The ski lift can be quite daunting to the beginning snowboarder. It's big, it moves fast, and the exit hill at the end seems enormous. Add in a tricky transition from sitting to standing on a moving snowboard and you have an equation for a face plant. Skiers have an easier time getting off the lift since they can simply stand up and coast off the hill. However, snowboarders must deal with two complications that make it easier to fall when getting off the lift. First, the snowboarder must shift from a sitting position to standing sideways on the snowboard in order to get down the exit hill. Second, snowboarders generally have only one foot locked into the snowboard. Most ski resorts require snowboarders to have their front foot strapped into the board, while the back foot remains free to aid in moving along flat regions and getting on the lift. This free foot can make it very difficult to get off the lift without falling.
Here are some tips to help beginning snowboarders successfully get off the ski lift.
- When you ride up the ski lift the most comfortable position is to lean back on the seat and let your snowboard hang parallel to the seat. However, you will need to shift from this position in order to get off the lift. As you near the end of the ride, turn sideways in your seat and move your front foot forward. This should turn your snowboard so it is perpendicular to the seat and pointing down the exit hill. This stance is basically identical to the stance you use to snowboard, except here you are sitting instead of standing.
- Once the lift reaches the exit hill where you can stand up, place your snowboard on the snow. Keep your loose back foot in check by placing it firmly on the stomp pad of your board. The stomp pad is a textured region between the two foot bindings that will give your free foot some traction. If you don't have a stomp pad then tightly wedge your foot against the back binding to keep it in place.
- When your back foot is in place gently stand up on your board and keep your knees bent for balance. I like to quickly glance down to make sure my back foot is in place. Otherwise, it is VITAL to look in the direction you want to go. Keeping your head and eyes down is a sure way to fall. I like to give myself a gentle push off the lift chair for a bit more momentum, however you should be able to make it down the exit hill without it.
- Now let the momentum move you down the hill away from the lift. Keep your knees bent and arms out for balance if you need it. Hopefully your back foot is anchored enough to stay in place. If this foot comes off the board, try to put it back on. Do NOT step in the snow with your back foot while you are moving, as this will surely lead to a fall. Most times the area beyond the hill is flat enough that you can just coast to a stop, but you may need to apply gentle pressure to your heels or toes to turn the board and help it stop.
- Once you have stopped, make sure you are far away enough from the lift exit to avoid collisions. At this point you are ready to strap in and head down the hill.
If you do fall, do your best to move to the side and avoid the next batch of skiers and snowboarders exiting the lift. The lift monitor may or may not stop the lift so you have more time to get out of the way. Also, watch out for the ski lift chair as it swings around to go back downhill. I've had the misfortune of getting whapped on the head with one, and it can smart quite a bit.
When you are going to ride up the lift with a group it's polite to tell people which direction you are planning on going when you get off the lift. For example, I prefer turning to the left when I get off a lift, so I like to sit on the left side to avoid crashing into people. If you sense yourself falling, try not to grab onto the other people on the lift. Doing so will create a domino effect of fallen, irked people. Halfway through my first day my friends refused to ride the lift with me anymore because I would always drag them down with me.
Above all, don't get frustrated! Snowboarding takes a while to learn and you can plan on falling countless times. Keep at it, and after a while you should notice yourself falling less and less until you rarely fall at all.