Originally posted on SteamboatGuides.com
One of our most commonly asked questions is “How do I prepare for a snowboard or ski vacation?” While there is no easy answer, there are a number of ways you can prepare your body and mind for a trip to the mountains. Off-snow training regiments can benefit riders in many ways, including conditioning, balance, and freestyle advancement. Snowboarding uses a diverse set of muscles; creating a work-out plan to keep them all in shape is no easy feat, considering that many of our guests ride no more than 20 days per year. I encourage my clients to train core snowboard muscles throughout the year, reducing the dreaded “day 3 burnout” and making their on-snow experience more enjoyable. There are many ways to keep your body in “snowboard shape” and your mind prepared for the next jump, the important thing is that you find one that works for you.
This is the first in a series about off-snow training. We’ll look at trampolines, fitness training, favorite exercises, and other sports with skills that transfer easily to snowboarding.
Finding Freestyle Progression
The freestyle aspect of the sport has been my primary motivation for progress over the years. Many of our students are the same, with their drive to learn coming from big televised events like the X-Games and the Olympics. Whether it’s return students who are now excelling in the park, guests who have requested an introductory freestyle lesson, or my coaching at the Alyeska summer camp, I often have to be creative to help students get to the next step in their freestyle ambitions.
Growing up in Alaska, there was rarely a shortage of steeps or snow but we lacked sculpted freestyle features. As a result, my friends and I built small parks in our backyards: scraps of metal, picnic tables, jibs, gaps, and tree slides. We would snowmobile and hike into the backcountry to try out new tricks on big jumps with low-penalty powder landings, and modified our snowboards for trampoline use to help practice spins and grabs off-snow.
When I moved to Colorado the parks challenged my abilities, as hard landings on thirty-foot tables stalled my enthusiasm in the early season. My thirty-year-old body doesn’t heal as quickly as it did at twenty, and with a snowboarding career that’s dependent on not being broken, I’ve had to find other ways to encourage my own progression. For the most part, this has taken the form of off-snow training. By taking freestyle moves off-snow you can greatly increase your confidence and amplitude while minimizing danger.
Trampolines can effectively help you train for balance, conditioning and freestyle improvement. Jumping on a trampoline while strapped into a snowboard is a surprisingly hard workout. The added resistance from the board increases your heart rate in a matter of jumps, and because your feet are strapped into your normal stance, you also get the benefit of balance training and air time. There are a number of products being marketed and sold as trampoline boards and they’re not very expensive.
Alternatively, you can make your own out of an old board. The first step is to file the edges until they’re round and smooth. Then, take a ¾” drill bit and drill holes all over the board, reducing weight, softening the board, and preventing suction from holding the board to the trampoline. Finally wrap the edges in a few layers of duct tape; the tape backing is rubbery and increases your traction on the trampoline, while preventing the edges from cutting the mat.
Start out with just some basic bounces, pulling your knees up while you’re in the air, extending your legs down as you land. Once you’re comfortable jumping up and down, try a “shifty:” a maneuver where you rotate your lower body without moving your upper body. For frontside shifties, a regular rider rotates their board counter-clockwise, a backside shifty would be clockwise (goofy riders are the opposite). Shifties help to build air awareness and composure and are a stepping stone to grabs.
When you’re ready to try grabs, start with just tapping the edge of your board with your hand. You can check out great article introducing grabs here: Introduction to Grabs. If you have someone to train with, write out a list of grabs and call them out to each other. Last year I worked with a student who had never done grabs before because she was afraid to try them off jumps. The trampoline’s low-penalty setting was perfect, and she quickly progressed. The benefit to off-snow training showed the next time we rode on-snow; she was able to transfer the trampoline grabs to grabs off small jumps. Her instant success came from a combination of muscle memory and mental preparation.
Trampolines can benefit much more than just grabs. Spins and flips can also be learned on the trampoline, but as amplitude and difficulty increase so does the potential for injury. Consider attending some gymnastics training or hire a coach for a few hours of one-on-one time. Any time you’re trying a new trick you should first attempt it without the snowboard on, and get it dialed in before strapping back in. Make sure you have a spotter, and consider using a trampoline with a bungee-harness for your first few flips. As you attempt bigger tricks you may want to create a reference point for where the jump is by drawing a “jump zone” on the trampoline mat.
If you’re in Colorado, consider spending a day at the Woodward at Copper barn. The Woodard barn is an incredible facility designed around the concept of safe freestyle training, and features tumbling mats, foam pits, trampolines, and even snowflex ramps that send you into a soft foam pit. On any given day you’ll find pros, ams, and aspiring new riders working on their skills.
Woodward has great coaches that will work with you whether you’re ready to try your first jumps or your practicing double-corks.