Today's Equipment Makes Learning Easier
Thanks to New Technology, Learning to Ski or Snowboard is Easier Than Ever Before
Fresh mountain air, a great time with friends and family, and the exhilaration of sliding down a mountain: all lifelong benefits of learning to ski or snowboard. But it can be easy to talk yourself out of reaping those benefits if you’re concerned about the time it may take you to get off the bunny hill and up on the mountain enjoying the scenery with your friends. Luckily, snow sports equipment has made huge leaps in technology in recent years, making learning to ski or snowboard easier than ever. Once you get past the first couple of lessons from a trained instructor you will be please with the progress you can make.
Brian Beaumont, owner of Ski Shoppe, Ltd. in Baltimore, MD, said that the latest technology has made everyone’s learning curve shorter and easier. “Shaped skis have made a huge difference,” he said. “They’re wider underfoot which makes them easier to stand on, and shorter lengths make it easier to initiate a turn. Your technique doesn’t have to be as good to get the same level of performance out of a ski. I can teach someone to be a pretty competent skier in a day now. If you can roll the ski on edge, it makes the turn. Once you feel it, then you can improve your technique, so people get through the learning curve much quicker now.”
Once you've decided that you want to get out on the mountain more than once or twice a year, the next step toward conquering more challenging terrain is to get yourself some quality, well-fitted equipment that has the technology to help you make turns on the snow.
"Owning your own equipment helps because it’s the same thing every time,” Beaumont says. “Rental equipment can vary from resort to resort. I always tell people if you’re going to ski more than a couple of times a year, lease with an option to buy is a great way to go, and can really make a big difference.”
Many shops have season lease programs and also have great package deals that make having consistent, well-fitted equipment affordable. There is no question that establishing a relationship with a knowledgeable salesperson in a reputable shop is the best way to get equipment that fits right and will help you progress quickly. Buying online to get a deal can cost more later on, because it’s difficult to find the right fit and technology for your needs without a seasoned sales person in your court.
"Read up and research as you would any other major purchase,” advises Teddy Schiavoni, owner of Summit Ski and Snowboard in Framingham, MA. “Talk about it with friends and gain an understanding of what experiences others have had. Then, find a local shop you feel comfortable working with. Spend time there and get to know the crew and interact with them. Spend your money there. Building that relationship with a local shop will become invaluable for years to come!”
As you do your research, learning about all the recent changes in ski and snowboard technology can seem overwhelming, but in general, the new technology boils down to a couple of factors that determine the performance. "Shaped," “parabolic,” or “progressive sidecut” are all terms that manufacturers use to refer to the ski or board’s overall shape, including its waist width and the width at tip and tail. These newer shapes for skis and snowboards allow for shorter overall lengths because they lend stability, which makes handling much easier.
To further improve ease of turning, "rocker" technology, meaning the tip and tail are bowed up slightly, makes the boards much easier to turn without as much technical skill on the part of the skier or rider. Most all-mountain skis or boards these days that are suited for beginners will have a combination of shaped and rocker technology.
Jon Rucker, vice president of HEAD, explained that his company’s technology is capable of helping new skiers and snowboarders get from the beginner slope to the top of the mountain in a short time. "At HEAD we have been manufacturing skis for sixty-six years, which gives us unique insight into building products targeted to benefit specific levels of skiers and riders. For those who are just entering the sports, we have honed in on an ideal blend of easy turning and confidence-inspiring stability to allow for quick progression from a person’s first turns to a lifetime of smiles on the slopes.”
At Elan, a similar philosophy is used in their parabolic rocker technology. William McSherry, vice president of Alpina Sport/Elan Skis, said, “Elan's ‘parabolic rocker’ combines just the right amount early rise with our patented parabolic sidecut. This blend makes the ski very easy to turn while providing stability and confidence. This allows the skier to experience ‘low angle’ carving very quickly which provides the crucial feeling of success. And as we all know that sense of accomplishment is what gets first time participants coming back to the resort and becoming lifelong skiers.”
Jeff Boliba, VP of Global Resorts at Burton Snowboards, agreed that more companies are focused on helping beginners progress. At Burton, the focus is on learning and helping anyone who wants to get out on the mountain achieve their goals.
“From boards to boots to bindings, every component of the Burton Progression line is designed to help people learn and progress,” he said. “The boards are shaped to significantly reduce edge catches while making it super easy to turn. The boots are extremely comfortable and supportive in just the right spots. The bindings are easy to adjust so they match up with the boots perfectly. And we also offer sizes to fit the youngest budding rippers through men and women of all ages.”
Boliba brings up a critical factor in the learning process: boots. There’s no question that they’re a huge key to success in learning to ski or snowboard because if you’re not comfortable, and if your boots don’t fit well enough to allow you to control your boards, then you’ll be apt to chuck it all and head to the lodge for a hot cocoa. If you can only afford to own one piece of equipment, experts agree that a comfortable pair of well-fitted boots are where you should turn your attention.
Nick Castagnoli, Brand and Communications Manager at Rossignol/Lange, said, “As a primary source of skier comfort and control, owning a good-fitting pair of ski boots should be top of mind. In an alpine ski system (ski/binding/boot) the ski boot provides a direct link between the skier’s body and their skis. It is essentially your ‘accelerator’ and your ‘steering wheel’ on the mountain, transmitting energy and movement from your body into the ski. Beyond that a good, comfortable boot-fit is essential to ensuring you stay out on the hill skiing and have a great day. Your feet need to feel good to perform.”
Castagnoli concludes, “You see it everywhere these days. And by it – I mean tracks. People are progressing faster and moving into new terrain more quickly than ever before. It’s literally never been a better time to learn to ski or ride.”
For more information about ski and snowboard gear basics, read the Learn to Ski and Snowboard MonthGuide to Ski Equipment and Guide to Snowboard Equipment. Once you’ve geared up, get out on the slopes and join in the World’s Largest Lesson or the Bring a Friend Challenge! See you on the mountain!