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So, you’ve taken up an interest of the amazing sport of snowboarding! It’s undoubtedly some of the most fun you can have during the wintertime, and allows you to really show off with style, too. Who hasn’t watched the Winter X-Games and awed at the smoothness of the turns down the slopes, and how they seemingly effortlessly fly through the air?
Well, I’ll be honest: it’s definitely not as easy as it looks, but if you’re wondering if snowboarding is hard to learn, it’s a bit more of a complex answer.
Something being “hard” to do all comes down to your individual definition of what hard is in the first place. Snowboarding is a sport that can feasibly be partaken in by the vast majority of people in good health. If you’re already familiar with other board sports such as skateboarding or surfing, then it probably won’t feel all that unnatural to you.
While snowboarding is definitely different from the others, you’ll feel more comfortable riding downhill sideways and as you’ve already developed a familiarization with your stance, you won’t have to figure that out either. Just remember that it will feel quite a bit different having your feet actually strapped to a board. Riding on snow is much different than water and pavement, too.
Snowboarding vs. Skiing
Everyone always asks the question: “Which is harder, snowboarding or skiing?”. There’s not a definitive answer to that, either. While skiing is generally known to have a lower bar of entry, it is more difficult to master. Snowboarding is the opposite: it is more challenging to pick up but becoming good at it is generally more achievable.
Physical Fitness Level
If you’re not particularly an active person, then you may be wondering if you’ll be in good enough shape for snowboarding. Well, we do have to keep in consideration that snowboarding is an extreme sport, so you can expect it to take a lot out of you.
Learning how to snowboard typically means you’re going to spend more time seated on the side of the mountain than actually snowboarding.
If your core and legs are weak, it’s going to be exhausting by the end of the day as you’ll have to stand up from a seated position countless times a day. Pair that with the fact that you’ll have a board strapped to your feet and you’ll be on an incline.
However, if you have any kind of balance at all, will be just fine. It takes practice like anything else, but by the end of your first day at the resort you should have it down more or less! Simply keep your feet tucked as close to you, leveraging that to help lift yourself up.
Some people find it easier to flip over on their knees and push themselves up with their arms, going backwards onto their board.
If you really want to make it easier on yourself, try working out at least a few weeks before your first trip up to the mountain. Really focus on building core strength, balance, and strength and agility in your lower body. Aerobic exercise will help as well, as you’re going to need some serious stamina.
What Do I Need to Rent?
Rentals as far as snowboarding goes are pretty simple and straightforward. When you go to the lodge, they will often have a rental center where you can get a board that suits your experience level, your height, and stance. However, there will oftentimes be other ski/snowboard rental places close to the resort or in town, too.
For your first rental board (or if you decide to purchase one), I recommend opting for an all mountain board. These boards are ready for anything and meant to take you from any type of environment, from groomed runs to the powder. While you’re most likely not going to be heading out into the backcountry anytime soon (I hope not), all mountain boards just do everything pretty well.
If you’d like, you can also opt for a women-specific board, which are typically more lightweight and ideal for smaller bodies, overall. However, that’s completely up to your own discretion.
To go snowboarding, you absolutely need a board, bindings, and boots. You’ll be better off in the long run if you have your own boots, as they’ll eventually form to the individual shape of your feet which will offer the most comfort with minimal irritation or risk of blisters.
While you can also rent outerwear for snowboarding, this is something else I suggest you purchase for yourself. You want to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing and be able to have it handy at all times without relying on renting something that might work for you.
I suggest getting a pair of high-quality snowboard pants and a snowboard jacket. Both should be waterproof and resistant against rips and tears, though still flexible enough to move with your body naturally. Lastly, a good pair of gloves to keep your hands warm.
Many people ask if they really need protective gear. The answer is a million times, “yes!”. While you’ll usually see helmets on the heads of children, adult heads aren’t much different and still need proper protection. This is especially crucial when you’re learning an extreme sport like snowboarding, where you’re essentially throwing yourself down the side of a snowy mountain!
Wrist guards are all up to you. However, adults are at a greater risk of wrist injury than children are, so it’s just better to try and prevent it.
Finally, I also recommend picking up a pair of goggles from a reputable brand. Smith, Spy, and Oakley are some of the most popular and you can realistically pick up a high quality pair under $40 or so if you’re on a tight budget.
