How to Turn on a Snowboard
Carve Like a Pro With These Snowboarding Turning Tips
Snowboarding attracts people of varying backgrounds and degrees of athleticism and unites them by turning them all into hot messes. Yes, learning how to snowboard is hard—like, harder than what New Englanders try to pass off as “packed powder” (let’s just be honest: it’s ice)—and has a learning curve steeper than Corbet’s Couloir.
Once you’ve mastered snowboarding basics like staying upright, getting on and off the lift, and the falling leaf technique, it’s time to start making real turns. Here are our best tips on how to turn on a snowboard.
Skidding vs. Carving
If you’ve ever noticed that some snowboarders seem to ride more quietly than others, you’ve witnessed the difference between “skidding” turns and true carving. When skidding, more of your snowboard stays in contact with the ground. Beginner boarders make these turns almost exclusively since they can be performed slowly and more easily. If your board makes a lot of noise and you see a track in the snow that’s roughly the same width as your board when you look back uphill, you’re skidding.
Carved snowboard turns are essentially the same as skidded turns, just with more commitment. To carve, your flexion and extension need to be deeper to exaggerate the tilt of your board through each turn. This exaggeration causes the snowboard edges to bite into the snow more, making your turns faster and quieter—and leaving a thin line carved into the slope.
Three Phases of Turning
Part of what makes learning how to turn on a snowboard so difficult is that it often feels like things are moving too fast and there’s too much to keep track of at once. But to nail flawless snowboard turns, you only need to focus on three components: initiation, control, and finish.
- Initiation: Start your turns from the top down. Point your gaze in the direction you want to go and let your shoulders and hips naturally follow. Depending on the type of turn you’re attempting, let your legs, ankles, and feet work together to either flex or extend and tip your board onto its edge.
- Control: Let the board’s nose point downhill and hold your edge as you pass through the slope’s fall line―an imaginary line that goes straight downhill―by keeping your weight balanced, body still, back straight, and head up. Keep your knees bent, holding slightly more pressure on your front leg at the beginning of the turn and then pressing a little harder through your back leg toward the end of the turn.
- Finish: As you come into the end of your turn, begin to ease up on the flexion/extension of your legs and feet. You may let your board ride flat for a moment or two, depending on conditions and personal preference. Next, start the process all over again to turn in the opposite direction.
Types of Turns
• Toeside Turns: For toeside turns (also called frontside turns), straighten your legs ever so slightly as you extend through the ankles and feet to press your toe edge into the snow while pulling the heel edge up. Despite the number of times you’ll bruise your knees and/or faceplant while learning to turn on your toe edge, it does get easier!
• Heelside Turns: Heelside (or backside) snowboard turns are easier to commit to and master than toeside turns, likely because the prospect of falling on your tush is less fear-inducing than face planting. Turning on the heel edge is where flexion comes into play: bend your knees a little more deeply while leaning your weight back and flexing your ankles and feet to pull toes toward shins. Lift the toe edge of your snowboard off the ground as the heel edge digs in.
Linking Your Turns
Once you’ve learned how to stay in control through both frontside and backside turns, it’s time to learn how to link turns on a snowboard. The mechanics of the turns don’t change when you’re linking, but you need to train yourself to switch between your heel edge and toe edge more fluidly to create smooth “S” turns.
To link those turns, patience is key. Pick an easy slope and use as much space as you need, traversing the whole width of the trail on one edge before transitioning to the opposite edge and riding back to the other side of the trail. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Eventually, your turns will get tight and smooth.
Tip: Trying to connect your breathing to your turns can help you link them together:
- Stay on the heel edge for a full inhale.
- Hold your breath for a moment while the board flattens out through the finish.
- Maintain your toe edge through the exhale.
This method not only helps you slow things down a little, it also keeps you focused on what you’re doing rather than getting caught up in anxiety over botching your turn or falling.
Other Snowboard Turning Tips
Still having trouble mastering your turns? Maybe you should revisit the basics. Inspect your gear and check your stance.
Snowboarders of all levels should periodically take time for a thorough gear inspection. Beginners should make sure their gear isn’t making snowboard turns any harder than they need to be.
- Snowboard: Is your board the right size? If you’ve been renting, the pro shop probably gave you an appropriately sized board, but if you’re on a hand-me-down board from a friend or relative, there’s a good chance you don’t have the best fit. Also check your snowboard edges—sharp edges turn better. If your board’s edges are dull or dinged up, it’s time for a tune.
- Boots and Bindings. It’s normal to have a little bit of snowboard toe hang, which is exactly what it sounds like: your toes hang off the edge of the board. But your toe hang shouldn’t be more than an inch or so. Too much hang will cause your boots to drag when you turn on your toe edge. You may be able to reduce the amount of toe hang by adjusting your binding angles (which may also provide a more comfortable riding stance). If you still see more than an inch and a half of hang, you probably need a wider snowboard.
The way you carry yourself on the slopes plays a significant role in how well you perform. If your body doesn’t feel right when you’re riding, and smooth snowboard turns seem impossible, check your stance. Having your feet too close or too far apart can wreak havoc on your ability to make quality turns. That makes your time on the slopes a lot less fun.
Here are a few helpful body positioning tips:
- Always keep your knees slightly bent, especially through each phase of your turns. Riding with locked-out joints can lead to mistakes and injuries.
- Keep your shoulders and hips in line with your board. This alignment keeps your weight centered and makes snowboard turns feel more comfortable and controlled.
- Hold your head high. Look where you’re going, not down at your board.
Learning how to turn on a snowboard is challenging. Reading about it or watching videos online can help, but others’ advice will only get you so far. Get yourself to the mountain as much as you possibly can and practice until your turns feel natural and fluid. Keep your head up—literally and figuratively—and you’ll be shredding in no time.
Born and raised in New Hampshire, Ashley Peck’s early adventures exploring the woods behind her home proved the gateway to an adulthood as an avid hiker, mountain biker, climber, and trail runner. When Ashley isn’t writing or wandering around the mountains, find her daydreaming about future trips or trying to convince her Australian shepherds that neither she nor her cats need to be herded.