What do I need to know before I start snowboarding?
Here are some tips from members of the U.S. Snowboard Team, as well as from recreational snowboarders:
Get in shape first. A regular general fitness program will make snowboarding easier and help protect you from injury.
Use the right equipment. Buy or rent good snowboarding boots, an all-purpose snowboard, a helmet and wrist guards.
Pick the right time and place to learn. Learn from a trained instructor in good weather (when there is good visibility and it's not too cold). Pick a skiing area that allows snowboarders. Use slopes that are not crowded and that have packed snow. Avoid icy slopes.
What do I need to know about equipment?
Boots. Most snowboarders recommend soft snowboarding boots to start. It's not as easy to balance or to get up after a fall in hard boots. Moonboots and hiking boots are dangerous. Wearing them puts you at high risk of broken bones and ankle injuries.
Snowboard. Start with an all-purpose snowboard. Later, if you are ready to race or do tricks, you can try a specialty board. Specialty boards are harder to turn and balance on.
Protective equipment. Always wear wrist guards made for snowboarders or in-line skaters. Most racers and professional snowboarders wear helmets, wrist guards, arm guards and shin guards, as well as customized protective gear.
Ski poles. You may want to use ski poles at first while you learn how to snowboard. Some teachers believe this is a good way for beginners to avoid wrist injuries. Learn how to use ski poles from a teacher who knows this technique, because snowboards are not actually designed to be used with ski poles.
How can I protect myself from injury?
Most falls in snowboarding are on the hands, buttocks and head, and only cause bruises and soreness. You can do a few things to reduce your chances of getting injured:
Protect your wrists. Most snowboard injuries are to the wrists. Wear wrist guards made for snowboarding or in-line skating. Don't break your fall with your open hands. Hold your hands in closed fists while you snowboard so you won't be tempted to break your fall with an open hand. Try to roll into a fall like a paratrooper would, spreading the force of the fall out over your body instead of taking all the force in one place.
Protect your head. While you probably won't hit your head first, the back of your head may hit the ground at the end of a fall if you land on your buttocks. These head injuries usually aren't serious, but you can end up with quite a headache. Wear a helmet when learning, when racing and when snowboarding on unmarked trails (collisions with trees cause some of the most serious injuries in this sport).