Page 2 of 3   <       >

A Novice Learns to Snowboard

Sports writer Soraya McDonald has covered skiing and snowboarding out in Colorado, but has never hit the slopes. With the help of a personal instructor, McDonald learned the basics of balance and confidence at Maryland's Wisp Resort.Video by Liz Langton/

This is why the rental questionnaire asks new riders if they've ever surfed or skateboarded. They're not exactly the same, but they're closer to snowboarding than say, skiing. (Of course, I have never done that before, either. So I was a complete novice.)

In fact, Moore said, many experienced skiers who try snowboarding go running back to their skis because they find that their skills do not translate.

I also had to learn how to stand. And how to fall (with hands in loose fists, so as not to break the wrists) and how to put on the board without taking off down the hill as soon as I got to my feet. (Stand perpendicular to the slope and dig in your heels. Heels are very important. Heels = brakes.)

For beginners, Keene recommended buying a package deal, which is what I did. For $60, the resort offers a group lesson, lift ticket, and rental of boots, bindings and a board. It's a safe way to experiment, especially when boards can run far north of $300 and a pair of bindings and boots can go past $500. And if you've still got energy after your lesson, the lift ticket is good for the rest of the day. But you can't rent a coat or ski pants, and warm, waterproof gear is essential in the middle of winter.

And if you have contacts, wear them. My glasses kept fogging up.

Once you're all geared up, the most important thing to remember, according to both Moore and Keene, is patience.

It takes most people about three sessions to get the hang of everything, probably because the second session is spent rehashing everything you crammed into your brain the first time. "After two or three times, you've got your self-respect," Keene said. "You need to hang in there a little bit."

Tina Rey Santos, 22, of Fort Washington was learning snowboarding at Wisp a couple of weekends after I first went. Santos, like me, was learning with an LTR board.

Her advice for first-timers: "Get an instructor. I guess some people can learn on their own, but me, I need someone to teach me."

Thanks to the instruction, the highlight of the day came when I managed to travel about 20 feet on my own, down an actual incline.

At the bottom, I dug in my heels like Moore told me to, and I stopped! I actually stopped without falling over or running into something.

Progress. I grinned and raised my hands above my head, Rocky-style. It had taken about two hours of hanging onto Moore as he coached me about how to bend my knees, not look down and balance on the heels or the balls of my feet, to get to that point.

<       2        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company