them altogether will likely end up costing you more if you keep struggling for weeks or end up breaking a bone because you don’t know the right technique.
See also: How long does it take to learn snowboarding?
Should you teach yourself snowboarding?
While teaching yourself to snowboard is generally harder, it is certainly possible. Riders with experience skateboarding, wakeboarding, or surfing, for example, are often able to pick up on snowboarding by themselves relatively easily.
Likewise, if you have previous skiing experience and are familiar with the feeling of sliding on snow, you can usually teach yourself the basics over 3-4 days.
Skateboarding also has a very similar balancing feel to snowboarding, even though the turning mechanism and muscles involved are different.
On the other hand, if you are a very cautious person who is afraid of falling, learning on your own can be a rough process as initially, you will repeatedly be catching edges and washing out.
Some newbies are able to get started by watching popular YouTube tutorials such as ‘SnowboardProCamp’ and ‘Snowboard Addiction’.
While some learners are able to pick up the basics through this approach, it might leave you with a flawed technique and style which can be problematic as you progress in the sport.
Snowboarders tend to recommend avoiding self-teaching at first and getting some initial lessons no matter your experience or background.
Many self-learners regret having chosen the self-teaching route as they ride poorly for years and sometimes get hurt badly overstepping their abilities.
Those who end up hiring a coach after a several seasons often say it’s the best thing they’ve done.
Cons of teaching yourself snowboarding
If you do decide to teach yourself how to board, you should be aware of the drawbacks of this approach.
When you don’t know what you’re doing, you are bound to fall a lot. Wrist, knee and tailbone injuries are most common for beginner riders. You’ll want to avoid being a hazard on the hill for other riders too.
Flawed technique and bad habits
Without proper guidance you might end up developing a bad technique which will both make you look awkward while putting you at risk of injury.
For one thing, you might not understand why something feels wrong when you ride. This can be super frustrating and is a big barrier to progression.
Common flaws include dragging your foot when you turn or lean on your back foot instead of driving yourself forwards with your front foot.
Newbies also often think turning is all about rotating the direction of the board, when it’s more about the positioning of your body.
Without an instructor to point simple things like this out, self-learners might feel like they are riding properly while in reality they use a poor stance which can even damage their knees and hips
See also: Is my snowboard stance too wide?
Time and money
While it might seem like paying for lessons is a pricey option, those who choose to teach themselves can end up spending more by putting themselves at risk of injury. Paying $40 for a lesson is a lot cheaper than a visit to the hospital.
You’re also wasting valuable ski pass time on the bunny hill. It can take a self-learner without any board or snow sport experience a couple of trips to connect their carves properly, which ends up costing a lot more than a couple of days worth of lessons on your first trip.
Bunny hill blues
Spending hours on the bunny hill with crowds of 5 year olds isn’t exactly the best for your rider ego. For many people, however, learning to board on your own will require a lot more time on beginner runs.
Pros of taking snowboard lessons
Seasoned snowboarders generally recommend taking at least a couple of lessons to get yourself going before trying to improve on your own. Once you have the fundamentals pinned, the rest follows a lot more easily.
Here are some of the pros of taking snowboarding lessons:
Lessons will make sure you learn to ride safely and confidently. Not learning the basics of turning and stopping properly can easily end in a bad crash.
Spending some time with an instructor can save you a lot of time falling and sliding down the mountain on your butt. Lessons will teach you the basics and allow you to advance a lot faster than you would be able to alone – even confident and capable riders generally benefit from advanced lessons.
There are riders who have spent seasons trying to teach themselves how to snowboard. Their technique and form is often flawed, which could have been prevented with just a few lessons.
If you’re hoping to ride more often in the future and want to progress your skills over time, learning the correct skills and form at the start is a very important step to set you up for advancement.
Kickstart with private lessons
If you can, book yourself 2 or 3 private lessons even though they’re expensive. Absorbing as much as possible during these one-on-one sessions will increase your ability to teach yourself after the lessons.
Tips for teaching yourself how to snowboard
If you have a natural skill for all things board-sports, you might want to give self-teaching a try. Here are some tips for teaching yourself how to ride:
- YouTube and online tutorials – Watching videos online can be super useful for getting your technique and stance right. Even advanced riders watch online lessons if they want to advance in the park or half pipe. There are many content creators out there who offer tutorials from beginner S turns to inverted rotations.
- Video yourself – Watching video footage of yourself is an added benefit. This can help you point out where you are going wrong so that you can fix issues with your technique before they become a bigger problem.
- Stay on the bunny hill – Don’t leave the bunny hill until you are completely confident you can control and maneuver your board. Once you can make it down the whole bunny hill without falling or losing control, riding between toe and heel side with stability, you’re ready for the next step.
- Stay fit – Starting any sport from scratch can be physically tiring regardless of how fit you might be. Keeping your knees, thighs and core in shape is essential if you want to advance your riding.
Building up your muscle memory and maintaining flexibility and fitness is important for anyone wanting to teach themselves to ride. Flexibility will help you avoid a lot of injuries such as minor strains and sprains. Also, the fitter you are, the longer you will last on the mountain.
- Safety gear – Always wear a helmet (see this post for more about that). Wrist and knee guards, and perhaps a back brace, are highly recommended.
- Find a crew – Once you are confident in your equipment, riding with people who are better than your will push you to improve. Choose your crew carefully and always remember your limits. Friends can also be useful at pointing out awkwardness in your style and technique in the early stages.
While learning how to snowboard alone is possible for some, it’s still in your interest to invest in a few lessons to show you the fundamentals and send you in the right direction before you start teaching yourself.
Like any extreme mountain sport, it’s good to take the time you need to learn how to ride properly before putting yourself and others at risk on the hill.
(1) Featured image: “you can do it, son!” (CC BY 2.0) by j3ssl33
(2) “Whistler II William 2004-05” (CC BY 2.0) by kevmann16
Thursday 13th of January 2022