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Snowboarding Over 40: Is It For Everyone?

Snowboarding Over 40: Is It For Everyone?

Snowboarding has a reputation for being a youth sport because of its association with the skate / surf culture. While it is true that most riders are under 30, there are many capable over 40 year olds who shred just as well as their younger counterparts. Jeremy Jones is one good example. 

While older beginners are often advised to learn to ski instead, many people in their 40s or 50s are able to take up snowboarding or continue to ride into their older age despite increased risk levels associated with aging. Fitness level, determination, protective gear, and sensible behavior are crucial requirements for mature snowboarders.

Obviously, taking safety seriously is essential for older people who want to learn how to snowboard or get back into riding after taking a long break.

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Challenges of learning to snowboard after 40

Learning to snowboard from scratch after 40 is definitely achievable if you can dedicate enough time and energy into the sport. Here are some of the main challenges older beginners face when learning to ride.

One of the first challenges for an older beginner snowboarder is getting used to spending a lot of time sitting or crouching on the ground, whether strapping in and out of bindings or taking a break. “Wet butt syndrome” isn’t for everybody and crouching and bending can be hard on the knees.

Another thing is, snowboarders need to unstrap their back binding at the top and bottom of every run and sometimes in between, e.g. to skate sideways through lift lines. Skating or hopping down narrow cat tracks and off ski lifts can be demanding on newbie older riders. 

Learning to ride requires a lot of fitness and agility and can be hard on the body for those above 40. Lack of flexibility can be a big cause for injury and older bodies aren’t able to bounce back from dangerous moves as quick as younger ones are.

Beginner snowboarders are also very likely to fall on their knees and coccyx a lot of times before getting the hang of things. For a kid, falling 20 times a day is no big deal, but it’s a different story when you’re middle aged.

Besides knees, the most common injuries for older riders are hip, back and neck injuries as these bones get progressively more fragile as you get older. 

An adult learner is more likely to break a bone, and when they do, the recovery process is a lot longer than for a youngster. Not only does falling hurt more when you’re older, but if you do hurt yourself, you may have to face taking sick days and risk losing work. Weigh up these risks before you hop on the ski lift.

Another challenge for learner snowboarders in their 40s or 50s is that they need to muster up the confidence to ride with younger and / or more seasoned snowboarders. No one likes to be the one holding back the crew.

Snowboarding vs skiing for 40+ year olds

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Pros and cons of snowboarding at a mature age

  • Once you’re able to link your carving turns together with confidence, you can use their body weight to lean and glide down groomers with minimal effort. 
  • Snowboarders can easily sit down and take a break mid run.  If you’re in your 40s or 50s, regular breaks can be a great respite for the body.
  • Snowboarding boots are much softer and more forgiving than skiing boots and can be comfortably worn all day. 
  • On the negative side, learning to board can take longer for a mature person with no previoùs boarding experience to get right in comparison to skiing.
  • It’s easy to injure yourself snowboarding, and broken wrists, ribs and hips are often a turn-off for older generations. 
  • Taking a hard fall on a snowboard can be more dangerous than on skis because snowboards are attached to your feet with non-release bindings.

Pros and cons of skiing at a mature age

  • Skiing is easier to learn for adults and follows a more natural stance than snowboarding. Older learners can learn to ski much quicker and should be able to cruise down a bunny hill unassisted after a day of lessons.
  • Adults who aren’t as fit or flexible, are overweight, or are risk averse, should choose skiing over snowboarding as they are less likely to have a high impact fall.
  • On the negative side, skiing can be more taxing on the knees, particularly for someone in their 40s or 50. Skiers constantly use their knees to torque and twist and absorb shock, which can have long-term consequences on joints.
  • If you’re hoping to take a mid run break on skis, you will typically need to stay standing up and maintain your balance on the edge of the hill. 

