Newer snowboarders often feel confused about whether they need to be leaning forward or back when riding.
Going down a slope can be scary and a natural behavior for newbies is to put most of their weight on their back foot, hindering their ability to turn effectively.
Most beginners need to learn to center their weight on their snowboard and lean forward instead of back when doing turns on groomed snow.
That said, there are situations where leaning back and skidding your edge in turns is the way to go, such as when riding powder or uneven/rugged terrain.
This post does a deep dive on forward vs back lean in snowboarding, and when to choose one or the other.
Should you lean forward or back for good form in snowboarding?
If you’re a learner, pivoting your back foot for turning is generally a bad form and habit. Turning on a snowboard leaning on your back foot results in losing edge pressure – which is what should make your board turn. Losing edge pressure leads to skidding instead of carving the turn.
As they start going faster, many learners let their snowboard get ahead of them, making them lean back and taking pressure off the front part of the board.
Generally speaking, when learning it’s best to keep your weight centered on top of the board. If that’s too challenging at first, it’s better to lean slightly forward than back.
As a beginner, you need to learn to turn using the board’s torsional flex, which gives your board a slight twisting motion when you lean forward and push your toes or heels down on one edge. This twist engages your board’s edge and sidecut in the snow, making it carve.
The torsional motion is what allows you to keep your balance while turning as only the front half of your edge engages in the snow. The motion is triggered when you lean forward and into the turn.
For a toeside turn, you put pressure on the ball of your feet, raise your heels, extend your legs, and push your hips forward a bit. This makes you lean forward your toeside board edge, engaging your board’s toe edge.
Conversely, a heelside turn is initiated when you put more weight into your heels, lifting up the toes of your front foot, bending your knees, and pushing your hips back (like sitting into a chair). This gets your board on the heelside edge.
As a beginner, you should make an effort not to lean back to avoid counter rotation and skidded turns. If you accidentally do a skidded turn on a camber board, the chances of catching an edge and crashes are high.
Carving on groomed runs: forward lean
Carving fast on groomed runs requires a combination of centered body position and forward leans in turns.
Your body is centered between your feet, and you drive with your front knee until you get into a turn. When you do, you lean slightly forward, shifting weight onto your front knee. As you go through the turn, your weight should shift slightly toward the center, then toward the back of your board.
You pivot with your front foot and dig in with your rear foot. By putting about 60% of your weight on your front leg, you’re able to naturally use your lead foot to start the turn.
As mentioned earlier, carving involves your board’s edge being engaged in the snow and the sidecut (curve) triggering the turn, slicing the snow without you losing speed. This is achieved through leaning into the turn, bending your knees, rotating your hips and shoulders, and controlling edge pressure with your feet.
While keeping your weight on your front foot is important when carving, when going fast on steep slopes, leaning forward with too much weight in the front can result in your board’s tail washing out and skidding a bit.
To avoid this, adjust your lean and weight balance as you turn. At the start of the carve, shift more weight onto your front foot while keeping your knees bent. As you reach the midpoint of the turn, center your weight and extend your knees.
Then as you complete the carve, shift a bit more weight onto the back foot, again with your knees bent. This will allow you to carve effectively through the turn instead of skidding.
Snowboarding in powder
Backcountry riding is a different story compared to groomed runs. Putting your weight on your front foot like on groomers will make your nose dive into the snow when riding powder.
Leaning back will lift your board nose up above the powder. Turning while leaning back is also easier in powder.
Leaning back for skidded turns
Skidded turns are initiated by steering with you back foot and using braking power to turn, pivoting around your front foot. Skidded turns can be compared to spreading marmalade with your board edge.
While newbie snowboarders naturally use this approach to turning initially, learners should focus on learning to carve instead.
That said, true carving requires smooth and easy snow conditions. Choppy snow, crowded runs, tree sections, and rugged terrain is more easily tackled using skidded turns instead of carves.
Freestyle and jibbing
When freestyling or jibbing, you must control your center of gravity and body position. Leaning forward helps you maintain control and stability while performing tricks such as grinds and slides on rails or boxes.
Leaning forward also helps you more easily transition from one trick to the next. It also allows you to engage on drops, pipes, and jumps.
That said, each freestyle trick requires a different body position. When jumping, for instance, you often need to lean back slightly to absorb the impact of landing. Likewise, Tail Presses, Backside 180s, Backside Rodeos, and Method Airs all require leaning back at one point or another.
See also this Guide to Freestyle Snowboarding
Learning to lean forward in turns
As discussed above, for a beginner, whipping your tail around for turns and riding off your back foot on groomers is a bad habit – often referred to as “ruddering” or “backseat steering”. Some riders even do small hops between transitions. Such approaches greatly increase your risk of catching an edge.
One indication that you’re leaning back and putting your weight on your rear foot is if your rear leg is bent and your leading leg extended.
One trick to help correct this flawed body position is sticking your front arm out in front of you and your rear arm backward. When you’re ready to turn, point your front arm in the direction you want to go, which will rotate your shoulder, followed by the rest of your body.
This will discourage you from riding with the back foot and force you to put more weight forward in your turns.
Make a conscious effort to keep your upper body parallel to your board during turns. Simply thrust your hips forward or backward to transition from one edge to another. Your shoulders and arms, not your upper body, should be the ones rotating and leading you into the turn.
Keep your knees bent to make sure your weight doesn’t sit primarily on your back foot.
Another trick for getting rid of your ruddering and back leaning habit is to ride on an easy run with only your front foot strapped in, preventing you from pressing with your back foot for turning.
If you use a duck stance, another thing that can help you shift forward is to tilt your rear binding an extra 5 degrees or so – this will make your ride more comfortable when leaning forward.
Adding forward lean to your front binding can also force you to bend your front knee if you’re not doing it naturally, encouraging forward body lean.
Leaning forward or back: speed, control, stability
So we’ve discussed the importance of leaning forward when carving on groomers. This will increase your ability to pick up speed by shifting more weight over the front of the board.
On the flip side, you may have less control over your board since your center of gravity sits further forward. In some situations, leaning forward can also make it harder to edge and control the direction of your board. With your center of gravity sitting forward, you can also lose balance more easily.
When going fast, try to avoid leaning too far forward or too far back. You need to achieve a good balance, keeping your knees bent and your weight centered over the board.
Am I relying on my bindings high back too much?
Leaning too much on your high backs keeps you from properly flexing and steering your board. It often leads to increased muscle fatigue compared to using good form.
To avoid this, you need again to focus on good weight distribution, keeping your knees bent and your weight centered over the board. Proper edging technique is important, initiating turns and controlling the board with your edges instead of relying on the high backs to do the work.