Ever tried to slow down on your snowboard and ended up getting thrown off balance by a bump or getting mini-air as your snowboard slides over rough snow that feels like you’re braking over a cheese grater?
That’s what happens when you brake at the wrong time, so here are the 2 things you need to pay attention to when trying to brake or slow down while snowboarding:
1) The harder you brake, the harder you bend those knees
Simply turning your snowboard sideways will make you brake, but you won’t have any power in your legs to cut through rough snow unless you bend those knees.
Bending your knees as you brake allows you to absorb small rough patches in the snow. It allows you to keep pressure on your edge to cut through the snow as you brake.
Everyone learns to bend their knees during their first few snowboard lessons, but it’s something we sometimes forget when braking.
The harder you need to brake, the more you need to remember to bend those knees to avoid getting jerked around by rough snow and to keep the power in your legs steady.
2) Pick your braking zones ahead of time
One of the keys to braking correctly is not braking at any random time on the mountain. You should be picking the right spots to brake by looking for clean patches of snow where you won’t end up airborne or getting thrown off balance.
If you brake on rough snow, it makes it harder on you because you have to compensate by using your legs like springs and using your knees to power through, but that’s hard work and sometimes you won’t have enough time or power to brake if you brake in the wrong spot.
So how do I find the right spot to brake? Good question! Well, it’s all about good vs bad patches of snow and it’s pretty simple.
Bad patches of snow for braking are rough patches, obviously visible because they look like very choppy snow and bumps in the snow and they’re a typical sight at the end of the powder day.
If you brake on one of these patches be prepared to get thrown around a little.
Good patches of snow for braking are any spots without choppy snow. They’re clean, smooth areas of snow, usually between the choppy snow and moguls/bumps.
Think of the good patches as areas where you can turn and brake and the bad patches as areas you should just keep riding through without changes of direction.
Putting it all together:
Think of braking like you’re playing Tetris. You’re the block falling down the screen and you’re looking for a clean space where you can brake. Every brake is a new Tetris block and you want to aim to get a clean space every block.
This is why every good snowboarder is thinking a few turns ahead of where they are at any time on the hill. They’re watching where the terrain is going, where the rough spots are, where the clean areas are and they’re picking the best line through the terrain that allows them turn and brake at the right times.
The more challenging the terrain, the less easy, clean patches of snow there’ll be for braking and turning, which is why picking your line through high level terrain is so important.
One thing to keep in mind is that learning to plan your path and line down the mountain is a skill you develop over time. It won’t come immediately and it’s especially hard when you’re still learning to turn, so don’t expect it to be easy right away.
Grow this skill over time and you’ll find it getting easier and easier to read the terrain and you’ll start to know where you can and can’t turn/brake without having to concentrate as much.
ps – braking and turning at the right time is also way easier on your body overall and it’s one of the reasons why experienced snowboarders get less tired riding the same terrain as beginner riders.