You can cruise the whole mountain with varying degrees of confidence—now what? Once you learn how to ski or learn how to snowboard and begin to feel more confident, progressing can often feel elusive. Where does one start? How do you know where and how you need to improve when you no longer have the constant reminder of falling every 30 feet? Growing into a stronger shredder is frustrating when you don’t know what skills to focus on and practice to become a better skier or snowboarder. Charlotte Harris, our resident snowboard instructor and Roxy Page, our resident ski instructor, have put together their top five things to consider when you’re ready to upgrade your riding to the next tier of progression.
Top 5 Tips to Improve Your Snowboarding:
Check Your Stance: Humans born biologically female will typically find that their femur connects to their hip socket at a greater angle than those born biologically male. Because of this, the most comfortable and effective riding stance will be feet slightly outside of hip width. This is especially important when having your boards set up by cis men, who tend to be taught to set up a stance based on shoulder width, but because the average shoulder width of women* is narrower than that of men*, there tends to be a lot of humans with a stance that’s too narrow. With that said, there is such thing as too wide, so listen to your body and micro-adjust as needed.
Hips Don’t Lie: Women know that one of our superpowers is our hips—this is especially true in snowboarding. The average woman will have a lower center of gravity (which is what helps the board do what we want it to), which means most of the time, all we have to do is point our front hip in the direction we want to travel, and keep our belly button balanced over the edge we’re using, especially on our toe edge (think manspreading up the hill) to ride most efficiently.
When In Doubt, Bend Your Knees: Like literally, just bend them more. Even if you think you’re bending them a lot, you’re probably not, so just bend them more—not your hips, your knees. BEND YOUR KNEES.
Look Up: Most humans do not spend as much time on their toe edge as they probably should. This means that you’re not treating your turns equally. To help maintain a constant speed (and control), try glancing up at the top of the run as you complete your toe turn for about a half second, before you move your eyes across the hill in the direction of travel. You should not be looking back down the hill until you are ready to change edges again.
Mind Your Shoulders: If you find yourself drifting frequently to the heel edge, even if you don’t want to, think about whether or not your hips and shoulders are parallel to the board, or perpendicular. Remember we talked about the hips being your superpower: if your hips and shoulders open to a different direction than where you want to travel, your board will soon follow. So the best fix for this is to look where you’re going with only your head and keep your shoulders, hips, and board all in the same direction. NOTE: This is especially important when approaching a jump or feature in the park. Are you sliding off the rail early or accidentally spinning in the air? Your shoulders and hips are probably no longer the same direction as your snowboard.
Top 5 Tips to Improve Your Skiing:
Forward Thinking: Going back to basics when it comes to stance always helps refine your form while skiing. Think about where your center of gravity is vs. where it should be; where your shoulders are at; and where you are looking. Your center of gravity should always be forward. You’ll know you’re in the right spot when you feel your shin pressing into the tongue of the boot, and you are bending at the knees instead of hinging at the hips. Your shoulders should be back, relaxed, and facing down the mountain while your legs do the turning.
Remember Your Edges: Your edges are there for increasing or decreasing speed by adding or removing pressure on them. If you feel like you’re losing control, put more pressure on your uphill edge to engage a turn and it will slow you down until you feel in control again.
Finish the Job: A turn is considered complete when your skis are perpendicular to the hill (tips pointing at the sides of the trail) at the finish. Taking those extra seconds to go across the hill just a little further and holding onto the uphill edge of your skis just a little longer keeps you and your speed in check.
What Do I Do With My Hands: My hands and poles are like your eyes—wherever they go, you’ll go too. Keeping your hands in front of you keeps your body from leaning back (remember tip #1!) and losing balance. When planting a pole, put the pole in front of you where you want to start your next turn. Before the tips of your skis pass the pole, pull up the planted pole, keep your hand downhill and in front of you, and complete the turn. No hands left behind.
Take Your Time: Sometimes there’s thrill in taking short, fast turns to fly down the hill. But it’s nearly impossible to self-improve while going as fast as you can. Slowing down to focus on technique does not come naturally and sometimes almost feels silly, but it’s almost always worth it. It’s okay to slow down and take the time to learn, tweak, re-learn, tweak again, fall, have fun, and rinse-repeat.
Top 3 Tips to Improve Either Discipline:
Take A Lesson: Start with a 1-hour private lesson. Request an experienced female instructor (Level 2 or higher, the better!) to get the best experience.
Up A Skill, Down A Hill—and Vice Versa: If you’re practicing a new skill you just learned, go back to easier terrain to nail it there first, then increase terrain difficulty. If you’re adventuring out on to more difficult terrain, make large, slow turns to gain confidence before adding more speed.
Find Your People: Let’s be honest, not everyone is super fun to ski or ride with. The best group of humans to help you progress are those that are supportive; will hype you up on doing [good] scary things, and throw you a YEWWWW when you land it; will always wait for you (even on a powder day); and inspire you to try new things. The best crews are made up of humans who are all comfortable riding the same terrain and are at slightly different places in their skiing or riding journey.
*The use of ‘men’ and ‘women’ in this article speak specifically to the biological sex assigned at birth. We speak in averages and recognize that all bodies are different and Q-angles will differ from human to human.
Char is an AASI-certified Level 2 instructor currently in training for her Level 3 certification. She has been teaching snowboarding for 17 years. Roxy is a ski instructor of 2 years, currently working towards her Level 1 certification through PSIA.