Which is easier: Skiing or Snowboarding?
It’s a question that many have argued over for decades. Which is easier: skiing or snowboarding? They’re so different and each has their own reasoning. However, it’s generally known that skiing may be easy to learn, but more difficult to master.
Snowboarding is known to be the exact opposite; it’s harder to get started but much easier to reach advanced levels in. Let’s take a look at the finer points to help you decide which sport is right for you.
Pros and Cons
Let’s explore the general pros and cons of each sport before we really dive in deeper.
- Walking in snowboarding boots is significantly simpler and more natural than ski boots. They’re still relatively bulky and heavy, but it’s still worth noting.
- You don’t have to worry about doing the splits while snowboarding all over the mountain, which can create some serious injuries.
- Boots, a board, and bindings are generally more affordable than skiing gear.
- You can get stuck on flat sections or if you have to go uphill as you can’t move your feet unless you unfasted a binding and push with your free foot.
- Lifts are much more difficult to land after getting off with a snowboard. This will obviously get easier as you practice but in the beginning it’s quite the challenge.
- Lifts are much easier for skiiers.
- Flat and uphill sections are much easier to take on and use your ski poles to push without needing to remove boots from bindings.
- Walking in ski boots is awkward and can be very difficult to keep your balance – particularly when ice has formed on the bottoms of them.
- Ski gear is generally pricier.
Your First Week
During your first few times out on the mountain, you’ll probably feel much more confident and natural on skis than on a board. It makes sense too, as you’re facing forward and operating each leg independently as we do when we walk and run.
The great part about taking up skiing is that you can have fun right away and be able to actually go down runs without crashing every few minutes. While you’ll still want to stick to bunny hills during this time, you may even progress to intermediate runs after your third or fourth time!
Keeping your balance isn’t too difficult as you can see where you’re going and take full advantage of your peripherals just like you do in everyday life.
The first couple of times out on the mountain, you’re going to fall – a lot. In fact, this period of time you may spend more time sitting down than on your feet. It isn’t usually a natural feeling for people, even if you’ve participated in board sports before. You’re moving at high speeds with only 50% of the vision you typically have.
Level of Fitness Required
Let’s talk about the level of conditioning and specific parts of fitness you should focus on in each sport.
With skiing, we recommend you focus on developing leg strength. One of the most efficient and best ways to do this is by cycling with resistance, performing explosive exercises like jump squats, as well as resistance training like weighted leg presses and extensions. All of these exercises will have you in prime ski shape!
As you’re going to be turned to the side, you need to have an extremely strong, resilient, and mobile core. This includes not only your spinal erector muscles, but your obliques and abdominals. We highly recommend paddle boarding, as well as lower back exercises like back extensions.
Not only that, but you’re definitely going to need leg strength as well. Snowboarding requires you to be in a squatting position quite a bit of the time, as well as balancing, so weighed squats, jump squats, Romanian deadlifts, hamstring curls, etc. will help you greatly.
If you value comfort most, then hands-down you need to pick up a snowboard. Anyone who’s worn ski boots all day knows that they’re frankly pretty awkward to walk around in. Snowboard boots are heavily padded so you get quite a bit of cushion, albeit they are kind of heavy compared to regular shoes. On top of that, you only have to worry about carrying your snowboard with you when it’s not on your feet, as opposed to 2 skis and a pair of poles!
There’s other reasons why people choose skiing over snowboarding, and snowboarding over skiing. It isn’t just about what’s “easier” or what’s more convenient. It also greatly depends on the individual’s personality and preferences.
First, you may take into consideration what your friends or family members use – skis or snowboards. While we of course recommend you take your own desires and put them before what others do, also consider that certain runs are better for skiing, while others are better for boarding. If all your friends are snowboarding and you’re the only one with skis, you may not be able to keep up as well.
Are you someone who really enjoys exploring the wilderness and actually taking in the scenery instead of just the adrenaline side of things? If so, the good news is you can do this one both snowboards and skis. However, you’re going to be able to explore more area on skis when you’re just starting out.
One more thing to consider is what you value more: tricks or speed? While you can definitely do tricks on skis, it’s more convenient and somewhat easier to ride like this on a board. If you see a bump on the way down, for example, you’ll be able to do some small jumps, hops, and flatland tricks with a snowboard. In contrast, if you have the need for speed, skiing is probably more your style as they run over little bumps easier.
