Before we get into it, you must be wondering: What’s an intermediate snowboarder? In Snow Sports Schools we generally consider intermediates to be a level 3 or 4 – someone who is linking turns from heels to toes and mostly cruises on green and easy blue runs.
Higher intermediate snowboarders might be dabbling in black runs or wanting to get into the park, trees or powder. It’s about this stage you’re probably getting super stoked on riding: you might want to spend all your money on snowboard gear, are planning an overseas riding trip and frequently daydream about pow days. Hell, I know I did! If that sounds like you too, then this article is for you.
(If you feel like you’re not quite at this level, no worries, I’ve got you covered in this article for beginners and first-timers.)
Buying your own gear & looking after it
1. I want to buy my own board, boots and bindings! Which one should I buy first? If you don’t want to splash out on all three essentials just yet (and you can get some good combo deals), then I’d recommend buying your boots first. I know boards are super shiny and tempting, but buying the right boots means you get a more comfortable ride so you can be on the hill longer. Plus, you won’t have to stick your toes in smelly rental boots anymore. Yay! Everyone wins!
2. What sort of snowboard should I buy? Before you buy a board, I highly recommend demo-ing some. Snowboard brands have special demo days where you can take their boards and test them out, often for free. Hopefully that will give you some idea of what you like.
Then you need to think about size, camber, style, flex and price. I could talk about these for days, so I’ve linked to some good websites to help you understand each. But in general, these things should be tailored to how you want to ride your board. Interested in jumps, butters and mostly Australian conditions? A shorter, more flexible park board with rocker or hybrid camber could be your soul mate. Want to ride fast and carve? Longer and stiffer with traditional camber for you, sir.
3. I want to buy my own thermals and outerwear. Any recommendations? Honestly, get yourself into the chaos of Aldi sales. Their stuff is cheap and pretty decent – especially for socks and thermal layers that no one will see anyway. Otherwise I like the (stupidly expensive) Mons Royale long sleeved tops, Burton leg thermals or just yoga pants if I’m riding in Australia. Outerwear is mostly personal preference but make sure it’s very waterproof, has lots of pockets and isn’t too tight (more details in my post here). And FYI my favourite brands are RPM and Volcom.
4. Some goggles come with different coloured lenses. What’s up with those? Different colours help you to see in different conditions. Here’s a more in depth guide, but in general, dark lenses are for sunny conditions and orange/rose lenses are for cloudy conditions. Most instructors have at least two different lenses but I find I use my dark lenses more in sunny Australia and my light lenses more in snowy Japan and Canada.
5. I’m getting pretty good. Do I still need a helmet? Yup. It’s a common misconception that the better you get, the less you fall so the less reason there is for protective equipment. However, your chances of having a significant head injury increases because you start pushing your limits by going faster, winding through trees and jumping off things. And what about other people? The main reason I wear a helmet while teaching on a bunny hill is not because I think I’ll fall over, but because there’s a high chance of me getting hit by someone who is out of control.
6. Do I need to wax my board? Do you like riding smooth and fast? Do you like your gear to last? If you replied ‘yes’ to either of these then wax your damn board.
7. Should I get someone to wax it for me or do it myself? That depends on how often you ride and how much cash you have. If you only ride once in a blue moon and aren’t particularly interested in taking the time to learn how to wax your board, then give it to a pro. They’ll usually wax it for around $20. If you’re a regular rider and love your board more than your dog then it pays to invest in your own wax, iron and scraper. Just make sure you do your research and ask around to learn how to do it properly and avoid burning a hole in your base (I’ve seen it happen).
8. My edges are rusty/scratchy/dull. What do I do? Get your board edged! This is similar to waxing your board – a pro can do a wax and edge for around $40 which will set you up for a whole season if you’re only going for a week or two. If you’re a bit more regular you might want to look into edging tools and a few good How To’s. I file my edges throughout the season to help with rust and burs but I still get my board professionally edged 2-3 times a season because sharp objects make me happy.
Common problems & solutions
9. My feet get so sore after a day of riding. Halp! If you’ve bought your own boots then I highly recommend custom foot beds – they’ll set you back about $200 but are well worth it for how happy your feet will be. If you’ve just bought new boots then they might be too tight and need to ‘pack out’ – expand with use. If it’s causing you heaps of pain then take them into a boot tuning shop and the pros can make this process go a lot faster to save you some pain. However, boots that are too loose (like rental boots) can also cause you foot pain because your foot muscles are working extra hard.
10. I swear I keep going straight for people and objects. What is wrong with me? You’d be surprised at how common this is. If you’re looking at signs and trees because you want to avoid them, you’ll automatically start lining yourself up to hit them! So only look where you want to go. And if you’ve had some close calls with other skiers or riders, then try to stick to the sides of the runs where it’s quieter and always check over your front shoulder before doing a heelside turn. This can be a life saver!
