I’ve never been a particularly avid snowboarder, but I’ve been known to dabble and had been steadily progressing back in the day. As it turns out, “the day” hadn’t been since 2015. I thought picking it back up again would be like riding a bicycle, but I was sorely wrong and I am definitely “sorely” feeling that reminder today.
We decided to come out of retirement this past weekend and brush up on our skills at Lake Tahoe. Of course the one weekend we wanted cold and stormy weather we got gorgeous sunshine and warm temperatures, but I guess we can’t all be so lucky. One of the great things about living in a place like California is having access to both beautiful beaches and picturesque mountains all within a few hours’ drive. If you have the good fortune of living in a place like this, I implore you to take advantage of all your area has to offer… Back when we lived in Houston, we had to fly to other cities to snowboard, making the already steep costs even steeper, hindering our progress as we couldn’t travel to the mountain regularly, and adding the extra burden of lugging around gear on planes. Bonus: now that we are within driving distance of the mountain, we were able to bring our dog Lupo to see snow for the first time in his life!
Benefits of snowboarding
There are a million reasons why you should try snowboarding. It is truly a total body workout, developing your muscles in a functional (and fun!) way rather than working out simply for the sake of working out. It works your calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, core and if you’re a n00b like me – even your arms and back as you navigate falling. It is also an effective cardio workout and develops balance and agility.
Typically you will go with a group of people, often staying together in one cabin, which helps to foster a sense of community and teambuilding. These people are your greatest resource to learn from. If they are more advanced, they can show you how they learned the ropes. If they are less advanced, this is an opportunity for you to vocalize what you have learned, thus paying the lesson forward and solidifying your own knowledge in the process.
Snowboarding provides a rare opportunity to unplug from technology and be one with the great outdoors. Some days my favorite part of a run is just after I’ve dismounted the ski lift and have sat at the top of the peak to strap in my boots. Taking in the view at such a height is breathtaking and really makes you appreciate the world that we live in.
The biggest benefit of them all in my opinion, however, is mental toughness. I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you. Snowboarding is HARD WORK. It will quite literally knock you down, and just when you’ve thought that you’ve mastered it, it will knock you down again. At this point you might be asking yourself why you’d ever start this mess in the first place. To this I say to you – snowboarding has provided me with the knowledge that no matter how many times I fall in life, I have the ability to rise up again like a phoenix from the ashes. This was a hard lesson and was definitely learned the hard way, but it is my truth and knowing this has given me a sense of pride and accomplishment that is indescribable.
Do note that snowboarding IS harsh on the body and is not for everyone. If you are unsure or have a preexisting medical condition, definitely consult with your physician before partaking.
So you want to snowboard, eh? There are mountains of information (pun intended) out there on the web, but here are the most basic tidbits you’ll need to get started on your snowboarding journey. If you’d like to learn more, drop me a line and I can do a deeper dive in a future post.
- Number one is safety. Make sure you are wearing the proper protective equipment which includes:
- Tuned-up snowboard
- snowboarding boots
- If you can swing a set of snowboarding pants, jacket and socks, those are worthy investments as well and will make you more comfortable and waterproof. These can all be rented on the mountain or even borrowed from a friend. It’s worth noting here that this venture ain’t gonna be cheap. DO NOT try to save money by skimping on safety equipment. People get seriously injured out there. Don’t be THAT guy.
- Make sure to figure out your transportation and lodging situation well in advance. AirBnB and VRBO are great ways to find cheap rentals near the resort. Some mountains are far away from the airport and are only accessible by winding roads. If you feel uncomfortable driving in snow with chains on your tires (or have no idea what I’m talking about), definitely look into bus services that can get you to your destination.
- Food on the mountain is SUPAH expensive. So is water. This is not an excuse to not
hydrate or feed yourself. Please stay hydrated. Please feed yourself. A great way to do this is stock up on groceries before you head out and make yourself a sandwich to take on the mountain. Bring tasty snacks. I love snacks. I also encourage bringing a hydration pack if you have one. If not, you can always drink from those free teeny water cups the mountain provides between runs. Learn from my overpriced vegetarian chili mistakes.
