LifeLife feature

A beginner’s guide to: Snowboarding

We couldn’t think of a cooler winter activity to take up this month, so we wanted to know… just how easy would it be to learn to snowboard?

We asked Ottawa Snowhawks Instructor Cooper Lawrence to give us the inside scoop on teaching the sport to adult beginners.


Snowboarding is one of those sports that looks easy, but after a day on the bunny hill, most people would disagree.


Like most athletes, professional snowboarders usually start when they’re young. But does that mean that learning to snowboard is a lost opportunity in adulthood?


“Anyone can learn anything with enough time and practise,” says Cooper. “As a child, we learn differently than adults. Yes, it’s easier to get started as a child. There is less hesitation, a bit more experiential learning, and you’re less critical of yourself.


“But to get from having never snowboarded before, to the point where you can safely navigate the mountain – which is always the goal – I’ve had people learn within the season how to do that to the point where they were comfortable and weren’t in any danger on their own.”


A season for Cooper’s classes with the Ottawa Snowhawks, who offer weekend adult programs, is about eight weeks. So to get to a point of looking like you know what you’re doing out there? Two months, he says.


“And that’s with half day lessons (four hours) and another half day of practise. So that’s more lesson time then most mountains would give to beginner lessons. Usually it’s only one or two hours.


“The coming back for more lessons is really the key part. A lot of people may think oh, I’ve got it, I can stand up on a snowboard and slide around but, there’s more to it than that.”


It’s undoubtedly a fun pastime, but what about the physical benefits? Cooper says that while most of the movements snowboarders do are hips down, beginners will find themselves with a killer ab workout.


“A lot of new snowboarders find that what gets them at the end of the day is the abs, because you’re constantly falling and getting back up.”


But is it cheaper than hitting the gym? Probably not, but it’s similar in cost to other major sports.


“Gear is often a big chunk of the expense. Especially if you aren’t already into outdoor winter activities. You need good gloves, jackets, etc. But all you need specifically is new boots and a snowboard.


“The weekend program is about $8-900 for the season. 8 full day sessions, half with instructor, half practise. Lift tickets, bus. You don’t have to drive to the mountain, and it’s a fun time.”


Safety Tips?

Crash pants. Stay hydrated, have a good breakfast, and respect your body’s limits. Recognize when you’re getting tired, recognize when you’re starting to fall more often. Don’t be afraid to take a break. And sunscreen definitely, because it’s sunny and overcast.


Typical injuries for beginners?

The major risk is wrists, if you haven’t learned how to fall properly. You can get around that by wearing wrist guards, which is highly recommended for beginners.

The other big one is tailbone. If you’re not falling forward, you’re falling backward. Which means landing on your butt and bruising your tailbone, which is not fun. Not a great experience.

If you can Ski, can you Snowboard?

Snowboarding has a steeper learning curve, but yes you can. And vice versa. Partially because of the similar body mechanics, motions and balance, but mostly because you are already familiar with the mountain, navigating in traffic, types of snow, and what patchy areas to avoid. That’s actually what causes a lot of stress for beginners on the mountain, just being in the environment.


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