Start Your Season So You Advance Your Riding

Posted on Tuesday 19th October, 2010 Times Viewed: 3541
If you snowboard through the winter season you might find that the first few weeks are spent getting your legs used to riding and your head round the technicalities. On your own this takes time and a touch of trial and error. But it's important to understand that what you do within your first month of riding defines how your muscle memory will work throughout the season.
Your muscles will learn to stay in the predominant position you ride in, which in turn will define how you can effectively perform technical movements on a board – and ultimately how effectively and smoothly you ride. So if you start the season riding in a position that disrupts effective movements on a board, your riding can basically only progress so far. I.e. you are likely to reach a skills plateau, which can be frustrating and limiting. At Blue Mile we recommend pre-season training and coaching because long-term progress is enhanced phenomenally if you are taught to get it right first time. And it's more difficult to retrain your muscle memory while learning new skills later on in the season.

(Although it's still worth investing in lessons whenever you can, so long as you take the time to put the improvements into practice. Blue Mile offer snowboard courses on the Hintertux Glacier year round.)

In the meantime, here are a few tips for starting the season on a high:

1. Familiarise yourself with the rapid development of snowboarding possibilities amongst the pros and improvement in finesse and ability – to unprecedented levels. Watch the X Games and Olympics or here's some awesome footage from quality riders.



Watching these guys, it's clear they have amazing skill and really good energy in their riding. Their heads are in the right place. They know where they are in space and they are able to physically perform the tasks as well as psychologically approach them.

These guys didn't get there by accident, or mistake. They had, and get, a lot of coaching! If you want to improve dramatically, it's almost impossible to rely on instinct and naturall talent alone. Seek out instruction to hit at the root of your riding ability and build up your skills on a really strong base.

Click to view full image Click to view full image Click to view full image Click to view full image Click to view full image Click to view full image

Blue Mile Snowsports specialise in coaching experienced riders who want to bring themselves closer to pro level or at least get off the all-too-common ability plateau.

2. Familiarise yourself with your body! We teach riders how to be self-aware of their body’s movements and constraints and gradually retrain any “performance hindering habits”.

a) Right now start standing equally on both feet. Before you even start your season we recommend you start considering your stance. You will find in day to day situations that you prefer to stand on one foot more than the other. To ride the board effectively it's necessary to have equal pressure between both feet. By simply making yourself stand equally in whatever you are doing it will start to help train your body for better, more controlled riding this season.

b) Experiment with stance. Looking closely at what happens to the rest of your body when you stand on different parts of the foot (while trying to remain central on the board at all times) will help you become more aware of why certain things are happening when you ride and what changes you might have to implement.

3. Understand your board: There are a large number of differences in board technology these days with different cambers, different side cuts, widths, magna traction etc etc. It's so cool to have this choice and you should really take your time to understand why each board is shaped the way it is and how you feel you might benefit from it.
I would suggest thinking about what sort of riding you really prefer most of the time, the associated techniques you need to perform with a board, and then take the time and effort to road test different boards to really feel what works best for you. DON'T just let someone else tell you what you need to buy. Take advice for sure, but if you work it out for yourself, you'll be delighted with your investment. In the words of Natives... "knowledge is powder"!

When working it out for yourself, bear in mind the following: truly understanding how the board works will give you the best idea on the board you want. When carving you want to direct energy to the four corners at the ends of the board which will make the turn feel and respond better if done correctly. When choosing a board, understand that different snowboard cambers will work differently on different types of terrain. For instance, a full reverse camber will make powder riding awesome as the nose wont dip and will give an awesome floaty feel to the board... but on the piste the same board will be hard work. Think about how energy will most effectively run through the board in the terrain you best like to ride – this realisation will give you wisdom in your snowboard choice.

For instance, RIDE snowboards have the Slackcountry UL board which is sick for powder riding, the Society UL board is very different and suitable for park and pipe, while my favourite is the DH 2.4 board for all mountain snowboarding. If you get the chance, keep trying different boards and you'll learn what works where and why.

However, the Blue Mile Snowsports philosophy is not so much about the board you ride but HOW you ride it. We teach our riders to think about how to make the most of the board's technology, but more importantly how to be able to ride ANY board. In our words: "Riding a new board feels good. Becoming a new rider feels awesome!"

4. Understand the physics of the mountain: When you find that you've found the perfect carve, spin off a cat track, or flip in the park, just because it worked wherever it worked doesn't mean it will work on every aspect on the mountain. Don't be disheartened by this. Learn to experiment with your environment. When trying the same trick or movement in different places, sometimes it means less effort, sometimes more... and sometimes you get hurt finding out! Common sense goes a long way on the mountain especially when trying to understand forces like gravity and different angles of slope.
If you're aiming to start landing the big stuff (flips, spins, etc) this season, it's good to start learning about what sort of angles and take offs favour each sort of trick.

