So your dream is to hit the terrain park and slide some metal and hit some jumps, However, you find yourself hindered by fear. That park slope looks super steep, and those rails embedded in the ground look scary. You’ve seen those videos with pros ending up breaking bones!
You may even have been snowboarding for years and be very comfortable going fast on or off-track, even pulling occasional big airs while riding. But you’re terrified of trying tricks in the park and you bail out every time you go.
In this post, we look at tips and tricks riders have for overcoming your initial fears and starting to make progress in the terrain park.
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Seasoned park snowboarders recommend starting in the beginners park, which has flat and straight boxes and rails (e.g. 2′ x 3′) ideal for newbies to learn on and get a feel for sliding.
In the small park, you should practice on each element over and over again until you feel really confident. You next step will be the intermediate park, then you can work your way up to the bigger park. Progressiveness is key to overcoming your fear.
You should probably spend at least half a season in the beginner park, and start sending harder tricks on the smaller jumps (e.g. 5’s or 3′ with a grab) to build confidence. Then spend maybe another half season in the intermediate park.
But f you need to spend an entire season just doing flat boxes, that’s fine, each rider progresses at a different pace. Just make sure you have a good time.
Overcoming fear of the terrain park is achieved through repetition. Start small, and practice the same tricks over and over until it becomes second nature. Once you feel comfortable – or bored – with the basics, challenge yourself to try something bigger and more difficult.
Start with natural features
If you find even the features of the small park intimidating, you can start by practicing loading and popping on side paths with natural booters. This will help you feel and understand how jumps work. Snowboarders often use this approach to overcome their fear of park.
Doing jumps (small or big) and grabs on a normal run is a lot less intimidating than in the park due to the smaller natural kickers and the absence of people watching you. You also feel more relaxed since you’re just cruising around between attempts.
Another advantage of practicing on natural side hits is that they often have tough angles to jump and land on, making them harder than park kickers (which are optimized for jumps).
An alternative approach is to pack a shovel and go build a small kicker away from the crowded runs so you can practice on it in peace. There are many things you can practice and learn from in a quiet place before hitting a busy park.
After a few weeks, you’ll be comfortable hitting simple rails and medium kickers in the park.
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Mentally condition yourself
Aside from starting small and on natural elements, there is also a mental side to overcoming your fear of riding park.
While it’s totally normal to be scared at first, some park riders recommend “switching your brain off” and just going for it.
Others suggest mentally preparing for he trick beforehand by watching videos and visualizing yourself executing each part of the maneuver, running through the motions in your head a few times.
Also take a few laps at decent speed to familiarize yourself with and memorize the features.
But probably the most important aspect of getting over the fear is to really commit to the jump and follow through all the way. Bailing out half way through the jump is the worst and riskiest thing you can do.
Also be aware that you’re bound to fall sooner or later. After your first fall however, you’ll probably realize it’s no big deal. Falling is part of the learning experience. Oftentimes, falling will actually get you over a mental block – but of course there may be times where you’ll want to call it quits for the day.
One cool tip is to force yourself to take a few light falls before attempting a difficult trick. This will help you unwind and de-dramatize the outcome of your target trick.
Make sure you’re mentally ready and comfortable before trying a bigger jump. Don’t do it just to be on par with others, that’s the best way to create anxiety and stress. Having a group of people to encourage you can also help.
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Don’t be afraid of being judged
Another mental aspect is the “stage fright” newer park snowboarders often feel. The terrain park is a visually exposed place with many people hanging out in it (even non-riders), chairlifts running over it, and riders passing by on adjacent slopes and looking.
Going to the park when you can barely slide a rail or do a switch-up can be a lot of stress. This can make it embarrassing for you to try new things (and likely fail).
You may also feel intimidated by snowboarders grouping at the top of the run-in and throwing crazy tricks on the jumps.
However, you’ll soon realize most park riders quite nice, and not all of them are as good as it seems. Even if they are, they once were in the same situation as you, getting started on the features.
It’s a good idea to ask the more advanced park riders for pointers. Besides getting good advice, this will let them know you’re learning and attempting things. Some might even come to you on their own with some tips to share after seeing you try a jump.
Not being afraid of being judged will surely help make your progression faster.
Practice park alone or with friends?
As a newer park rider, you may choose to practice easy tricks and try new things when the park is empty. This allows you to practice a trick again and again without waiting lines.
Some people learn a lot more when they are alone and focusing on a specific trick until they get it right, as opposed to practicing with friends. Being focused helps them overcome the fear of jumping.
Other riders feel more relaxed and less stressed out when surrounded with friends when hitting park features with new tricks. Your buddies might encourage you to keep trying again and again until you succeed.
Watching riders with better skills and asking them for advice can also help a lot in overcoming fears and taking on bigger or more sophisticated jumps.
Note that more and more mountains have schools offering park lessons, which can provide an open and reassuring environment.
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Learn tricks in the right order
If hitting the park feels intimidating, besides starting with natural and smaller features, you probably want to start on boxes, then move on to rails once you’re comfortable. A natural start is learning 50/50 slides on boxes and jumps (e.g. one full season), and progressively increasing your speed and adding grabs.
Once you’re comfortable with 50/50, a good recommendation is to learn sideways slides – boardslide, frontside and backside lipslide, and frontside boardslide. These will give you a good basis for spins on features. You can add the switch thing to each as well.
Presses (tail / nose) are also good to learn early on. Regarding jumps, you may start with straight airs, practicing the four 180s, then adding grabs. You might work on the indy, mute, tail grab, nose grab, and stalefish.
When learning to hit rails, the most important thing is to come in with enough speed to be able to slide the whole length of the rail. If you go in too slow, there’s a risk you lose balance and catch an edge, potentially falling on the rail. This is something to keep in your mind when prepping yourself before dropping.
Here again, committing yourself completely is crucial to reduce the risk of falling. The faster you go, the better your balance on the feature. If you feel you’re loosing balance, just let yourself slide off the rail smoothly.
With regards to jumps, park riders often find that the best way to get over the fear of kickers is to really go all-in. This will help you clear the jump, even if you don’t land it the first time. Landing a jump on the second or third attempt will really boost your confidence in the park.
Try to observe experienced riders and assess the speed needed to clear the jump. you should be confident in your stance and balance before dropping,, and remain relaxed while in the air.
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Overcoming your fear of the terrain park takes patience and practice. You have to start small and build up your skills and confidence as you progress to more challenging features and tricks in the park.
you also need to be aware that riding park involves falling and possibly getting hurt, so it’s a risk you have to live with. That said, developing the right technical skills and mental conditioning will help keep you safe.
Just make sure you avoid the words “last run!” – that’s often when riders get hurt.