Snowboarders say it's a blast -- and that you'll never go back to two skis. But before you run out and spend hundreds of dollars on high-end gear, make sure you agree on all counts. The smart approach is to rent your equipment the first few times you take to the slopes on a snowboard. This allows you not only to make sure the sport is to your liking but to try out a number of different brands, styles, and sizes of gear, so you find the right fit.
Also, if it will be your first time, you should take a lesson. Snowboarding can be frustrating, painful, and dangerous -- if you don't know what you're doing. Even if you've been a downhill skier since you were a little kid, you won't naturally understand how to maneuver the board or fall without injuring yourself. Snowboarding is a different sport, and you'd be wise to learn the techniques from an expert. Most resorts offer a special beginner's package that includes rental of board, boots, and bindings; a one-day lift ticket; and a group lesson, for around $60 to $100.
Below is a list of what you'll need to enjoy a safe day on the mountain. Just print it out, and check each item off as you pack it. If you want to customize the list, you can copy and paste this article into a Word document on your computer and then add your individual essentials.
There are several styles of boards, bindings, and boots, not to mention dozens of brands. Always check that your boots and bindings are compatible.
- Snowboard (most beginners use a shorter, "free-riding" board for more control)
- "Step-in" soft bindings (these allow you to click in from a standing position)
- "Soft" boots with insulating liners -- the type worn by 95 percent of snowboarders (when trying on boots, be sure to wear the kind of socks you plan to wear on the slopes)
Waterproof and breathable are the key words here. Stay away from jeans, sweatpants, sweatshirts, and other items generally made of cotton, which absorbs sweat and stays wet -- setting you up to get badly chilled.
Also, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends wearing snug-fitting clothing because loose outerwear (as well as long items like scarves and stocking caps) can tangle in lifts and rope tows. (For more information on snowboarding safety, visit the CPSC's Web site at http://www.cpsc.gov.)
- Thin long-sleeved undershirt (preferably made of a moisture-wicking fabric)
- Synthetic fleece insulating layer
- Waterproof, wind-resistant shell or jacket
- Lightweight, moisture-wicking socks (Thorlo makes a snowboarding-specific sock with extra padding in the ankle and heel areas)
- Thin long underwear for legs (preferably made of a moisture-wicking fabric)
- Snowboard "technical pants" (they are highly waterproof and have padding in the knee and butt -- important features because, as a beginner, you will spend a lot of time sitting and kneeling!)
- Insulated, waterproof snowboarding gloves (make sure they'll fit over your wrist guards)
- Winter hat or warm hood
Protective Gear and Accessories
- Wrist guards (most serious injuries from snowboarding are to the upper extremities, and wrist injuries are the most common)
- Helmet (the CPSC says the use of helmets by skiers and snowboarders could prevent or reduce the severity of 44 percent of head injuries incurred by adults and 53 percent of head injuries incurred by children. Boeri and Carrera make popular, lightweight models.)
- Tinted goggles or sunglasses with complete protection from ultraviolet light (UV rays are amplified when they reflect off the snow, making them especially harmful to eyes and skin)
- Sunscreen (choose one with a high sun protection factor, and reapply it frequently)
- Lip balm with SPF 15 (reapply often)
- Cell phone and GPS
- Fanny pack
- Lift pass holder (attaches to sleeve or goes around neck)
- Snowboard lock (all that expensive equipment on the slopes attracts thieves)
- Neck gaiter (to protect your face and neck on the coldest days)
- Boot heaters (for those with perpetually cold feet)
- Map of snowboarding area
- Candy or energy bar
- Small bottle of drinking water or portable hydration pack
- Disposable camera
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. "CPSC Staff Recommends Use of Helmets for Skiers, Snowboarders to Prevent Head Injuries."
SafeUSA (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). "Winter Sports Injury Prevention: Safety on the Slopes."
Mauser, Jane. Transworld Snowboarding.com, "Why Take A Snowboard Lesson?" http://www.transworldsnowboarding.com/instruction/99/446.html