If you've got a yen to surf in the summer in Minnesota, you're out of luck. But go to the top of a ski slope, strap both feet to a snowboard, and you'll soon discover the closest thing to surfing - in the middle of a Minnesota winter.
Snowboarding looks a lot like a hybrid of skateboarding and surfing. The rider stands on the board with his or her left or right foot forward, facing one side of the board. The feet are attached to the board by bindings. There are several types of boards, and snowboard boots can be hard or soft.
Snowboards are made for kids as young as 5, but most ski hills suggest waiting until kids are about 7 or 8 to introduce them to the sport. No need to wait too much longer than that, though - 51 percent of snowboarders are ages 7-17.
You need good balance and strong calf muscles to be a successful snowboarder, and beginners should take a lesson from a qualified instructor. Lessons will teach the basics of stopping, turning, falling, and getting off the chairlift. It's important to remember to keep your weight forward and to look ahead, not down at your board. Learning to snowboard can be challenging, but don't give up. With a little practice, you will be off the bunny hill in no time.
Renting a snowboard the first few times out is a good way to get a feel for the different styles of board. Beginners should start with a flexible board and softer boots. When you are ready to purchase your own gear, getting the right size and fit are important, so make sure to find a qualified salesperson to assist you.
Snowboard safety gear includes appropriate clothing for the weather conditions; usually a few thin layers are a good idea, so that clothing can be shed as the temperature rises.
Goggles for snowy days and sunglasses for sunny days are a must for clear vision and eye protection. A safety strap to prevent the board from getting away is required at most ski/board areas. Wrist guards will provide protection against the “slam,” the most common fall in snowboarding - a hard fall to the front or back with an attempt to break the fall with wrists. Wearing a helmet is also a good idea.
With the appropriate gear, great attitudes, and careful riding, everybody can have a great time in our winter season!
Glen Peterson is the director of Hyland Ski and Snowboard School in Bloomington.