Fitness & Exercise

Ready, set...snowboard

When the snow starts to fall, channel your inner extreme-athlete.
Published December 5, 2015

Snowboarding is not only fun, it’s also a great way to get yourself an outdoor workout in winter, get fit and ultimately help you lose weight. Our experts tell you how to get started, gear up and pick up winter’s most exciting sport.

You’ve seen the daredevils on television, barreling down a slope strapped to what looks like a skateboard without wheels, doing jumps and tricks with whatever props they might have and thought to yourself “That might be fun.”

Well, Snowboarding is not only fun, it’s also a great way to get yourself an outdoor workout in winter, get fit and ultimately help you lose weight. Our experts tell you how to get started, gear up and pick up winter’s most exciting sport.

Step one: get medical clearance

Snowboarding is a challenging activity and requires a decent level of physical fitness and training. As a result, you’ll definitely want the blessing of your doctor that you are healthy enough to take up the sport.


Step two: get some gear

One knock about snow sports is that they aren’t the cheapest sports to pick up. While it’s true that snowboarding gear can be expensive, you do have the option of renting to keep out-of-pocket costs down. When you do decide to buy your own gear, though, remember that you get what you pay for.

“Going cheap on gear is an accident waiting to happen. Rentals are your best option if you are new to the sport or are on a tight budget,” says three-time Canadian Trainer of the Year, Cat Smiley. “Not only does it save lugging it through airport terminals, you can try out different boards and find the best one for you.”

Ben Clarke, who has been snowboarding for over 15 years and served as a snowboard instructor at the Alpine Valley Resort in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, agrees. “Cheap in the beginning can be a lot more expensive in the end,” says Clarke, who owns People Skate and Snowboard in eastern Michigan. “When cheap or improperly fitting equipment fails, you can and most likely will be seriously injured.”

Clarke says you should plan on spending $250 to $500 on the snowboard, $100 to $250 on the bindings to secure your boots and $100 to $300 on boots. And you might be able to pick up last year’s models for less. Rentals at a ski resort will run you $35 to $50 a day.

To keep you comfortably warm and dry on the slopes, you’ll need a good waterproof jacket, which runs $100 to $250, waterproof snow pants for $100 to $250, waterproof gloves for $30 to $100, goggles for $50 to $130 and a good winter hat for $15 to $30. “On the bright side, once you have purchased the equipment, it should last at least a few years,” says Clarke.

Protective gear

When you’re first learning to stay on your board, you’re going to fall. A lot. As a result, you’ll probably want some gear to soften the falls (and keep your frustration levels down). Here’s a sampling of optional, but highly recommended protective gear.
Wrist guards: Fit under your gloves and save you a lot of pain when falling.
Cost: About $25
Helmet: Keeps your noggin safe and can save your life.
Cost: $50 to $250
Knee pads: Will spare you untold bruises and possibly serious injury.
Cost: $20 to $50
Impact shorts: Will help prevent your behind from taking too much of a spanking.
Cost: $50 to $70

The last thing you want to do is invest money in gear, a lift ticket, food and travel to get up to the mountain only to be gassed after two runs, ending your day early. You want to have the stamina to ride all day — or at least most of it. To do so, you’re going to need to do some training in advance.

Strengthen up with push ups, bicep curls, chin ups, and lunges. “Build your foundation with a full-body resistance workout, three times a week,” says Smiley, who is also a snow-sports instructor. “And yoga, martial arts and Pilates are great cross-training to increase your stability, as snowboarding requires lots of core strength and balance.”

RELATED: 30-day push-up challenge 

Learn snowboarder lingo

Stoked: Happy. “He was stoked with that run.”

Pimp: Good. Or if you’re “pimped out,” it means you’ve got all the best gear.

Dope: Awesome. “Dude, that run was dope!!”

Sick: Big or really good. Sick day, sick line, sick music. "Dude, you’re sick."

Criminal: Sick. See above.

Tweak: Bending or contorting the body and equipment during a maneuver.

Switch: To ride backward, or "fakie."


Step four: get a lesson

“Learning to snowboard is difficult for everyone at first, so swallow your pride and ask for help because bad technique is developed early without proper instruction,” says Clarke. “An instructor can teach you to ride down the hill, slow down, change directions, stop, jump, grind and much more.” 

Just about any place that will let you take your snowboard on their mountain offers organized lessons. Remember, there is no shame in getting someone to show you good mechanics, no matter what level you think you’re at. The most important lesson you’ll learn is how to ride safely so that you don’t hurt yourself — or worse — hurt someone else through careless riding. Expect to pay $25 to $35 per one-hour lesson, but you might get a discounted (or free!) lesson with the purchase of a lift ticket.

The key to avoiding injury for any sport is to stretch before and after activity. Snowboarding is no different, and since you’ll be out in the cold, it’s easier for your muscles to get tight. “Snowboarding will work a lot of muscles you never even knew you had, so it is best to stretch each muscle group thoroughly,” says Clarke. “Make sure you hold each stretch for 30 seconds, repeat at least twice and no bouncing!”


Step five: get loose

1) Hamstring stretch : Start by sitting down with your legs straight out in front of you. Reach forward with your hands as far as is comfortable, reaching out to your toes, and hold the stretch.


2) Quad stretch: The quad stretch loosens up the large leg muscles that work overtime while snowboarding. Do this stretch standing up, using a chair or the wall for balance. Lift one leg behind you, grab it with your hand, and pull the leg up toward your rear end, keeping your knees even.

3) Hip stretch: This stretches the hip muscle on the front of your leg, beneath your hip bone. Stand up and take a step back with one leg while bending the knee of the other leg. Keep the back leg straight and bend forward until you can feel the hip muscle stretch.

4) Calf stretch: Stand facing a wall and lean forward until you’re about a foot or two away, supporting yourself with your arms and hands. Step forward with one leg, leaving the other leg back. Shift your weight to the back leg and lean further into the wall until you feel the stretch in your calf. Switch legs and repeat.

5) Abdominal stretch: This stretch targets your abs (stomach muscles) but also relaxes the lower back, which becomes stiff from turning and balancing while snowboarding. Lie on the floor on your belly, with your hands beside you like you're about to do a push-up. Then, keeping everything relaxed, press up with just your arms. In yoga, this stretch is known as the "cobra."

6) Neck stretch: It may sound unusual, but your neck muscles become very stiff from balancing, turning and watching out for others while snowboarding down the hill or practicing in the terrain park.


Step six: get stoked!

Now that you’ve learned the basics and have quality gear, hit the slopes. And remember, it’s supposed to be fun. You’re not going to be an expert right off the bat.

“Quality time on the slopes is better than quantity. You don’t have to go hard-core every day for your riding experience to be successful,” says Smiley. “Remember the snowboarding season is long, but it can be cut short by a trip to the hospital.” 

Finally, just stop once in a while and appreciate where you’re at. Take in the stunning views. Breathe in the pure mountain air. And shred. 


Burn, baby, burn

Snowboarding burns about 600 calories per hour for the average 180-pound guy, but when you first get started, you’ll be falling a whole lot, and as a result, burning even more calories. But don’t get too carried away; the difference is nominal, though you’ll certainly give your arms more of a workout as you continuously push yourself up off the snow.