Snowboarding has been one of the most popular winter sports for decades. It’s especially popular with young people who grew up skateboarding and surfing. The high speeds and opportunity for tricks have drawn fans back to the slopes season after season. When did snowboarding become a sport? How long does it take to learn to snowboard and reach beginner, intermediate, and mastery-level skills?
It can take as little as 1-3 days to gain basic snowboarding skills or as long as six months. After two seasons with 20-30 days on the slopes, you should reach intermediate skills, and for mastery-level skills, it can take 3-6 seasons with 20-30 days of practice per season.
A brief history of snowboarding
According to Smithsonian Mag, people were “surfing” down snowy slopes long before they were calling it “snowboarding.” In 1965, a company created a snowboard-like model and sold almost one million units by 1970. Dimitrije Milovich, a college drop-out, created the first modern snowboard company in 1972. The sport took off after that, though it wasn’t until the late 1970s that Jake Burton Carpenter, the founder of Burton Boards, coined the term “snowboarding.”
Snowboarding quickly became the edgier, cooler alternative to skiing, though many worried about safety. In the 1980s, most ski resorts in North America banned snowboarding. Europe was more welcoming and eventually, North America relented, so by the 1990s, you could find snowboarders at resorts. Snowboarding for men and women debuted at the 1998 Olympics. Shaun White is arguably the world’s most famous snowboarder with five Winter Olympics and numerous Winter X games under his belt.
Learning to snowboard: how long until you can control your speed, stop without falling, and link turns
When you’re first learning to snowboard, the first skills you’ll learn is how to manage your speed, stop without falling, and link turns, which is the ability to make turns one after the other without stopping. As you develop these early skills, you’ll become more comfortable with your stance, moving at higher speeds, and linking turns in both directions. How long it takes to learn these skills depends on a few factors, such as your age, strength, and previous experience with boarding sports, like skateboarding or surfing. Even kids as young as six years old can develop beginner skills fairly easily.
According to Riding Boards, it can take some riders as quickly as one day to get these basic skills, while others may need around six months. If you practice a lot, you’ll form these skills much faster. People who take lessons are also more likely to master beginner skills more quickly than people who try to teach themselves. If you have experience skateboarding or surfing, you may not need professional instruction, but even just one lesson can help you get more comfortable and avoid common mistakes like rushing turns and improper leaning.
How long until you have full control of your speed, can navigate uneven terrain, and perform tricks like carving
Intermediate snowboarding skills include moving at high speeds, navigating bumpier terrain, and learning to carve, which is when you turn your snowboard using the edge or sidecut of the board. Carving helps you maintain high speeds and get ready for tricks like spinning jumps. If you’re wanting to freestyle snowboard, you’ll be more comfortable practicing on small to medium jumps and pipes.
As an intermediate snowboarder, you have more confidence on steeper slopes, high speeds, and runs designated for higher skill levels, including Black Diamond runs. Black diamonds are the steepest, most challenging parts of a ski resort. The runs are more narrow and often have more trees, cliffs, and bumpier areas. Before trying a black diamond run, you should be very comfortable with beginner and intermediate skills. Unlock Outdoors says it usually takes about two seasons to become an intermediate-level snowboarder. As always, it depends on how much practice you can get. If you’re only able to get a handful of days on the slopes per season, it will take much longer than two seasons. If you’re getting in 20-30 days, you’ll develop intermediate skills quickly.
How long until you’ve mastered turns, tricks, backcountry riding, and all terrains
Becoming a master (or expert) snowboarder means mastering numerous skills, including all turn types (like carving), jumps and grabs, 180 and 360 spins, and larger rails and pipes. You’re also able to go backcountry snowboarding, which is snowboarding in rural areas over “ungroomed” or unmarked slopes. There are usually lots of trees and other hazards, so it’s only a good idea to try if you have lots of experience. Expert snowboarders are also comfortable on any type of terrain, no matter how bumpy.
It takes a long time to move from intermediate to expert mastery. While many people can move fairly quickly from a beginner to an intermediate snowboarder, that progress usually slows down with more challenging skills. Referring to Unlock Outdoors again, some people may become experts in 3-6 seasons with lots of practice (20-30+ days a season) and commitment.
Why should you learn to snowboard?
As you’ve read, how long it takes to learn to snowboard varies, but it can take quite a while with lots of practice each winter season. Why is it worth all the effort?
Snowboarding is a full-body workout
Snowboarding works out your entire body and strengthens essentially every muscle in your core and lower body. When you ride, you’re in a squatting position, which works out your calf muscles. To balance and make turns, your ab muscles are flexed and exercised. Snowboarding also strengthens your thighs and knees, which you want to bend slightly to reduce the impact.
