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Snowboarding for beginners: How to conquer the dreaded chairlift without falling

Learn the secret to riding off the lift in style and avoid causing carnage on the mountain

The dreaded ski lift. It’s one of the few moments when you’re snowboarding as a beginner where they ever envy skiers as they cruise off in a straight line with just a hint of a snowplow. As you see the top of the lift approaching, you lift that bar up, turn yourself sideways, and hope that this time you’ll nail it.

Things only get worse as you start riding lifts with strangers — it’s one thing to wipe out your buddies, but another to cling to a stranger like Jack clings to Rose in Titanic as you ride off into the sunset. So how can you master the ski lift and ensure that the next time you hit the summit, you cruise off in style?

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The good news when it comes to lifts is that you’ve probably already got the answers locked up in your skillset. And that’s because snowboarding for beginners usually starts out with at least a little one-footed riding on the bunny hill. Also, if you’ve spent any time at a beginner-friendly ski resort, you’ll most likely have had to scoot yourself along one-footed on a flat green run or cat track.

If you’re not comfortable riding one-footed, now is the time to start. My top tip here is to relax. Most beginners find themselves riding far too rigid when they’re riding off lifts or one-footed in general. Bend your knees a little and allow that front foot to initiate your edges for turns — don’t expect any sharp or major turns here. When you’re starting out, you can hang a little of your toe, or heel, off the side of the board and drag it in the snow to slow you down, especially on steep lifts.

Once you’re comfortable riding one-footed, follow these steps to ski lift success next time you’re out on the slopes:

  • Try to position yourself on the outside of the chair — this is especially helpful if you’re riding with skiers who are better in the center.
  • When it’s your turn, scoot yourself to the green line that indicates where the lift chair will pick you up.
  • Keep your board facing straight, but twist your body a little so that you’re ready to sit down.
  • As the chair picks you up, lift your board a little — especially the front edge — to stop it from catching and dragging under the lift.
  • As you approach the top of the lift, raise the bar and turn your body sideways a little to line up your snowboard.
  • As you feel your board touch down, push yourself up and away from the lift a little to initiate your slide.
  • Relax. Let the board ride directly away from the lift.
  • Once you are clear of the lift station, use your heel or toe to slow down.
  • Move clear of the lift station.

Don’t stress if it doesn’t go perfectly. Trust me, we’ve all fallen at the top of a chairlift and have ended up in some weird positions. The best option is to find a lift with a reasonable gradient at the top and lap it multiple times until you perfect it. If you ride at a quiet resort, you can always try to get a less busy lift or ride solo — just don’t do that when there are busy lift lines, or you’ll catch some well-earned flak.

Go shred.

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Tom Kilpatrick
A London-born outdoor enthusiast, Tom took the first ticket out of suburban life. What followed was a twelve-year career as…
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