I.e. Going for a front flip off a cornice into powder feels sweet when you get it right! However rolling this stuff out in the park is a different story! As the park jump itself is more favourable for landing a backie due to its angle at take off, a little more effort and a good strong nolly is what's needed to get you round that crucial last 180 of your flip!

Snowboard coaches, like good old us at Blue Mile, will teach you about the physics of the mountain and how it relates to your riding... but for your homework, watch those DVD's!


5. Understand a little about psychology: You know when you've stacked it hard, and if you really have been pushing your limits you might even have broken a bone or twelve! Try to remember that feeling when you stacked, whether it was pulling a rodeo 5 of the biggest gap jump in the park, or you caught an edge at full speed, or were simply walking to the bar for apres ski. We can tell you that part of you knew the fall/crash was going to happen before it happened. I'm not talking psychic feelings here!
Basically the way your mind communicates to the body will sometimes cause responses with a negative outcome - especially when you feel fear. Like when you ride a steep slope and you're telling yourself “Don't catch an edge!” You end up reacting to that fear and perhaps lean back slightly when going for the turn... leaving the top corner of the board open to catch an edge. As you may have experienced something similar before, the fear becomes a self-fufilling prophecy. Gradually you can find yourself a little bit more afraid each time, so your body tenses up and you “mysteriously” discover developmental issues with a certain aspect of your snowboarding (whether a type of terrain, that heel-to-toe-edge-turn or a big old Misty-7).

Flipside to that: think about when you get it perfect, dialled, in the bag, mum-look-at-me-I'm-flying-68-feet-through-the-air sort of feeling! Your brain creates a predictive sense of positivity that has you “knowing” you'll land that jump or nail that steep turn, milliseconds before “success” is achieved.

So what are we getting at...?? Well, mental exercise is an important aspect of preparatory training and you can start now. Practice identifying that feeling within you, learning that when you know it's not going to happen, this is the time you DON'T go for it. Then work on identifying the corresponding feeling that comes with knowing when it will happen and how it feels to commit all the way through your successful movement. Identifying and keeping that happy - “I'm-gonna-land-this-s***” - feeling inside you is key to real progression... not just within snowboarding but within any other sport and even your life.

6. Use video feedback: I'm quoting from dudes like Neil McNab, Neil McNair, Mark Bishop and Mark Petty from whom I have learnt so much throughout my career....."the only person who doesn't know how you ride is YOU!"
Eh?
Well, most people tend to have a distorted perception of their own bodies in space. If we always walk about slightly stooped, we start to think that equals straight. On a snowboard, when you are just told "get that back knee out!" over and over again you might feel like saying "I AM!" and get a wee bit frustrated. Once you see yourself on video in slow motion you get a chance to really understand what's happening, and that you still need to make a change before you can progress. The first stage in progress is always: realizing and admitting when you have a problem. Seeing for yourself on video really helps, especially if you have a coach pointing out the minutiae of what can be corrected. Video analysis undoubtedly helps you make positive changes in the way you ride.

7. GET FIT – To the CORE!
You may find that your turns never feel fully controlled, no matter how brave you are. Or that you tend to cork out a 360, followed by a pretty hard stack. This issue is frequently due to a lack of core stability. You know you are meant to be squatting (flexing your legs at the knees and ankles) as part of the process... but instead you are actually collapsing at your core.
On the board (or when imagining you are on your board), start thinking about centralizing your weight not just length ways between your feet but also width ways. Start really identifying how much weight you have over one edge or another: the aim is for equal weight distribution all round so that less effort is put in to any turn, rotation, or straight air. To get this perfect, you need good core strength.

Work on your core strength (just 20mins a day even) to really help your snowboarding. And we're not talking about superficial abdominal six-packs here. The core muscles run from your knees to your shoulders and you need to develop the lot of them. Balancing exercise is great – e.g. yoga and swiss balls. Squats, pull-ups, pilates, and even cross country mountain biking or other balance sports will help. Then once the season starts, get riding every single day!

So what are you waiting for?
Riding a new board feels good. Becoming a better rider feels awesome! That's the mantra of Blue Mile Snowsports. We'd love to help you put all the above into practice and see your snowboarding progress like a rocket. We can't recommend enough the benefits of early season coaching and instilling into you the right muscle memory and best mental attitude. In the meantime, get preparing.

www.bluemilesnowsports.com
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