Let’s go over some tips to get started:
Wear the Right Clothes
All other snowboarding tips pale in comparison to this one. If you’re not wearing the right clothes, you’re not only putting yourself in a very cold and wet position, but you’re also placing yourself in great potential danger such as hypothermia. I remember the first time I went up snowboarding without my parents. I thought that it would be cool to take off my jacket and leave it in the lodge – after all, if I got cold it was only one run, right?
I was so wrong! That “only one run” is forever engraved in my mind; a brutal reminder of how quickly the elements can really set in. Between the shaved ice blowing against my arms and face and the wind whipping me, I was bright red and frigid by the time I got back to the lodge.
Okay, so let’s talk about what you need to have every time you’re on the mountain:
Snowboard Pants – This one is pretty obvious. Don’t wear jeans in the snow, as they are the absolute worst material ever to wear in wet conditions. They absorb water and take forever to dry; not to mention they aren’t breathable at all, nor are they soft. Don’t wear sweats or sports pants either, for the same reasons.
You need something that has a waterproof exterior, yet enough insulation that you’ll stay warm as well. Snowboard pants cover all these bases. Plus, they look pretty cool and often come in bright colors and patterns.
Snowboard Jacket – You read my story up above. A snowboard jacket takes on the big responsibility of keeping your core warm. Not wearing one is one of the easiest and quickest ways to lose body heat – not to mention the lack of one means quite a bit of discomfort. If your a woman, there are women’s specific snowboarding jackets. Keep in mind layering is the way to go to keep warm. In addition to a jacket, a warm base layer is essential.
Snowboard Gloves – We all know how easy it is to hurt our fingers or for our hands to get cold. Now imagine your fingers are already freezing cold and you accidentally hit them on one of your bindings or the edge of your board. That’s a kind of pain we want to try and avoid! snowboard gloves are the easiest way to go about doing that. On top of that, many come with a grippy material on the pads of the fingers to help you hold onto things in the snow.
Snowboard Goggles – Do you like seeing? It’s pretty important, especially when it comes to flying down a snowy mountain at extremely fast speeds. If you’re not wearing snowboarding goggles, then you should prepare for snow, sun, wind, and more to potentially get into your eyes and affect your vision. High quality models won’t fog up, nor shatter upon impact like sunglasses tend to do. Moreover, they offer complete coverage along with comfortable protective padding.
Learn Which “Stance” You Are
Are you goofy or regular? Your mom may be partial to the former, but when it comes to snowboarding we’re talking about which foot you’ll lead with or which one will be in front when riding. If you’re a skateboarder, wakeboarder, or surfer, then you may already feel comfortable with a certain stance, but that could change on a snowboard.
Everyone has their own way of “finding out”. For me, it was when I was in the lodge looking to rent my first snowboard as a kid. The guy behind the rental counter told me to turn around and he pushed me! I landed with my left foot forward, which meant I was “regular” or would lead with my left foot. If you’re a soccer player, think about which foot you kick with.
3. Learn to Skate Well
No, I’m not talking about skateboarding (though that actually does help with balance, too). What we refer to “skating” as in the snowboarding world is how to transport yourself while on flat ground, say, to a ski lift or back to the lodge. While skating, you’ll have your front/leading foot locked into your binding, while the other is free to push yourself with your boot.
You’ll use your back foot and move it behind you to push yourself along, kind of like if you were skateboarding sideways. It definitely takes some getting used to, and is admittedly very awkward the first 10 times or so you go up to the resorts. The most difficult parts are undoubtedly when getting off the lift without crashing, but eventually you’ll know exactly where to place your rear foot and keep your balance.
4. Learn How to Stand Up
This may sound easy enough, but the truth is that when you’re first learning how to snowboard, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your butt! You may even want to consider purchasing a pair of padded lacrosse or cycling shorts to help reduce the impact.
This is why you should learn how to properly stand up from a seated position with both of your feet strapped against your board. While you’re seated, bend your knees, moving your board as close to you as possible. Then, lean forward, pushing up with your quads and using your abs to keep yourself balanced.
I recommend first trying this on flat surfaces a few times so you can master this without the added monkey wrench of sliding downhill. Some people also prefer to flip onto their knees and the toeside edge and go “backwards” as a way of getting back onto their feet.
