Today’s reader question:
I’m looking to get into terrain park riding and freestyle. What are some tips for someone starting off snowboarding in the park?
Before we get into this, let me say this: Don’t be intimidated by the riders better than you.
When you ride park, even in the beginner areas, you’ll see advanced snowboarders and sponsored pros nailing smooth tricks on the same jumps and boxes that you’re about to try riding over.
As long as you’re respectful of other riders and follow the basic park rules, you have as much right to be in the terrain park as they do.
If some pro level rider cuts you off or is rude to you for no reason, that’s just them being an a-hole and it has nothing to do with you. Ignore them.
Alright, so let’s go over the basics of getting into park riding:
1) Meet the minimum level
If you can’t make smooth and confident turns on your snowboard, you should wait before hitting the terrain park.
Some say you need to be able to ride black runs before you go ride park, but honestly that depends on the park. If there are really small park features available that cater just to beginners, you should be fine as long as you’re at least able to turn well.
For example, Whistler Blackcomb has an entire park with really tiny 3-5 foot jumps and short boxes that you can just ride onto. Those don’t require black run slaying skills to have some fun on.
Heck, I learnt to hit my first jumps and 50/50s on those tiny features before I hit my first black run.
Don’t get me wrong, you WILL need to advance your carving and riding skills before you can learn any rotation tricks and progress your freestyle, but if you just want to learn to get air on 5 foot jumps and ride over small boxes, you can have a go on those really tiny features first.
That said, the better your freeriding and turning skills, the faster you’ll pick up freestyle snowboarding. You need good freeride skills to learn most snowboard tricks.
2) Start small and work your way up
Every park has a progression of size and difficulty. Find the smallest features and hit those first before you work your way up.
If the park is well designed, the features will be grouped together by difficulty level.
This means you’ll have one section of small 5-10 foot jumps and small boxes, another section of medium sized 20-30 foot jumps with medium boxes/ rails, and finally an expert section with the really big jumps and big rails.
So for example, you should be able to comfortably do a trick on that 5 foot jump before you try it on that 10 foot jump. Always try to start small before you take the same tricks to bigger park features.
3) Always check a feature out first
Feel free to ride through the park once and check out every feature that you want to hit before you try it. Blindly going into the park and hitting jumps and boxes that you’ve never seen before is stupid.
It’s perfectly okay to ride up to a park feature and not hit it. In fact, the first run I do in the park every day is usually just riding up to jumps and rails/boxes to check out each feature and have a look at the take-off and landings.
4) Follow park protocol
There are a few pretty simple rules you should generally follow with regards to other riders in the park. I’ve covered them before, but I’ll go over the main ones again:
A) Don’t get in the way of park features
This means don’t sit or stand in the run-in, take-off, or landing of any park feature. Always try to keep these areas clear and when you hit any park feature you should try to avoid stopping in any of these areas.
If you need to stop, always do it away from park features where you won’t get in the way of other riders.
B) Don’t follow too close to other riders
Give space to the rider ahead of you in the park.
Everyone has a possibility to fall or crash, even pro riders. This means you want to always give enough time and space to the rider in front of you in case they crash or bail on a park feature.
This is especially important if you can’t see the landing area of a park feature.
C) Don’t cut people off, but also don’t hold up line ups
It should go without saying that you shouldn’t cut people off if they’ve dropped into a park feature. That’s just plain rude.
That said, if the park is busy, there’ll be small lines before most jumps and rails. Try not to hold up the line.
This means you wait for the person in front of you to drop into the feature, then give them enough room in case they crash, then drop in.
If the person in front of you has been given enough room and you still haven’t dropped in yet, other riders will start to get annoyed because the line will grow and you’re holding people up.
Try not to stand up and get in line for a feature unless you’re ready to drop in and hit it.
D) Try not to brake on the landings
Bails and crashes happen, that’s fine. However, try to avoid braking while still in the landing area of any park feature.
Braking pushes the snow off the landing and can make it icy for other riders. No one likes icy landings.
Alright so there you go. That’s the basics of park riding.
Remember, everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t feel intimidated by better riders in the terrain park. Even pro snowboarders had to start learning park at some point in time.