104 Teaching the First Time Rider

104 Teaching the first time rider


One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you may take nothing for granted.  In other words, that which may be obvious to you may seem like the holy grail for the first timer.

Most of the information transfer will take place using the first two levels of the teaching model, which is to say, command and task modes.  The reason for this is the large amount of information that must be presented and absorbed, and the need to ensure the safety of the participant by close regulation of activity.  Needless to say, command and task are rather boring, for both the instructor and student, but, you have to start somewhere.  As the student becomes more accomplished, and has more control over their snowboarding destiny, they can be allowed more freedom of movement.  Freedom of movement in turn can lead to spontaneous discoveries.  Realizing something without being told is more rewarding than being fed information.

A few common problems:

Correct orientation of movement can be an issue.  Most snowboards look the same from either direction, which is to say the tip can look like the tail and vice/versa.  The location of toe and heel edges may seem obvious, but it is not.  Since most balancing is done from ankle to ankle, and most snowboards are tipped from toe to heel and back again, operating a snowboard is a learned, not an intuitive activity.  Rewiring your brain is not necessarily an easy thing to do, so some failure along the way is to be expected.  Similarly, after acquiring a certain amount of information, the mind sometimes has difficulty with the sort and retrieval process, leading to a few bad turns or a run that can be most discouraging.

Some people have feet that are fairly mobile, which is not a good thing for learning to snowboard.  These people can be assisted by placing a wedge of the correct tilt between the boot and binding of the front foot.  This will allow them to stand on top of the board rather than falling off to the side.

People with either really large calf muscles, or really slim calf muscles can have difficulties with the amount of support provided by the high-backs of the bindings.  Too much forward lean will cause the quadriceps and calf muscles to fatigue, while insufficient support will often cause the rider to tip over backwards.  As a general rule, bent at the waist with bent knees indicates too much forward lean.  Bent at the waist with straight legs indicates insufficient forward lean.

Riders with small feet will benefit from having their bindings offset towards the toe edge.  Body weight etc is carried between the heel and ball of the foot; if the ball of the foot is too far inboard of the toe edge, turning on the toe edge will be difficult and will require a lot of muscular effort.  One centimeter of offset can make a significant difference.  If movement on the toe edge is jerky, the legs look locked, and the head and shoulders are leaning into the turn, then there is a very good possibility that the bindings are offset too much to the heel edge.  This is particularly important for children.  When in doubt, offset to the toe side, as the high-back can be used as a lever when necessary.

It is more important to descend in control on either edge, side-slipping, than it is to turn.  Realize that a sideslip is essentially the end of a turn, and that if a rider knows where they are going, pointing the board down the hill will be much less threatening.

Allow the rider to hold their hands/arms however they like.  The arms function as an auxiliary balancing mechanism, and as such, they will go where they are needed.

Look where you want to go, not where you have been, and not at your feet.

It is okay for the board to go backwards.  If a rider rides better with their feet pointing in the ‘wrong’ direction, they are probably rigged goofy when they should be regular, or vice-versa.  Similarly, they may be ambidextrous when it comes to which foot feels better in front.  Don’t try to correct them, just let them ride!

Occasionally you will encounter a ‘doer’.  This type of learner does not listen well, due to the fact that they habitually learn best when they ‘just do it’.   They may not be ignoring you, however, what you are saying is not necessarily relevant to their learning process.  Try then to set up their learning context so that they cannot harm themselves.

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