5. Look Where You Want to Go
This isn’t just a good metaphor for your outlook on life, it’s also essential if you want to become a good snowboarder! Where our eyes go, our body naturally follows. Once you move your eyes, your head will naturally move towards what you’re looking at. Your shoulders will follow, then your hips, and eventually your entire body will be heading that direction.
Try this while snowboarding, looking all the way to the right or left until you’re looking 180 degrees over your shoulder. Once you swing back around, you’ll see your weight unloads from your heels and moves onto your toes. That is the core of all edge control. Moving from toeside to heelside and vice versa does take some practice but visualizing and practicing the concept on dry ground will help immensely.
6. Progress Accordingly
What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t waste too much time on the bunny hill, but also don’t go heading onto a black diamond run or the half pipe after your first few times out on the runs. Getting comfortable on the bunny hill can help you create bad habits but also get too much into your head. This can make you lose your confidence and even scare you from trying more challenging runs or environments.
On top of that, the beginner slopes are typically full of people crashing and sitting all over the place. This can create a kind of panic or nervousness among all of you. Not to mention, it’s hard to really start practicing your skills and getting into a rhythm when you’re worried about people riding erratically in front of and around you.
Let’s now cover how to get in shape for snowboarding?
Not only is it important to strengthen, but condition. There are various types of machinery you can use here, like treadmills, elliptical machines, recumbent bikes, spin bikes, stair-steppers, and more. Or you can get outside and run, walk, jog, cycle – whatever suits your preferences!
However, we know that skiing can be hard on the knees, so we are partial to the more low-impact forms of cardio on our guide. These include elliptical machines and recumbent bikes, with the former being the easiest on the joints.
To really maximize your stamina and see results fast, intervals are the best method. You can choose a certain amount of time where you go as hard as you can, then rest for double that amount of time. For example, you can sprint for 30 seconds as fast as you’re capable, then walk or jog for 1 minute. Do this for up to 30 minutes total.
If you’re not up to that level, try warming up by walking and stretching for 5 minutes, then jogging or fast walking for 30. Do this, along with the others on our guide for at least 2 or 3 times per week.
Note: With the following exercises, we aim to boost muscle power, focus on improving balance, and build endurance.
Start out all of your workouts with 5-10 minutes of simple cardio activity that isn’t strenuous at all and that you can comfortably talk while doing. This could be on the treadmill, jogging, jump roping, etc. Make sure follow these rules:
- Always inhale while exerting force, then exhale as you come back to your starting point. The faster you perform your exercises, the faster you should be breathing. Don’t forget to breathe and focus on control.
- Rest for 30 seconds after completing each exercise (unless we mention otherwise).
- Once you’re done with the entire set make sure to give yourself 1.5 to 2 minutes of rest. We recommend 3 sets of each exercise if you can.
Walking Lunges with Rotation
Walking lunges focus on your entire rear and frontal chain in the lower body such as: the glutes, quads, hamstrings. In addition, the rotation will push you to improve your balance, strengthen your abdominals, and improve core mobility. No equipment is needed with this exercise.
- Stand with your feet slightly apart.
- Step with 1 foot forward into a lunge, ensuring your knees never go further than your toes. If you can, do these with a mirror so you can make sure your rear knee is coming into a 90-degree angle to the floor as well as your “lunging” knee.
- As you’re stepping, rotate your body to one side towards the knee that is forward. Keep your arms lifted to your chest, outward from your sides. You can clasp your hands together if you prefer.
- Rotate your body back to center, pushing up through your legs to take the next lunge with your other leg.
- Once you’ve done this on both sides, repeat for a total of 10 on each side.
Hip strength is directly related to your knees and how well you keep them properly aligned. The hip roll will help strengthen around your hips and glutes to keep your knees safe and feeling great.
You can use a chair if you need help keeping your balance for proper form.
- Stand on your right leg.
- Incline your body forward at your hips, making sure your back is straight and your knees are slightly bent.
- Roll your hip away from the foot on the ground.
- Make sure the entire time, you are keeping your body straight with your abs tight.
- Repeat 10-15 times on each side.
