Fancy a change from skiing, want to discover new sensations, strike out into new playing fields, perhaps the snowboard is for you. Jérôme Pessey answers our questions and gives you some advice before starting out.
Jérôme Pessey, Director of the ski and snowboard school at la Clusaz talks to us
MySkirent: Is it necessary to know how to ski?
“The advantage in knowing how to ski already is that you’ll be more at ease when approaching the slopes.
The drawback is that you’ll be starting from scratch, it’s quite frustrating for a good skier to suddenly become a beginner all over again.
So, it’s not essential but I’d say it’s preferable. In any event, bear in mind that they are two very different activities. Alpine skiing is similar to hockey or skating, certainly in terms of the sliding movement, whereas the snowboard is much more like skateboarding or surfing.”
MySkirent: From what age can you start to learn?
“For a child I’d say from 7-8 years old. If your child started skiing at 3, that would leave them enough time to progress with skiing and to learn a new snow sport once they have a good grasp of the first one.
For an adult, that’s up to you, it really comes down to your ability to accept that you’re going to have to start from scratch, that’s what you need to consider.”
MySkirent: What are the best conditions in which to start?
“Choose the right period: ideally you should begin on loose snow, soft snow that’s almost mushy. If the snow is too hard then you’re liable to hurt yourself when you fall.
You’re most likely to find this kind of snow in March-April.
Take lessons: it’s a good idea to take lessons in the beginning, give yourself a chance to gain the right reflexes.”
MySkirent tip: Most ski schools offer snowboard lessons, otherwise associations like UCPA propose weekly courses with lessons in the morning and the afternoon. This rhythm is great for making rapid progress.
MySkirent: How long does it take before you start to feel comfortable with the snowboard?
“I’d say, on average, 3 days to learn the basics. The early stages are often more difficult than for skiing. On the other hand, progress is quicker as you use the same technique compared with skiing, where you start by learning the ‘snowplough’ technique, then move on to parallel skiing. You should expect about a week to start to really enjoy snowboarding.”
MySkirent: What are the first steps?
1) Goofy or Regular: “You need to decide whether you’re goofy or regular, so as not to get off to a bad start!
The easiest way to find out which is your push-off foot is to jump forward, if you jump with the right food first then you’re goofy, if you jump with the left foot first then you’re regular.
If you don’t feel comfortable, before changing your push-off foot, insist for a few more hours. If that still doesn’t work then try with the other food.”
2) The direct trace: “You should start on a gentle slope and only attach your front foot. Let yourself slide naturally and try to stop naturally, without putting your back foot on the snow.”
3) Turns: “In snowboarding, there are two types of turn. The frontside turn, by putting weight onto your toes, and the backside turn, by putting weight onto your heels.”
4) The falling leaf: “To strike out on the steeper slopes, you first need to learn the falling leaf technique. This simply involves learning how to let yourself slide down, facing the incline, zigzagging from one side to the other of the slope. Once you’ve mastered this technique, whenever you find yourself on a slope that seems too steep, you can slide down safely and control your speed.”
5) The side-slipping turn: “Now you’re ready to perform your first turn towards the incline.
Situation 1: You have your back to the incline
This technique involves turning during a side-slip.
– Start by performing a backside side-slip on your heels.
– Turn your board towards the incline by putting all your body weight onto the front foot. The board turns naturally, then finish your turn by a frontside side-slip.
Situation 2: You’re facing the incline.
To turn the other way you perform a turn beginning with a frontside side-slip that finishes with a backside side-slip.
Now you’re ready to link turns all the way down the slope!”
6) Carving: “We’re not talking about side-slipping anymore, we hit the slopes and we enjoy it! To begin with choose a gentle incline, make sure that your board is completely level on its base edge, whether on frontside or backside turn and let yourself be guided.”
MySkirent: Is it especially for freeriding?
In powder snow you’ll experience some amazing sliding sensations, the impression that you’re flying, it’s quite different from skiing. Some types of snow are better adapted to snowboarding than skiing. Nevertheless, on the pistes you’ll be able to enjoy yourself doing full turns, sliding backwards, and little by little, you’ll learn how to try out jumps in the snow park.
MySkirent tip: Be careful! If you’re looking for powder snow, off-piste can be risky. Before you decide to take off on this kind of adventure, we recommend that you read our article on off-piste.
And finally, if you’ve mastered both the snowboard and skis, then that’s great, in that way you can choose your activity depending on the daily conditions of the snow.