While skiing has been popular for decades, and seems certain to remain so, the sport of snowboarding is a relatively new kid on the block. Although prototype snowboards were seen way back in the 1920s, it was not until the 1980s that snowboarding really began to make an impact, and only in 1998 was it first included as an Olympic sport.
In just a few decades, snowboarding has moved from being a minority pastime, to become a high profile, recognized sport in its own right. Now, snowboarding is the sport of choice for millions of people around the world, and each year a new cohort of ‘newbie’ snowboarders experiences the thrills and spills of their first snowboarding vacation.
What do beginner snowboarders need?
An individual preparing for his or her first snowboarding vacation will be wondering what to pack. Those who have had a bit of practice at an indoor or dry snow center may have an advantage here, in that they know something of what is needed and also what type of snowboarding they prefer.
There are three types of snowboarding: freestyle, alpine and freeriding. While equipment is largely the same for all styles, there are some differences, particularly in terms of boots. All snowboarders will need a pair of boots, but anybody wanting to take part in alpine snowboarding will need a particular style of boot, quite similar to ski boots.
It is a good idea to take time in choosing ski boots, and to buy good quality – after all, snowboarders will (hopefully) be standing up more often than sitting down! Some boots feel better because of better shell and liner technology, so it is a good idea to try on a few pairs before choosing. Some airlines charge extra for carrying sports equipment so if the schedule allows, buying heavy equipment such as boots and boards at the resort, rather than before setting off, can save money and hassle.
Other crucial equipment for a snowboarding vacation includes
- Hats, gloves, goggles and sunglasses.
- Sun cream/sunblock and lipsalve/lipblock – these may seem small items, but no snowboarder should be without them.
- Helmet. Again, some may be tempted to overlook this but recent high-profile accidents on the snow have reinforced the need for all skiers and snowboarders to wear protective headgear. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons states: “The leading cause of death from sports-related injuries is traumatic brain injury.” Snowboarding can be a dangerous, even fatal pursuit so why take unnecessary risks?
- A small backpack containing a first aid kit. Make sure it has something to help with blisters!
- Wrist guards, padded (impact) shorts and back protection. You don’t want to end up with fractured vertebrae!
Anyone who goes on their first snowboarding vacation without having worked on their fitness is likely to get a shock. Snowboarding is hard work, and being at altitude increases the demands made on the snowboarder’s body. Remember, although it may form part of a vacation, snowboarding is a sport, not the snowy equivalent of sunbathing. Cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength, particularly in the legs, is key, and physical preparation should begin at least 12 weeks before departure.