How to set up your snowboard stance
A strong snowboard stance is the foundation of good technique. When most people begin snowboarding, usually they use the stance that their local shop set up for them when they were buying their kit, or if hiring equipment they just use the board the way it is set up for them. The only thing that the shops tend to ask is which way do you ride, goofy or regular? So how important is it to set up a stance that is right for you? Well the stance is the foundation building block of all technique whether it’s for riding piste, park or powder so it’s very important to get it set up just right for you. It only takes about 15 minutes to set up a strong stance but the benefits in both the ability to balance and have strong directional control of your snowboard are greatly increased.
How to set up your stance:
- Stand upright in a relaxed posture with feet around shoulder width apart and feel how hard you can push against the ground one foot at a time, firstly with the toes then with the heel.
- Now make the distance between the feet around 1-2cm wider and repeat the process of pushing through the 4 areas. (toe’s then heel on left foot then the same on right foot)
- Repeat step 2 again and you should be feeling that as the distance between your feet increases the amount of pressure you are able to push through your toes and heels also increases. (this pressure is fundamental in developing board control) Keep repeating step 2.
- At a certain point the distance between your feet will start to become too much and will result in the feeling of your inner thigh / groin area being a little over stretched, when this occurs reduce the distance between the feet a little until it is a comfortable stance where no stretching or discomfort is felt but the ability to push through the feet is at its strongest.
- Now keeping the distance between the feet, gently move the knees out so they are directly over the feet and then looking at the direction that the thigh bone is pointing in, rotate each foot to match that direction. (from the top of the thigh bone to the toes of each foot should all be aligned). Now you should be able to bend and flex without any tension in the legs, ankles or knees. (bending and flexing are important movements in snowboarding to help balance)
- Lastly to ensure a good field of vision, increase the angle of the front foot by just a few degrees and decrease the angle of the back foot by the same few degrees. This should now orientate the stance with just a few degrees biased toward the front foot and reduce the need for upper body rotation to see where you are going but at the same time maintaining the angle difference between the feet to keep a strong stance.
With this new strong stance you should feel a bigger platform between your feet, which will greatly increase your ability to maintain a balanced posture and at the same time give you the ability to generate strong pressures through the board to maximise your control.
It is very important to try to maintain a relaxed posture with the upper body and shoulders in line with your snowboard, even the slightest upper body rotation will result in a rotation of the hips which pulls the back knee inside the rear foot. With the knee in this position it now creates a block in the stance where bending for balance is now very difficult.
With a strong stance set up and a good upper body posture (inline with the board) you can now focus on developing good board control technique using pressure through the outsides of the feet to turn the board.
Learning to turn and control your speed
Learning to snowboard is often referred to as being quite a bit easier than learning to ski and I can relate to where this common opinion comes from. A big percentage of people who take up snowboarding either are taught some tips from mates or give it a go on their own.
After the edge catches, bumps and bruises, how do you improve from that basic technique level that is so commonly reached but not very often exceeded? This article will cover some of the issues that people face when learning to snowboard and also show some simple technique tips that will help to avoid the bumps and bruises during the initial learning curve but more importantly how to keep improving the level of technique.
Bumps and bruises from catching edges
Very few people, who have learned to snowboard without the skills of a qualified snowboard teacher, can hold their hand up and say, “they didn’t suffer a few bumps and bruises from catching their edges”. So why do so many people catch their edges when learning to snowboard? There are two fundamental issues that need to be understood in order for the beginner to reduce the amount of times they catch their edges. The first is how important the basic snowboard stance is to the rider being able to balance and have control of the board. The second is control of speed and point of edge change During the early stages of boarding the rider is trying to keep in balance whilst on a thin edge and at the same time control the board to go in some kind of direction, so not having a strong stance which matches the biomechanics of the body only makes things that bit harder. A good strong stance gives the rider the platform in which to balance and at the same time enable the small but precise movements that give directional control of the board.
Control of speed and edge change of a basic turn
These two area’s go hand in hand and being unknown to most beginner and intermediate riders, are the most common cause of catching edges. When the beginner takes those first few runs and tries to change direction the inevitable edge catch results in a very quick meeting of upper body with cold and sometimes hard snow. From this point the rider will try with all their skill to hop or skid from one edge to the other in an attempt to change direction without the previous painful edge catch. By quickly hopping the board from edge to edge the rider is now changing the direction the board is pointing in but is actually still travelling straight down the piste (either in the direction of the toe or heel edge) and this fundamentally is why most people catch their edge.
So how do you control the speed and avoid catching the edge?
Snowboards are designed specifically to be ridden on their edges in the direction of the nose of the board. Riding the board in this direction will allow use of the sidecut (the curve of the edge between nose and tail of the board) to make the board carve. When the board carves on its edge travelling toward the nose of the board, to control the speed the rider simply spends less time with the board pointing down the slope and more time with the board pointing across the slope. To visualise this imagine trying to draw big “C” shapes in the snow, so setting off across the slope turning downhill then progressively back across the slope on the new edge. The riders speed is now easily controlled, so on steeper slopes to slow down more, the “C” shape turn is completed just slightly back uphill and on shallower slopes to take more speed the “C” shape turn is finished just slightly downhill.
If each and every turn is finished off by completing the “C” shape turn, then the rider is completely in control of the speed in which they ride. How much of the “C” shape turn is completed is determined by how steep the terrain is and how fast the rider wishes to travel but by using this method the rider is always in control and has these choices whereas the skidding from edge to edge technique is far more limiting.
Avoiding the painful edge catch is now made very simple as the board is now travelling toward the nose area in “C” shape turns (instead of in the direction of the toes or heels). The point at which the board changes from one edge to the other is now the only information required to greatly reduce the chance of catching the edge.
In the photo above the point of heel to toe edge change is highlighted as Point 1 and the toe to heel edge change is shown at Point 2. The edge change happens in three stages, old edge, flat base and then to new edge.
By riding in this way the rider will be able to focus on the development of generating stronger pressure through their feet to maximise the control of the snowboard, which then leads to an earlier and more powerful edge change. This is moving into the realms of more advanced snowboarding technique, which is commonly found in off piste and backcountry freeriding. Always thinking of these fundamental snowboarding techniques will see the rider progress beyond the basic level of technique and enjoying their riding more than ever.