I ride with a group of guys who have been boarding for a very long time. These are accomplished snowboarders who typically bomb down the mountain faster than anyone on the slopes around them. They can do so because they ride responsibly and have terrific control over their boards. Carving their way out of trouble or stopping on a dime is no problem for these shredders. They’re just darn good snowboarders. Having said that, nary a day passes on the slopes with them when there isn’t a little chaos getting off the chair lift. Clearly boarding ability has little to do with it.
One of the primary reasons is that lifts were designed for skiers. That’s why they’re called ski lifts. Have you ever heard anyone refer to a chair lift on a mountain as a snowboard lift? I certainly haven’t. So we riders start off with a disadvantage. Now factor in the fact that we have only one boot strapped into our bindings when we’re getting on and off the lift. While a seemingly trivial detail, it makes a world of difference when you’re exiting the lift. Not having your back foot strapped into your binding changes the boarding experience dramatically, unless you’ve put some time into mastering turning and stopping one-footed.
Which brings me to what you need to do before you even think about getting on the slopes … practice for the lift. How uncool does that sound? Trust me, it’s going to be plenty worth it and it won’t take much time. And, don’t let your buddies talk you out of it. While you’ll be eager to get to the top of the mountain to optimize your time actually boarding, don’t be tempted to blow off learning a few skills to help you get off the lift with some proficiency. A couple extra runs down the hill isn’t worth potentially spraining a knee or a wrist, or worse, because of your incompetence in disembarking from the chair lift. As I mentioned, it can even be tricky at times for seasoned riders when the lift is full with a mix of boarders and skiers. It doesn’t take much for equipment to get crossed when sitting on a chair with three other riders or skiers. So take on the challenge of riding with one foot unstrapped to prepare for exiting the lift before you head up to take on the mountain. And don’t get shamed into going up prematurely.
Some pointers on practicing
Find a slope with a small incline – enough to give you some speed but not so much that you’ll be out of control
Strap your front foot into your binding (I hope that by now you know if you’re regular or goofy)
Place your back foot on the board between the bindings, ideally against the back binding for support (buy a stomp pad if your board doesn’t already have one)
Start to move down the slope slowly
Practice doing little turns on your toe edge and your heel edge
While riding, move your back foot slightly off the edge of the board on the toe side or the heel side and gently dig it into the snow to slow yourself down
Stop by dragging your free foot (back) partially on the board and partially hanging over the heel side or toe side, whichever is more comfortable for you
Alternatively to practicing on an incline, you can practice skating on a flat section
With your front foot securely strapped into your binding, push yourself forward on your board using your unstrapped back foot to get moving (à la skateboarding) and then lift your free foot onto the board and let the board slide with both feet on your snowboard
This is a good way to practice before finding a gentle slope on which to try one-footed riding. It will also help you practice skating for getting to lifts and for traversing uphill when necessary
Getting off the lift
Look for the sign that indicates when to exit the chair lift. “Raise the safety bar here!”
Ensure that your board is not tangled with another board or ski
Pull restraining bar up
Skootch to the front of the chair a little
Turn yourself sideways on the chair to allow you to aim your board straight down the ramp
The chair lift will slow down to aid your departure
Point your board straight
Once your board touches the ground be prepared to stand up
Place your back foot on your stomp pad
Push off the chair lift gently with your hands to begin your exit
Stand up straight with a slight bend in your knees
Balance your weight over the board favoring your front foot
Head straight down the ramp with your body upright looking in the direction that you want to go
Don’t attempt to turn until you’re free and clear
Skate as far out of the way of the lift as you can to allow riders behind you to exit cleanly
Make certain that you do not stop on the exit ramp for any reason … unless you have fallen
If you fall, don’t panic but do your best to move out of the way quickly
If someone falls in front of you, stay calm and turn clear of him/her
That’s how to get off a ski lift gracefully. While it may sound daunting for some new riders, it’s really not that bad. And, a little practice helps. Good luck.
Please share your snowboard lift (now it’s been said) stories. Helpful pointers are always welcomed.
Safe and happy riding. #Snowboarding. #BoardBootie. #SomeThingsJustShouldntBeNaked. #BoardBootieBuck.