Sam Murphy: All you need to know about snowboarding

What the expert says...

Johno Verity is one of the UK's best-known riders - a former British big air champion, he now specialises in big mountain freeriding.

Pick your lead leg Before you step on to a board, you need to know which leg is your leading one - you can't start learning until you decide. You are 'goofy' if you have your right foot forward, 'regular' if it's your left. Your stance has nothing to do with whether you are left- or right-handed - the best way to find out is to get someone to push you gently from behind to see which foot you instinctively put out to save yourself from falling.

Be patient Don't expect to be able to ride just because you can ski. The technique is very different. Snowboarding has a steep learning curve and it may be frustrating to be a beginner again. That said, it helps to have an understanding of how a ski works for edge control. Don't be too impatient to master it all at once - I am still learning after 12 years.

Rise and fall You will fall. A lot. Try to stay relaxed. Once you've stopped sliding, position yourself so your board is lower than your body and parallel to the mountain, so you don't start sliding as you get up. It's easier to get up from your toe edge (facing into the piste) than heel edge (facing down the piste), so if you're struggling, roll on to your front and get up on your toes, using your hands to help push you up. Look behind before moving off.

Master the chairlift To get on and off the lift (or negotiate any flat area), you need to release your back foot and 'skate'. Keep as much of your weight as possible on your lead foot, using your rear foot like a paddle. With your lead foot facing forwards, twist round to make sure you grab the chair before it slams into your leg. To get off, slide to the front of the chair, jam your back foot up against its binding, to stop it from sliding on the board and making you unstable, then hold on to the chair until you are standing up and sliding, and push off and skate forward - try not to grab other people for support.

Stay fit all year Anything that works on leg strength and stamina - such as cycling - is great. Also try exercises for core stability, such as Pilates or yoga.

Get your stance right You control the direction and speed of the board with your body weight, so stance is important. Keep your knees bent and body weight centred, as if you are going to sit down. Stay relaxed. Always keep the weight on your lead foot, unless you are riding powder, when your weight needs to be on the back in order to 'skim' over the snow.

Learn to turn When you are at the top of the piste, visualise the line you are going to carve with your board when you make your turns. There is a moment in each turn when you have to commit to freefall, when neither edge is gripping. But trust your edges - don't be tempted to lean into the mountain. I try to get people to turn by using their shoulders as a rudder. It also helps to lift the toe of your back foot and push down with the toe of your lead foot to initiate a toe-edge turn - the opposite for a heel-edge turn.

Be confident Snowboarding is 30% skill, 70% confidence. Most people fall because they are scared of going too fast and being out of control. Say to yourself 'don't fall' and remember speed is your friend - going too slowly makes life more difficult.

Getting started

Do some research Snowboard Club UK ( is an enthusiasts' organisation set up by snowboarders for snowboarders. It's worth watching snowboarding DVDs and getting yourself in shape before you hit the slopes - try Skilates, a Pilates-based DVD for skiers and snowboarders (£17.99,

Get experience If you can, visit one of the UK's real snow slopes, in Tamworth, Milton Keynes or Castleford, or find a dry slope closer to home. Go to for listings.

Take lessons If you are learning in a foreign resort, establish that the instructor speaks good English and, if possible, have a private lesson or two. Learn To Ride Centres are available across Europe and North America. Go to for more information.

Resort finder If you're a beginner, pick a resort that isn't too steep: try Tignes, Meribel and Courchevel in France. The Great Skiing And Snowboarding Guide (Cadogan) or Where To Ski & Snowboard 2007 (NortonWood) offer detailed resort reports. Rude Chalets has an annual all-female Rudegirls week (

The gear

If you are a first-timer, hire the hardware first. As a general rule, a snowboard should be between shoulder and chin height, quite flexible and soft. It must also be wide enough for your toes not to overhang the edges. An entry-level board costs around £200. Try Snowboard Asylum (within Ellis Brigham stores or online at, Snow+Rock (, Finches in south-east London (, SS20 in Oxford (, Extreme Sports Ltd (08000 850436, or Bargain Boards ( Make sure boots fit snugly, that there aren't 'pressure points' and that your heels don't slide up and down. Instead of laces, Vans Omni Boa boots have a wire and push-button, so you can release in two seconds (£179.95).

You need a jacket and pants, warm layers, a hat and gloves; beginners may want to invest in a bum pad or 'crash pants'. Goggles are a must and a helmet is worth having; try Red or Pro-Tec.

The downsides

Everyone hates you A slight exaggeration, but you can get a pretty negative vibe from many skiers who feel they were there first and see snowboarders as intruders on the slopes.

Painful to master The fact that both feet are attached to a single platform means that falling is an inevitability in the early stages. Ouch!

Button lifts You may master the chairlift after a few tries, but the dreaded button lift is a nightmare to negotiate, even for experienced riders.

Wrist fractures Broken wrists are the most common snowboarding injury, according to research in the American Journal Of Sports Medicine, accounting for 21.6% of all snowboarding injuries.

The benefits

Increases aerobic and anaerobic fitness

Long hours on the mountain build good base endurance (a 12-stone man burns 1,600 calories in four hours), while short, intense bursts of effort build anaerobic fitness, according to the American Association of Snowboard Instructors.

Strengthens thighs

These are the real workhorses in snowboarding, because the knees are bent pretty much the whole time.

Improves balance

Snowboarders need a high level of balance in order to shift from edge to edge on ever-changing terrain, according to the National Strength And Conditioning Association.

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