Lateral Ski Jumps
It only makes sense that an exercise with the word “ski” in it would be good for ski training! These work your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and overall balance in your core and lower legs. The explosive motion will greatly improve your strength.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart with knees slightly bent.
- Balance on one leg.
- Keeping yourself just on one leg, jump to the side as you land with your other leg. Try to land as quietly as possible, with your knees as bent as when you started.
- Repeat this, landing on the other leg.
- As you are jumping, swing your arms across your body like you see in speed skating.
- Repeat these for a total of 30 times.
These are the single best exercise you can do to strengthen your rear muscle chain. They improve posture as well, strengthening the entire length of the spinal erector muscles, trapezii, hip flexors, abdominals, hamstrings, and glutes. If you’re not used to this, we recommend starting out with a lightweight (5 to 10 pounds) in the form of a dumbbell.
- Take your weight in both hands as it rests on its side on the floor. Bend knees slightly, making sure your back is straight.
- Lean forward towards the barbell at the hips.
- Engage the glutes and hamstrings, pushing your hips forward until you’re in a normal standing position.
- Repeat this 10-15 times.
Jump squats are an explosive exercise that help with mobility and the overall strength of your entire lower body and core. If you want to improve your speed on the slopes and push hard out of turns, we can’t recommend this one enough. We suggest doing as many as you can for 3 sets.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Squat so your thighs are parallel with the floor, jumping as high as you can and landing softly with knees bent.
These will greatly improve core mobility and strength, particularly in the oblique area.
- Sit down on a yoga mat with your feet out in front of you and your knees bent.
- Take your medicine ball or aforementioned lightweight dumbbell and place it at your side.
- Grasp the ball or weight firmly by rotating your upper body toward it, keeping your feet on the mat.
- Gently rotate your upper body, bringing the ball/weight to your other side.
- Repeat 10-15 times.
- You can increase the level of difficulty by keeping your legs in the air.
Lastly let’s answer the question: Is snowboarding good exercise:
Yes, both sports do burn calories – and quite a lot of them! Just to get from point A to point B or traverse from the end of the run to the lodge can get the body warmed up. Not to mention the fact that ski/snowboard boots and clothing adds a significant amount of extra weight.
Just standing around and walking without the boards and skis in the cold will increase your calorie burn. Pretty cool, right? Now imagine how much you’ll burn in an entire day!
Well, let’s say you way 185 pounds. Studies show you’ll burn around 266 calories in just half an hour of downhill skiing. This number goes up the steeper the incline of the run, as your body has to work even more to keep balanced.
2. Strengthens the Lower Body
As you’re going to be using your lower body extensively throughout the entire ski or snowboard trip, you’re going to really feel the burn! Skiing is a sport which will keep your body in the squat position throughout the entire time, though snowboarding will also require you to be like this the majority of the time.
To carve, stop, and everything except cruising more or less is going to engage the quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. Skiing also uses these muscles, though with snowboarding you also involve the ankles and feet more to help with maneuvering and keeping balanced. As you are balanced on both feet, traveling head on downhill, you don’t have to worry about keeping balanced quite as much as boarding requires.
4. Strengthens the Core
It’s not only the lower body that’s going to get a workout through skiing and boarding. The core is what keeps us upright and balanced and will constantly be engaged while you’re on your board. At first, this will be a more conscious effort that will require focus. However, after a while it will become second-nature to you and keeping your balance on slippery surfaces, carving, etc. will be much easier.
5. Increases Flexibility
With most extreme sports, like snowboarding, the amount of flexibility you have is going to directly relate to the injuries you have along with how well you perform. Keeping balanced can actually help improve your flexibility. As you’re constantly changing positions, rapidly, your body will improve upon this over time naturally.
However, you can help yourself with this by doing stretches and/or yoga when you are at home. Pay special attention to this the day before you head to the slopes as well as the morning/day of to minimize your risk of injury and to move smoother.
6. Boosts Mood
You’re bound to find skiing and snowboarding to be some of the most exhilarating sports you’ve ever tried. Being up in the mountains with fresh air and the smell of pine trees is enough on its own to boost anyone’s mood.
Pair that with sliding down a mountain, and you have a recipe for a huge endorphin production! Endorphins are what makes us feel happy but also relieved, which can help melt away stress.
On top of that, you’ll be exposed to the sun, even on cloudy days, which offers a boost of Vitamin D!