Tips for learning to snowboard over 40

snowboarding vs skiing over 40
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These are a few common tips for mature people who wish to start of keep riding for a long time:

  • Get fit – Being in shape and flexible will work to your advantage. In the months before a snowboarding trip, work your core and legs with squats, chairs, jumps and running. The fitter you are, the longer you will last on the mountain and the quicker you will be able to bounce back from an injury.
  • Take lessons – It can take time to learn how to find your balance and feel in control of your board. Starting on the bunny hill may not seem fun at the time but could avoid you an unnecessary injury. If you already know how to ski, dedicate a few days per ski trip to snowboarding lessons to build up your muscle memory.
  • Be patient – Don’t go too fast too soon and don’t hit advanced runs until you are confident enough.
  • Gear – Always wear a helmet and consider wearing extra protective gear such as wrist guards, knee pads, impact shorts and a back brace. Knee pads can reduce the impact on older knees and give you confidence when falling. Wrist fractures are very common for those learning to board and wrist guards can prevent this from happening altogether.
  • Get insured – Buying health insurance is always a great idea for those who can afford it as medical bills can otherwise be huge. And if we’re being honest, if you can pay for a ski pass you should be able to fork out a bit extra for insurance. 
  • Buddy up – Once you are able to ride on the mountain without an instructor, make sure you always have a partner to snowboard with incase of an emergency.
  • Persevere – Falling can be demotivating but if you put in the effort, you’ll be up and going within a few days. Ignore any negativity you might get and give it a go!

Quick entry bindings

burton step on bindings

Crouching and bending to tighten and loosen your bindings can be a big turn-off for older snowboarders. Quick entry bindings are a great alternative to add to your equipment setup if you’re above 40 and have dodgy knees. 

Replacing your traditional ratchet ladder bindings with a pair of Flow, K2 Cinch or Burton Step-ons can ease your boarding experience. These bindings have a reclinable highback and lever, are more comfortable and allow you to easily step and click into them without having to bend down as much to adjust your straps manually.

Final words

As long as you don’t have a debilitating health condition and are in decent shape, you can certainly learn how to snowboard past the 40 year mark. Older snowboarders have the benefit of being more sensible than children and have a better understanding of their limits. 

If you’ve been boarding since you were young, you might want to slow down on the jumps and rails after 40. But there’s no need to reduce your riding further than that if you are in good shape. 

Take it slow and get out there.

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Photo credits:
(1) Featured image: “LesCollons #105” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Torsten Mangner
(2) “Still powder to be found” (CC BY 2.0) by Ruth and Dave
(3) “Skiing” (CC BY 2.0) by M. Janicki

Mike

Friday 23rd of April 2021

I agree with your article AND I encourage anyone to take up snowboarding no matter their age. I turned 50 four years ago and started snowboarding for the first time that same year. Four years later and now I won’t miss a good powder day on the mountain.

I agree with the whole bending to adjust your bindings thing. I just got Flow bindings and they make it a lot easier on my body.

It’s April at the time I’m writing this comment and I can’t wait for next winter!

Big Kahuna

Saturday 24th of April 2021

Hey Mike, thanks for sharing this, that's cheering for older riders out there. Cool website too (piano). Ride on! Jesse

Mike D

Friday 26th of February 2021

Great article, every point that was made definitely rings true with me. I was an absolute beginner who learned to snowboard shortly after 40. My kids got me into it. Now, at 48, I'm a proficient snowboarder that can ride the entire mountain, but I know my limits and ride within them. My kids are now 22 and 19, and I'm able to ride and enjoy time with them and their crew, I just take it easy in the parks. I wish I had the flexibility, agility and fearlessness that the younger guys do, but it certainly doesn't stop me from strapping in!

Big Kahuna

Friday 26th of February 2021

Hey thanks for sharing! Yeah we older boardriders can truly enjoy a lot of sessions with the kids, likewise for surfing, skate/longboarding, kitesurfing... Board sports really shatter age barriers, one of the greatest aspects of it. Ride on!