For some reason a lot of beginners think that learning to snowboard is easier than learning to ski and that they can teach themselves or have a friend give them some pointers. Many broken wrists and bruised bottoms have proved that this is not always the case.
In many ways snowboarding is more alien than skiing. Your feet are fixed in place, you're standing sideways and your direction is controlled by moving your weight from your toes to your heels and using your body to drive you through this transition. Unless you are familiar with board sports like skating, surfing or wakeboarding the body position and stance will feel very unusual.
We would always recommend getting lessons. There are some great snowboard instructors in Chamonix. After a few hours an instructor can have you linking turns in a controlled manner and then you are free to explore Chamonix on your own. It really is worth the money and you will enjoy your holiday far more than if your friend shouts “Turn, TURN!!” unhelpfully from the bottom of the piste.
To help you on your way here is a break down of what to expect from a snowboard lesson.
Begin on an almost flat section of piste. Standing with your board directly down the fall-line of the hill. With your instructor's boot keeping you steady get your body into position and let the board slide forward down the hill until it comes to a stop.
This will help you find your balance and experience the sensation of moving on your snowboard.
With your board across the fall line you should be able to stand up and remain in a stationary position by digging your edge into the side of the hill.
If you are facing down the hill, on your heel edge, lift your toes up and bend your knees slightly to push your edge into the hill and find a balance point.
On your toe edge, facing up the hill, put more weight on your toes and bend your knees again.
To release your edge and start sliding sideways down the hill simply stand up slightly and move the weight off your heel or toe edge. The board should start to slide down the hill and you can control your stop by once again flexing your knees and adding pressure to your edge.
This will help you to understand edge control and control your speed. Next you will need to learn to control your direction.
Once you have mastered the control of your speed you will be able to advance your side slip to allow you to change direction. As you stand up and release your edge move your body weight so that it over your front foot and look forward over the nose of your board.
Your snowboard will slide down and across the hill, traversing the fall-line. To stop this return your weight so that it is even across both feet and bend your knees and pressure your edge into the hill just as you did in a side slip.
Once you have come to a stop. Stand up again and shift your weight backwards onto your back foot and turn your head to face your tail. In this way you should start to move back across the hill in the direction you have just come from.
If you repeat this process you can traverse back-and-forth across the slope like a “falling leaf”
You now have control of your speed and direction of travel and are ready to start learning to turn your snowboard.
Before you change from one edge to the other some instructors like to add this intermediate level.
J turns are easiest on your toe edge. Begin once again with a side slip and then shift your weight forward so that the snowboard begins to traverse the hill like in the falling leaf stage. If you then add more weight to your front foot and relax your edge grip completely by standing up almost straight the board will move from its edge onto a flat base just like in the straight running stage. As you run, on a flat base down the fall-line, you should have your weight neutrally balnced across both feet and be standing tall.
Finish the turn by shifting your weight back to your front foot, sinking down and allowing your edge to bite into the hill. To come to a stop sink back down low and bring your weight to a neutral position, evenly distributed across both feet.
The try repeating the same process on your heel side. You should now be able to control your direction and speed across and down the fall line.
You are now ready to turn the snowboard down the fall-line from one edge to the other.
From your stationary position stand up slightly releasing your edge, shift your weight onto your front foot and allow the board to slide down the fall-line. Once the board is sliding straight down the hill and you are standing straight sink down by bending your knees and changing your weigh onto your other edge. As the edge change is completed shift your weight from your front foot to you back foot to allow the edge to bit properly at the end of the turn.
You should have now completed a C-shaped arc and be stopped just below your start point on the opposite edge. Do this the other way and you are now snowboarding.