11. I want to feel more in control. Turns are your friend. Going straight is not. The more you close-off your turns (turning your board right across the hill), the more control you’ll have. Not edging enough can also make you feel less in control, as well leaning back and not bending your knees enough to absorb bumps. If you can’t pinpoint what your issue is, get a quick lesson.
12. How do I go faster? Don’t turn. Just kidding. Often going faster is about feeling more comfortable and in control, so be patient and practice. Common problems are not bending your knees enough and trying to turn with your upper body instead of your lower body, which ruins your flow.
13. Going slow and straight (like on cat tracks) is the worst. Most people hate cat tracks because you have less room to turn, sometimes there’s an edge to fall off, and you won’t have enough speed to cover small mistakes. To get better at this, go to an easy green slope and practice putting your board flat and then making quick edge to edge turns. Try to stay centered and get friendly with using your ankles more.
14. I always slide out on ice. What am I doing wrong? Don’t worry, I have felt your pain. There are three main things to help you avoid the face-to-ice technique. 1. Have nice sharp edges on your board. 2. Don’t lean as much. Just do more mellow turns and focus on edging by bending your knees and ankles. 3. Try to relax. Being on ice often makes us tense and we snowboard way worse. So just chill (Haha get it?).
15. Something just isn’t right when I ride. Perhaps it’s time to change your stance? I find most beginners and intermediates have a stance that is too wide, and the binding angles are too small. Have a play around with a narrower stance with your feet pointing outwards more. If you’re still not sure then grab a lesson and explain your problem to your adorable instructor. By the way, did you know I’m available for private lessons?
Taking things to the next level
16. What on earth do I do with those pesky moguls? Ah, moguls. Skiers love them and snowboarders curse their very existence. But you could learn to love them too! They’re a real challenge because they require tight turns and the ability to absorb bumps like a pro. If you’re new to moguls then start by traversing across 5 or so of them on one edge, and then turning back on the other edge. Really bend your knees in time with the bumps and get used to the feeling of riding up and down them. Once you’ve got that, start to turn after only 2 or 3 moguls. Before you go to turning around single moguls I’d recommend practicing small-radius turns on mellow terrain.
17. I want to get into the park. Great! The park is an awesome place to learn new skills, improve and have fun. But there are some hard and fast rules you need to know to avoid getting hate from seasoned park rats. You can read them here but these are what I consider the most important: 1. Wait your turn and look uphill before you hit a feature. 2. After you do your thing, get out of the landing zone! This is where you can get seriously hurt if someone lands on you. 3. Don’t stop in stupid places – basically anywhere except right to the side is a bad place.
Most resorts have a few parks of varying sizes. Find out where they are and start with the smallest. You might want to try some straight airs over a small jump and sliding straight over a wide box first. If you’re not sure where to go from there, get a park-specific lesson to progress.
18. I want to try tree runs. Nice, trees are one of the coolest parts of snowboarding (in my opinion). The key to trees is to be comfortable with short, quick turns even when you may not feel ready for them. Make sure you feel comfortable to change edges wherever, whenever before you venture into trees. Then start in open areas with just a few trees, or duck into the sides of the runs where you can easily get back to safety if things get hairy (or leafy). Take it slow, look ahead and plan where you’re going to go before you get there. And if you’re in Canada or somewhere with pine trees please, for the love of the snow god, watch out for tree wells.
19. How do you ride powder? With great joy. You might find that your board disappears under powder and anchors you down. Other than setting your bindings back or getting a powder-specific board, changing your technique can help to lift the front of your board out of the snow. Start by shifting your hips back and getting more weight on your back foot. Do this by bending your back knee as opposed to just leaning back heaps, as this makes you more unstable. Powder also slows you down so don’t be afraid to let your board go straight for a bit longer in your turns. Who cares if you fall over? It’s soft!
20. I want to do an overseas snowboard trip. Where should I go? I’ve snowboarded in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and South Korea. Out of these, Japan is my personal favourite. It’s close, not too expensive, has beautiful snow and is a great cultural experience. If you’re a little concerned about culture shock, Niseko is very westernized. Or if you want lots of Japanese culture then I recommend Nozawa Onsen (did you know I wrote a Kindle travel guide about it?).
Alternatively, if you’re rolling in cash and want a five star experience then Whistler in Canada will have you covered with two mountains to play on, a multitude of fancy hotels, great snow and a massive village complete with expensive shops, bars, restaurants and even a movie theater. Honestly, it’s the kind of ski resort where people walk around in heels and mink coats.
Thanks to all my instructor pals and riding buddies who helped out with providing questions!