Snowboarding For Grown Ups Or Adults


Snowboarding for adult 

"Adult snowboarder." Isn't that a contradiction in terms? Isn't snowboarding a sport for rebellious teenagers with dyed hair and pierced body parts, dressed in tee shirts and elephant-sized pants and performing impossible half-pipe tricks? Some hard core skiers and skeptics may be surprised to learn that the answer to both of these questions is emphatically "No."

True, the punk stereotype is what most people outside of the sport associate with the term "snowboarder." However, while young people dominate in terms of numbers, they are not the entire picture and are in fact newcomers to the sport. There were "old-school" and "alpine" riders before snowboarding became a popular fad, attracting this "new-school" from a skateboarding and street background.

Old-school pioneers have been snowboarding since the days when few, if any, ski areas allowed boards - ten, fifteen, or more years ago. Some, but not all, have prior skiing experience. In general, they don't limit themselves to the half-pipe like most newcomers do. They, like skiers, use the entire mountain, preferring powder, backcountry, steeps, chutes, and cliffs while riding free-riding boards with soft boots. And, as their name implies, they are no longer children.

Alpine riders are a small minority, with many of them being current or former skiers. They rarely, if ever, ride the half-pipe and prefer to speed down groomed trails, slicing deep ruts into the snow. They don't skid sideways or sit in groups in the middle of the trail. They occupy a misunderstood middle ground, with traditional ski-looking clothing, often a helmet, hard shelled boots, and stiff, narrow, directional carving boards: scorned as "skiers" by the new-school, but shunned as "snowboarders" by two plank die-hards. This group attracts the majority of "grownups" from the over-35, baby boomer generation.

Consider the following profile. You're a baby boomer who's been skiing since you were a child. You have the ability and experience to ski almost anywhere on the mountain. But, let's face it, your knees can't take the pounding of those moguls any longer; two or three runs in the bumps will deplete your energy for the rest of the day. And you're becoming more cautious, if not a little nervous, on those steep chutes you used to rip down with abandon. You prefer rapid cruising on Giant Slalom boards to groomed corduroy at your age. To be honest, after 20 or 30 years on skis, much of the challenge and a healthy dose of the thrill have worn off.

You've probably seen alpine snowboarders linking graceful, surgically carved turns that, as a matter of physics, are simply not possible on skis while riding the lifts above them. These riders can slide their hips, knees, or entire body across the snow as they cleave crisp, perfect arcs, rather than just drag their knuckles. Despite your resistance, they have piqued your interest. You may have even tried those "parabolic," "shaped," or "super-side cut" skis that are so popular these days. However, while they approximate a true carved turn better than your traditional shaped skis, they are pale imitations of an alpine snowboard.

The difference is analogous to water skiing: no matter how skilled a skier is on two planks, he or she will not be able to change direction as quickly and precisely, or achieve the edge and body angles that are possible with both feet mounted on a single surface, one behind the other.

So you've been persuaded to try snowboarding, and you've realized that this doesn't require you to pierce your ears, buy outlandish new clothing, or undergo a mid-life crisis. What should you do next?

Before purchasing equipment, I recommend that new snowboarders rent or demo both boots and boards. The snowboarding learning curve begins slowly and then quickly accelerates; needs and tastes will change dramatically in a short period of time. Renting a variety of different boots and boards while learning is both educational and cost effective.

The first board should be a symmetrical all-mountain "free-riding" board measuring between 135 and 160 cm in length, depending on the rider's size. It is not a good idea to borrow your friend's stiff, unforgiving racing board with the bindings mounted at a 60-degree angle, or your daughter's soft, tiny twin-tip freestyle board with the bindings mounted "duck stance" (both feet angled outward). Rely on a knowledgeable shop tech to fit the proper boots, board, and bindings, as well as adjust stance width and angles, to suit your personal needs based on age, height, weight, strength, and ability.

When choosing boots and boards, a critical decision must be made: which foot forward? Some new riders have already participated in similar sports such as water skiing, surfing, or skate boarding. If you're not sure which leg is dominant, try the following exercise: start running and slide across a linoleum floor in your stocking feet. In most cases, one leg is instinctively thrust forward for balance, while the stronger leg remains behind for support. This should determine your snowboard stance accurately.

Lessons, as with most new endeavors, are highly recommended. Taking the ski lift to the top of the mountain cold turkey is not. Prepare for a humbling experience your first time out, no matter how coordinated, strong, or balanced you are. Expect some face and fanny plants, as well as bruises and sore muscles. Some beginners even wear protective padding on their wrists, knees, elbows, and back; in-line skating equipment is effective. Competent, experienced instruction will reduce the struggle and speed up the transition from tumbling to turning. Adult snowboard lessons, such as the Delaney Snowboard Camp, are increasingly available at most resorts, assisting the mature set in making the learning process successful and enjoyable.

The baptism by fire that a new snowboarder goes through is usually brief. When the learning curves of skiing and snowboarding are compared, it is said that "skiing is easy to learn and difficult to master, while snowboarding is difficult to learn and easy to master." The ability to turn in both directions to control the rate of descent is the first task in both sports. This is usually accomplished more quickly on skis, where balance is easier to maintain with two legs moving independently rather than being attached to one surface simultaneously. However, once turning is mastered, the transition from awkward novice to steady intermediate to confident expert is significantly faster on a snowboard. It is not uncommon to progress from a state of floundering.

Finally, some remarks on injuries. Beginner snowboarders are more likely to sustain upper-body injuries, such as thumbs, wrists, elbows, and shoulders, which absorb much of the forces in falls. Soft boot riders are also prone to ankle and foot injuries. Caution and common sense, as well as the use of protective guards and pads, should help to reduce their occurrence during the learning phase. Once past the beginner stage, the rate of snowboarding injuries drops dramatically, and the likelihood of knee injuries is much lower than for skiers. Having both feet attached to the same board with bindings that are specifically designed not to release prevents the independent twisting of the legs and torsional stress that is associated with knee ligament injuries that are common in skiing.

So, to all of you grownups, adults, and senior citizens: be daring, be bold, and be outrageous. Follow your kids on a snowboard to your favorite resort on your next visit. You will not be let down.

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  1. I started skiing at age 10 and was fairly good at it for someone that was only on the mountain a few times a year and some years, not at all. Learned to snowboard at age 40 and never went back. One lesson and then just kept falling until it clicked. But falling hurts a lot mre when you’re an adult! Especially in the icy and hard pack we often had on the east coast. Mostly cruise the blue runs and the occasional black diamond now at age 61. Absolutely the most fun I have outside all year.

    So many great lessons on YouTube by excellent trainers! I still watch them all year long and my riding has really improved. Highly recommend checking those out to get better. Still struggle with riding switch. Just don’t practice it enough because falling hurts even more in your sixties. I just love riding, especially on the powder out west.