Becoming a great snowboarder, from a good one, can be a challenging move to make. And stepping it up when riding steeps is one of the key skills to get right on the mountain.
There are some common errors that snowboarders make on steep terrain though. Often these are bad habits that feel comfortable but are actually serving to ride steeps badly:
- Going too fast…
- …too soon
- Not looking where you want to go
- Not relaxing into the turn
- Keeping the lower body inflexible
If you want to ride steeps better, then you need to fight these urges and develop new skills that will help you flow with the terrain, not against it.
But while we say flow, don’t get too carried away. Steeps can be fun but at the same time, extremely challenging. Things can happen fast on steeper terrain, so be cautious. Movements in steeps should feel natural but also be deliberate and calculated.
Here are our top tips to snowboarding on steeps:
1: Careful commitment is key
Like a lot of things on the mountain, from moguls to riding on ice, commitment is key to snowboarding well. There’s always a bit of natural apprehension when riding steeps but if you hesitate then there’s a much higher chance those anxieties will come true.
That said, while commitment is important, this doesn’t mean you should go too fast, too soon. Riding too fast and getting out of control is not the way to go.
Use techniques like closed turns to improve speed control. A good way to take some of the acceleration out of the turn is to start the arc slightly uphill.
2. Know your level
Further to the above, one of the main problems I’ve seen is snowboarders trying to take on terrain above their level; at a speed above their level.
A better way to snowboard on steeps is to slowly build up instead of jumping straight in at the deep end.
Speed is far harder to lose than it is to gain, so stay within your limits. As well as just being less dangerous for you, and the rest of the mountain, if you do it this way you’ll build-up good habits instead of rapidly bringing on bad ones.
3. Look across the hill, where you’re going, not just down
The majority of snowboarders I see out there still don’t do this because the natural urge when riding on steeps is to look down.
This is understandable but it’s an urge to fight because only a fraction of the time is spent riding down the fall line.
A better way to snowboard is to mainly look in the direction you’re going – and by looking where you’re going you’ll be able to control your movements and momentum more precisely. This is a habit to get into until you consciously do it everywhere you ride.
4. Stay relaxed and composed – especially when turning
Like a lot of things on the mountain and in life, keeping composed is really important to snowboarding on steeps well.
However, it’s not just a cliché it’s also a technical point when it comes to turns: staying relaxed helps to manage the pressure throughout turns, especially at the end of turns when most pressure builds.
So focus on relaxation especially when turning on steep terrain. Continuous, steady, and smooth movements is the way to go. Jerky, cartoon movements are not the way to go.
Adopting a wider stance can sometimes help to achieve a smoother, steadier transition.
5. Keep the knees flexible, like a suspension system
Staying relaxed is one thing but keeping the knees relaxed and flexible is also really helpful when riding on steep terrain.
A useful analogy is to think of a bike or car suspension system, which would be pretty useless on anything beyond an even road if it were rigid.
With that in mind, make sure your knees are working flexibly and independently, almost like pistons, to keep you comfortable and under control when riding on steep terrain.
While this isn’t always easy to do – it can help to focus on your lower body movements and exaggerate them slightly, while also anticipating any bumps or changes in the terrain. Practice and staying relaxed overall also helps.
6. Now try a Snowboard Instructor Course
Another great way to really push your ability to the next level, is through completing a snowboard instructor’s course. Or if you're already a great boarder then teach others how to ride steeps and become as good as you.
If snowboarding is a love of yours why not learn to instruct and spend 11 weeks out in the mountains on what is effectively a fully catered snowboarding holiday! Completing a snowboard instructor course or ski instructor course can be one of the best ways to improve your technique and confidence. Plus it’s an amazing experience, where you'll meet like-minded people who’ll become friends for life! Start with a snowboard instructor course in Canada, New Zealand or France.
Relavant Snowboard Instructor Course Content:
To give you a bit more of an insight into what its like to take a snowboard instructor course have look at these SnowSkool blog articles: Which is the best Instructor Course for Me? and What to expect on a SnowSkool instructor course?
Also on our blog we have a series of interviews with ski and snowboard instructors who are ex-SnowSkoolers. We interviewed them about life as an instructor and how they got be where they are today. Interested to learn more, follow the link.
We also have plenty more information and helpful tips to help upgrade your snowboarding on other terrains on the mountain such as off-piste.