Snowboarding is good for your mental health
Many people struggle with their mental health in the winter. There’s less sun and less vitamin D, which is linked to an increase in symptoms of depression. For people with depression already, winter can be an especially grueling time. Snowboarding can help. Research shows exercise releases endorphins, a chemical connected to well-being. Snowboarding is also a great winter exercise because it gets you out into nature, which is shown to help with mental health issues like anxiety and stress.
Snowboarding is good for your heart health
According to the World Health Organization, heart disease is the #1 cause of death worldwide. It refers to an umbrella of heart conditions that claim the lives of around 17.9 million people. In addition to an unhealthy diet and smoking, a lack of exercise is a leading behavioral cause of heart disease. As a type of aerobic exercise, snowboarding is a great way to keep your heart healthy. As you build your skills, you increase your endurance, your muscle strength, and improve your blood pressure.
What skills do you need to snowboard?
When you’re just learning to snowboard, bear in mind three essential skills: proper falling, core strength, and flexibility.
Skill #1: Falling
Learning how to fall may seem like an odd must-have snowboarding skill. Shouldn’t you be learning how to not fall? As you get better, you’ll fall less, but falling is part of learning. If you don’t fall properly, you can seriously hurt yourself. On Curated.com, snowboard expert Tess Kohler recommends loosening your body when you fall. Stiffening up increases your risk of injury. You should also try not bracing your fall with your wrists. Wrist injuries are very common for snowboarders. As soon as you realize you’re going to fall, bend your knees to get as long to the ground as possible. This reduces the impact of your fall.
Skill #2: Core strength
Snowboarding takes a lot of core strength. If you aren’t a skateboarder or active in another way, you might want to start building your core strength before the winter sports season. There are countless core strength exercises and methods you can try, such as squats, Pilates, resistance bands, and more. Snowboarding uses a variety of muscles, so it’s best to blend core exercises with total-body exercises. If you’re just beginning an exercise routine, consult with your doctor and start slowly. You don’t want to injure yourself before snowboarding season.
Skill #3: Flexibility
Snowboarding requires a full range of movement from your body. You need to bend your knees, shift your weight to make turns, and more. Flexible lower leg muscles are especially important. Before snowboarding, it’s a good idea to warm up first so your muscles aren’t tight.
Gear used by snowboarders
#1. Snowboard and bindings
There are three main types of boards: alpine, freestyle, and freeride. Most beginners like freestyle boards. These are shorter and therefore easier to control. Bindings come with the board. They should fit with your boots.
#2. Snowboard boots and socks
When you snowboard, you need special boots. It’s best to buy your own, so you’re sure they fit comfortably. They come in regular shoe sizes. Make sure they fit snugly but aren’t painful to wear. For our socks, you want a pair with good warmth and good moisture wicking. Thick socks can become too hot quickly, so look for thinner ones.
#3. Snowboard layers
The clothes you wear are very important. For your base and mid-layers, avoid cotton. Synthetic materials and wool are better. You may only need a base layer under your jacket and pants, but a mid-layer (usually a fleece or sweater) is a good idea on very cold days. Good snowboard jackets and pants should have a breathable, waterproof, and windproof shell.
#4. Gloves and goggles
Good gloves should be insulated, waterproof, and strong. Your goggles help protect your eyes from snow glare, the wind, and debris. For bright days, look for mirrored lenses in dark rose, dark gray, or dark brown.
#5. Helmet and other safety gear
Helmets protect you from life-threatening head injuries. Like your boots, helmets should fit snugly, but not too tightly. If your helmet moves when you turn your head from side to side, it’s too loose. There should be no gap between your helmet and the top of your goggles. The chin strap should fit comfortably without digging into your throat. You should consider wearing other safety gear like wrist guards, knee pads, back protectors, and tailbone pads. At the bare minimum, wear a helmet.
How to learn to snowboard
When learning to snowboard, the most important things to remember are safety, patience, and practice. Snowboarding has a reputation for being a dangerous sport, but you can protect yourself by choosing good gear and exercising caution. Don’t attempt risky tricks or runs until you’re fully confident in your skills. Always wear protective gear and stay focused on your surroundings when snowboarding. As we’ve discussed, it can take several seasons of practice to become a good snowboarder, so be patient with yourself. If you want to speed up your progress, consider taking lessons from a professional. You can also build more quickly on your skills by maintaining your physical fitness during the off-season. Snowboarding is a popular sport for a reason; the exhilaration is worth the work!