There is no denying it, snowboarding can be painful at times. No matter the skill level, you will likely experience pains in places you didn’t think possible. It’s worth remembering that often, the situations that have this effect are avoidable, or at best mitigatable. There are many ways in which we can help ensure we have a pain-filled day out on the mountain, as well as ways to avoid it if we choose. Explore this list to find out how to be a complete masochist, or save yourself and body from harm.
Being on camera is a great way to show off what you can do to the world. It is also a great way of pushing yourself to your limits. Ultimately, this is likely to end up sometimes in accidents as you push it that little bit to far. The tendency to go beyond your limits when being filmed is not a snowboarding exclusive, however it is hard to resist the temptation to try and send it as hard as possible when it does arise. Whilst you can edit out the crash reels from this ego-inflation exercise, the damage done in the meantime is harder to erase when your limits get stretched that little bit too far.
Hit it hard and look good doing it, but know your limits and how far you can push them and still walk away at the end of the day.
For the seasoned snowboarder, ‘Apres’ is rarely dedicated to the final booze up at the end of the day. From lunchtime shots, to hip flasks for on-mountain ‘refreshment’, alcohol finds a space for many throughout the day for many on the mountain. A cheeky top-up can shed that extra chill factor, as well as encourage you to be a bit more daring - whether it is bombing runs, or going bigger in the park. But it is worth remembering that besides a drop in inhibitions, alcohol can also result in impaired postural stability and balance, meaning that you may not be as steady as you hoped. Many accidents happen on slopes due to this alluring mixture of speed, snow and booze. Know your limits, be aware that you are under an influence and act accordingly, or save it all for the end of the day once you are off the slopes.
Failing to prepare for the inevitable
You are going to crash or fall. At some point, this will be true. Whether you are a beginner who may be struggling with your balance or edges, or a veteran who is pushing their limits, we can all expect to be a bit too up close and personal to snow at some point. Being aware of this fact and working to mitigate any risks from this is, therefore, a pretty useful approach. Apart from not falling (i.e. improving your technique - and luck), the two best things you can do to prepare for the inevitable are to learn how to fall properly, and wear protection that can soften the blows when you do.
When learning to snowboard, one of the most common falls is the infamous edge-catch. This type of fall can really rack up the nerves as they are often unexpected when they occur. Whilst a certain degree of ‘learning by falling’ does happen to help avoid this issue, there are some easy steps to help avoid this from happening.
The main issues that affect catching an edge are ultimately all technique, but can be whittled down to speed, clearance, gradient, and changing edges. Commit to your turns, take it slow and gentle and pay attention to how much clearance you are giving your board (particularly when you are stopping) and you will be well on your way to avoiding this issue.
Not knowing how to fall safely
Here at Rippl, we have an unavoidable mantra: you will fall. Like the Liam Neeson of snowsports, at some point it will catch up with you, even if you try endlessly to avoid it. As this guide goes to show, there are many ways that you can make sure you avoid the bigger crashes, and that when you do, the impact is softened. But also knowing how to fall can make a significant impact on your winter sports longevity and so practicing the falling movements can help.
When falling forwards, you need to be careful not to put your hands out. Instead, opt for your forearms as a brace, which may also help protect your face.
When falling backwards, you want to avoid large impacts to your head and ideally also your tailbone. Spreading the impact by curling up and using your arms to absorb some of the impact can all help.
Spreading the impact is key to damage mitigation here, but make sure you are prioritising the parts you can’t live without, such as your head.
Snowboarding in switch definitely feels weird if you are new to it. The little part of your brain telling you to carry on in your normal stance because it feels way easier may be tempting, but can cause big problems later down the road. You may even opt for a uni-directional board because you like the direction so much. But at some point you are going to find yourself careering down the mountain in switch(other foot forward). At this time, if you are not comfortable in the stance, you could find yourself making beginner moves and mistakes that you are not prepared for, and ultimately crashing. Dedicate the time to get as good as possible in switch and it will definitely pay off in the long run.
Not heeding warnings
Of a different caliber but possibly even more important are risks from the mountain itself. If you head out onto the mountain, you have to be aware that there is always an avalanche risk. If you go to a resort, there are people who make it their duty to inform the public as to the conditions of that day, the chances of an avalanche, and in many resorts, also work to reduce that risk. It definitely pays to be aware of the information that they give out, as injuries for avalanches are mostly unexpected and can range from broken bones to death. Resorts release avalanche awareness information that can be consumed to get a general idea of how to read the reports, as well as the daily reports themselves for more up-to-date information on the day. Heed the warnings and don’t think ‘you’ll be fine’, particularly if it is all new to you.
Bombing it in bad visibility
If you’re lucky enough to have every day as a bluebird day, then good for you. For the rest of us, the chances are that a large proportion of your mountain-time is going to be spent in overcast conditions at best. On days when the cover really comes in, your ability to identify potential terrain obstacles and tricky conditions vastly depletes.
When bad visibility comes in, your spidey senses become much more important. Unfortunately, for all of us that aren’t Peter Parker, this can often mean we hit things we didn’t see coming. In bad visibility, slow it down, take your time and make sure you know where you are going. Both you and your family will thank you for it.
Stopping in the middle of the slope
There is perhaps no better way of becoming an on-piste target than making yourself into a ten pin for other skiers and snowboarders. Most people who choose the snowsports life also embrace the flow of the mountain. This means that people come to expect a certain level of ‘rhythm’ from everyone on it. Coming to a quick stop in the middle of the piste is, as a result, likely to not be counted on by most of those that are behind you. In fact, even if you have been standing there a while, chances are there are people weaving their way down that may not account for you being completely stationary.
Do yourself, and others around you, a favour and stop at the sides of the slope if you need to.
Dancing on Ice
It goes without saying that they are called ‘snowsports’ for a reason. Ice is rarely going to be your friend, particularly on a snowboard. However, learning to snowboard in icy conditions can really save you, and your behind. You want to stay relatively close to the ground, partially to help your center of gravity, and also for damage mitigation in case you do slip. Remember to stay relaxed and avoid turning too sharply - both are likely to significantly improve your time on the slidely stuff.
Being in your own world
Tunes on the mountain are a real winner. There is nothing better than having your favourite jam on whilst heading down a run. However, remember that this will also impair your ability to sense your surroundings. Make sure that when you are out on a crowded slope, that you keep as much of an eye as possible on what is around you. Getting taken out on your blindside because you didn’t see it coming can often result in feelings of injustice (and pain)that can often be avoided by better 360 perception.
Skating like a noob
Skating is how you get around on your snowboard, when you only have your front foot strapped in and is an essential skill in snowboarding. Whether it's getting on or off the chair or traversing flatter terrain, not knowing now to skate can quickly find you on your ass and potentially the laughing stock of the slope. Whilst this type of fall mostly lands in the less-painful category, your ego may not like it all that much. Taking the time to learn to skate properly will help you cover more laborious ground faster, as well as avoid those avoidable moments of beginner awkwardness from falling unnecessarily.
If you're choosing to snowboard, we love you for it. It's clearly a passion of ours too. Alongside this passion though, the truth is that you will experience some accidents or incidents where you will hurt yourself. It's inevitable.
But you can take control of the odds. You can reduce how often these painful experiences happen, and how severe they are.
If you want an extra helping hand in controlling these odds, feel free to check out our gear here and be well on your way to slaying those slopes!