As a learning (or progressing) snowboarder, fear of speed may be hindering your progression. If you’re like I was when I first started, you may feel paralyzed by that apprehension of going too fast and crashing and hurting yourself.
We know that fear can be a good thing as it helps keep you safe. However, a key part of the snowboarding experience is being able to ride fast enough for some great fun. So how do you overcome that feeling of anxiety of going too fast?
In most cases, the reason you’re scared of speed is because you don’t know how to slow down or stop when riding fast. To get rid of that fear, you need to be confident that you can stop any time you choose. Such confidence, in turn, comes with good control of your snowboard, including turns.
In this post, we’ll discuss the key techniques you need to master in order to feel comfortable riding in snow at decent speed. Before we do, though, let’s briefly go over common symptoms of fear of speed when snowboarding.
See also: How fast do you snowboard?
Afraid of going fast on a snowboard
When my sister was learning to snowboard, sometimes she would just kneel in the snow paralyzed by fear. Each time she would try to stand up, she would trip and fall back down with even more fear.
Perhaps you’ve already taken a day or two of snowboarding course and you’re able to cut across the slope on both your heel and toes and controlling your turns. However as soon as the slope gets steeper, you get scared of pointing your board down and unable to link your turns.
Some newer snowboarders even have already had a successful first season on the mountain but are still very afraid of getting any speed – even though they’re going quite slow from a proficient riders’ standpoint. As soon as they shorten their turns to pick up a bit of speed, they just sit in the snow in fear.
Some riders spend most of their riding time heel or toe stopping, getting out of other people’s way, avoiding narrow runs. Many are very afraid of catching an edge and crashing once they pick up a bit of speed – especially when riding toe side.
Some learners are comfortable riding on an edge but get scared of riding fast on flat.
While learning to snowboard, the heel-to-toe turn is also a very frequent source of apprehension. Another one is learning edge pressure steering, as this requires going faster compared to earlier stage techniques.
Oftentimes that fear will disappear for good once you master the turn, as it gives you a lot of control and confidence.
Even though you may feel scared of going too fast, you should realize that a healthy amount speed is actually safer and easier when riding a snowboard, just like when riding a pedal bike.
The slower you ride, the more likely you are to fall. I know a friend who hurt his shoulder by falling at very slow speed right before stopping.
Thus, it’s important to always keep your snowboard going and carving, which means you need to get comfortable riding toe side – more on this below. It’s also easier and less risky to edge down a hill than to ride on a flat section.
Conquering the fear: beginner steps
If you’re just starting snowboarding, the first step to overcome your fear of speed on your board is to practice sliding down heel side while sitting in the snow with your hands behind you. Push your heels into the snow to control the slide.
Once you feel comfortable doing the above, get up on your snowboard and practice sliding down heel side very slowly. Make sure you keep your knees bent with your butt backward like you’re sitting. Push your toes upward to dig your heel side rail into the snow, keeping your board slow.
After sliding for a very brief while, turn your board uphill, always heel side.
Your next step will be to practice the falling leaf – sliding slowly across the slope in one direction, then in the other without turning the board, simply by shifting your weight and turning your body toward the opposite direction.
Another key aspect of overcoming your fear is gradual increase. At first choose a very small hill or the bottom of the bunny slow. Walk up a bit, strap in your board, and ride straight down the small section and practice slowing down and stopping. The walk up a little bit more, and so on.
Learn to control your snowboard speed through turns
Your confidence for going fast is related to your ability to stop in a controlled way, which in turn depends on your ability to ride toe side, control your edge, and steer with your knees. Mastering these aspects greatly reduce the chance of you catching an edge.
Practicing turning, carving, and toe-to-heel and heel-to-toe transitions at speed will help you build up your control and confidence. Smooth edge switching is a prerequisite to riding faster.
Remember that riding too slow can keep you from doing transitions without catching a rail.
Learning to transition from edge to edge is a prerequisite to controlling your turns and first starts with learning C-turns, then S-turns, then linked S-turns. The next step is to make the S-turns longer.
Your shoulders and hips need to align with your board, you knees should be bent significantly, and your weight should be spread equally on both feet. Your nose, hips and knees should all point to your desired direction.
Another important pointer to increasing your control and confidence at speed is to bend your knees and get really low on your board. This greatly increases your stability (and reduces the falling distance) making a big difference when trying to slow down including on an icy run.