- Don’t forget sunscreen and don’t forget chapstick. These are crucial elements to your survival. No one likes a dry raccoon.
- Learn the proper way to fall. If you learn nothing else on your snowboarding trip, make sure to learn this. If you are able, taking lessons when you arrive is best. Putting your arms out puts you in danger of breaking said arms.
- Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. We find ourselves on a slope that is steeper than expected and there is no other way down. Learn how to LEAF. This is the safest and most basic way to overcome this situation.
- You’re probably going to fall the first dozen or so dismounts off the ski lift. Really…it’s basically unavoidable. The best thing you can do is move out of the way of people behind you so as to prevent a 10-person pileup. A trick I learned this past weekend is to push your foot against your back binding to create tension and help ground you.
- You’ll need to know how to skate in order to get around on flat ground (like, say, on your beer break). This is the mountain equivalent of skateboarding and thus involves propelling yourself forward by pushing off of one foot.
- If you can’t take lessons, it is okay to learn from a friend. WORD OF CAUTION: it is best not to learn from your significant other. Just saying…you were warned.
- Buddy up! Partner with someone close to your level that you can stick with on the mountain.
- Always remember to HAVE FUN. This is not a competition. You signed up for this. When in doubt, laugh it off. You need to be able to laugh at yourself if you’re ever going to succeed!
No mountain? No problem!
If you don’t have access to a mountain or cannot afford to travel at the moment, fret not!
Here are some movements you can do at home to work similar muscle groups and get you looking slope-ready like this:
- Jump squats (x10)
- Body-weight squats (x30)
- Deadlifts (x10, dumbbells are fine)
- Leg Adductors (3×10)
- Mountain climbers (x30)
- Burpees (x10)
- V-ups (x10)
- Russian twists (x30)
- Plank hold (1 minute)
Stay tuned for demos of these exercises and more in a future post and email me if you have any questions!
Important life lessons on the mountain
- Earlier I discussed the resilience, or mental toughness, that snowboarding has instilled in me. It has shown me that I have the ability to rise after I fall hard. It has shown me that even when I feel defeated, likely freezing my butt off lying in the snow, I can always always try again. There is always another run. There is always another opportunity to achieve greatness.
- As the saying goes, skiing is easy to learn but hard to master, but snowboarding is hard to learn and easy to master. I don’t think I can even put into words the struggle that was my first two snowboarding trips. There were tears to be had – many tears in fact. Four days worth of tears. Shaky legs. Gut-wrenching fear. I was scared of the speed and of tumbling down the mountain. I was paralyzed with my own internal debate of whether it was worse to tumble face-first or butt-first. Looking back, it is a miracle to me that I ever made it down the mountain at all, let alone progressed far enough to go down blue slopes. I thought I’d never be able to stand up on the toe edge of my board, let alone S back and forth between toe edge and heel edge. This is a reminder to celebrate the small wins and praise yourself for your journey, rather than beating yourself up for not advancing fast enough or comparing yourself to others.
- It’s easy to blame others for our failings. In fact, one of my favorite pastimes is blaming those damn skiiers for zigzagging in my way and knocking me off balance. Not gonna lie, the New Yorker in me definitely comes out on the mountain from time to time (fuhgheddaboudit!). Is there truth in this thought process? Are the skiiers to blame? Perhaps, but alas, that is irrelevant. Accountability is crucial, and accepting the role that you play in your fortunes and failings.
- Lastly, have patience! Be patient with yourself as you grow and be patient with others. It’s easy to get annoyed at that slow-moving person encroaching on your personal space, but that person used to be you. We all started somewhere and we all need to support each other to garner success.
Days later and everything still hurts, but I’m so glad we picked it back up again. As always, make sure to stretch as much as possible throughout this entire process. I never leave home without my travel yoga mat and it definitely came in handy this weekend. Make sure to stretch as soon as you get back to your lodging or you WILL have regerts. Yes, I said regerts.