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Warning and disclaimer: Snowboarding is an inherently dangerous sport that comes with all kinds of natural and man-made risks. You could get seriously injured or killed while snowboarding. This guide is not in any way meant to be a substitute for the best and safest way to learn to snowboard, which is to TAKE A LESSON from a certified instructor!!! This guide simply provides some supplemental advice for those beginners whom, for whatever reason, refuse to take a lesson, or those who wish to add to their knowledge before seeking professional instruction.

Having said that, snowboarding is a great sport and may be one of the most enjoyable things you ever do. If you’re lucky, it will change your whole outlook on life. Below, I’ve provided some basic tips for the “never, ever” snowboarder. Like I said before, THESE ARE NOT MEANT AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL INSTRUCTION, which is what you need. These tips are just a broad outline of some things you’ll need to think about.

Where to go: Try to make your first day snowboarding somewhere where there’s plenty of snow. Duh. I know that sounds obvious, but the point is you will have a lot more fun falling (and you will be doing a lot of falling, count on that) on a blanket of soft, fresh snow. A day of hard falls on icy, snowpacked slopes may turn you off to the sport forever. So check your local snow report before you head out to the slopes. Most ski areas have telephone hot lines with recorded information on conditions, and many areas now have web sites displaying constantly updated statistics on snowfall, total depth, lifts open, etc. All the information is out there for those who are willing to do a little basic research. Make an effort to go where the snow is.

Check out the ski schools. You’ve picked a ski area with lots of snow. Now give them a call and ask for the ski school. You’ve got some questions: Do they even offer snowboard lessons? Some places still don’t. You’ll want to know, of course, what the cost is for beginner instruction in group and private sessions, how long the lessons last, are there any special deals, (many times “never ever” lessons come with a free lift ticket – this is to encourage beginners to get instruction) and lots of other things. Try to chat them up a bit and get a “feel” for each ski area’s learning center. You may find that one ski school matches your own “style” of doing things more or less than another.

Dress for success. It is a tired old saw, but if you haven't heard it before, try to prepare for mountain weather by dressing in layers. Long polypropylene (not cotton!) underwear, thick padded socks, sweater(s), water-resistant shells or parkas, gloves or mittens, hats, and goggles are all standard. When in doubt, go ahead and wear it! Mountain weather can change rapidly, and if you’re wearing too much you can always dump unnecessary layers in a locker at the lodge. But leaving your goggles at home, for example, on a snowy day, is going to negatively affect your whole experience. One more tip: Don’t wear your jeans unless you want to be cold, wet, uncomfortable, and look stupid.

Rent your equipment. You will probably want to rent your gear before buying it. Snowboarding gear is not cheap, and if you decide for some reason that this is not your cup of tea, you won’t be in such a deep hole. Not to mention the fact that there are literally hundreds of different brands of snowboards, boots, bindings, and clothing out there. A pretty thick book could be written about gear alone. Renting is a cheap way to start finding out what your equipment preferences are.

Okay, you rented your stuff, took your lesson, learned the basics, and now you’re ready to head off into the wild blue yonder, all on your own! Here are just a few more tips: Get a trail map and follow it carefully! Stick to the green (beginner) slopes until you can confidently link together a series of turns without falling. Snowboarding can be learned quickly, but it takes a long time to master. Don’t challenge yourself on steep slopes until you are good and ready. People who ride in conditions and on slopes that are way above their ability level are a danger not only to themselves but also to others around them. Try to always ride with a buddy, particularly if you’re pushing yourself or conditions are deteriorating. Remember, above all else, to have fun and ride responsibly!