On steeper slopes, you should tighten your turns and close them off. If your board is going too fast for your liking, steer and turn your snowboard uphill.
Practicing carving is also a good way to combat fear of speed. Depending on your setup, riding in a forward stance can greatly facilitate carving.
Finally, the gradual increase approach I mentioned earlier for complete beginners also applies at later stages of your progression and will help combat your fear of going too fast.
If a slope looks too intimidating, for example, consider using the falling leaf technique on the first half or even 3/4 of the slope, then riding straight down the last part. As you get more comfortable, you can start from higher up the slope, until you eventually reach the top.
Pick the right hill and snow conditions
This may sound obvious but it’s worth stating: if like many riders, you’re scared of getting too much speed on your snowboard, make sure you choose a shallow hill to start with so your speed will always be manageable even if you can’t control it yet.
When learning to turn, you should probably stick to blue runs initially until your technique improves.
Many learning riders also feel more comfortable in powder as the chance of sliding out of control is lower, and crashing is generally not as painful. In contrast, icy hardpack isn’t ideal for straight lining on flat.
Good visibility is also key for you to have the confidence needed to ride faster, as you need to clear see what’s happening on the snow before you.
To practice faster riding and trying to overcome your fear, try to find a mild slope that ends with an uphill section at its end to naturally reduce your speed.
Fear of speed: get in the right mindset
As I mentioned earlier, overcoming your fear of speed is about control, which you’ll acquire progressively. Riding fast on a snowboard is scary unless you know you can make the turns and stop when you need to.
Avoid pushing your limits too far initially as you may end up panicking and even being paralyzed. Try to keep a speed you’re comfortable with e.g. 12 – 15 mph.
Some riders choose to go all out and ignore their fear, bombing down the hill without yet having the necessary control. Some end up getting hurt, sometimes badly. Learning how to ride and turn properly will provide the confidence and control you need.
Fear of speed: the next stage
Once you’re comfortable controlling your snowboard speed and confident that you can stop whenever you want to, you can try pushing your limits a bit further by riding a little faster than comfortable – while still being in control. This will help you feel confident at increasingly high speeds.
You may also learn to do speed checks to further reinforce your confidence at speed. When riding straight down fast, you kick your back leg out for slight steering changes for the purpose of shedding a bit of speed and keep your snowboard board in control.
See also: Can snowboarders keep up with skiers?
Get protection gear
One way to tame your fear of speed when snowboarding is gearing up with protection pads. This might include a helmet, shoulder pads, wrist pads, hip and tailbone pads, knee pads.
Protection will give you confidence that you’ll be safe if your fall, which often leads to you falling less.
You may also track your snowboarding speed with an app on your phone, which will show you that you’re actually riding slowly and reduce your speed anxiety.
See also: Should You Wear A Helmet Snowboarding?
Get confidence from others
If, in spite of decent control and riding skills, your fear of speed is still blocking you, an effective way to get around the mental block is go riding with friends (or a snowboard coach).
Riding with friends who are better riders than you will boost your morale and confidence and lift that mental barrier.
Choosing the right snowboard
Although it’s not the board but the rider who controls the speed, choosing an appropriate snowboard can help you overcome your fear of speed quicker.
If speed is a problem, a beginner board may not always be the best option as these boards tend to have soft flex, making them less stable and more wobbly at speed.
The stiffer your snowboard, the more control you have. A beginner board can help you turn without falling, but will generally be too soft for going fast. A medium flex is often a good choice for learning to ride faster.
A rocker board can help you learn to break on your heels and toes. However, rocker is also not ideal for stability at speed, as area of the snowboard that’s in contact with the snow is reduced.
Slightly longer boards can help for learning to ride faster. Magnatraction snowboards have more effective edge for carving and slowing down at speed, especially combined with responsive bindings.
If you have speed anxiety on a snowboard, you’re certainly not alone. Some riders still feel uncomfortable at speed even at the start of their second season. Eventually though, most riders learn to control speed through turning, carving, and overall edge control. Most of the time, the fear simply goes away.
Regardless, you should not be hard on yourself, and most of all, don’t move too fast or skip stages. Get lessons to learn to ride properly. Always try to have fun and enjoy your time in the snow.