Define the following words:

A - Mute grab
B - McTwist
C - Method air

Before reading this SYW, you would've answered:

A - A button on the TV remote
B - A new dessert treat at McDonald's
C - Method Man's surly younger brother

Mute grab, McTwist, and method air are all snowboarding terms (bet you didn't see that one coming). With origins dating to the early '70s, snowboarding has exploded within the last decade, even becoming an official Olympic sport. Gone are the days of snowboarding only appealing to reckless youths with purple hair; everyone and their Grandma Flo (who also, ironically enough, has purple hair) is now giving snowboarding a try. Hey, even if you don't want to go snowboarding yourself, reading this SYW is a great way to become familiar with the sport and know what everyone else is talking about.

First off: the activity of "snowboarding" is when you strap a large board to your feet and slide down a snow-covered slope. If you're still confused, look at what the goose is doing in the picture above. If you're still confused, please go away. The words in this article will be too big for you.


Before you nail a piece of wood to your shoes and charge down the slopes at perilous speeds, it might help to become acquainted with some of the major facets of snowboarding:

A history

Snowboarding was pioneered during the late '60s and early '70s by guys who opted to build boards in shop class instead of birdhouses and tobacco pipes. Those first snowboards only vaguely resemble the equipment that exists today; they were small, wooden, and difficult to maneuver. Fortunately, designers such as Tom Sims, Jake Burton, and Chuck Barfoot gave up their dreams of having a cubicle job and instead devoted their time to creating better snowboards and promoting the sport. As the popularity of snowboarding increased (especially in the 1980s), media coverage and large-scale competition brought the sport to the public's attention. Fast-forward to today, where snowboarding is a multimillion-dollar industry and the fastest growing sport in America.

Snowboarding is actually more like skiing than skateboarding (or did the snow tip you off?). The main difference is that the bindings are aligned sideways on one wide board rather than forwards on two skinny planks. Also, snowboard bindings do not release, so once you're strapped in, you're in there for good. Although this might seem rather awkward, this arrangement leads to fewer knee injuries and less time searching for that ski that popped off 30 feet uphill. Moreover, unlike skiers, snowboarders do not use poles, and snowboard boots are often "soft" instead of the "hard" boots worn by skiers.

Since you are positioned on the board sideways, one foot must be in front (the "lead") while the other foot is in the back. If your left foot leads, then you are "regular" footed. If your right foot is in front, then you are "goofy" footed. Hey, we don't invent the terms. Here's are a couple ways to figure out which is your dominant (thus "lead") foot:

  • The foot that stays on the ground while kicking a ball should be the leading foot.

  • Try sliding across a room. Whichever way you slide across should also be the way you stand on a snowboard.

  • If these don't work, have someone gently push you from behind, whatever foot you put out to brace yourself should be your leading foot.

  • If all of these tests are too difficult for you, then just put your left foot in front. Hey, you're a beginner, so it's not like we're spoiling years of instruction. And most people use their left foot as the lead foot anyway.

Regardless of whether your stance is regular or goofy, there are three main styles of snowboarding:

  • Freeriding: This style entails riding almost any terrain, but spending most of the time on the ground rather than in the air. If you're a first-timer, this is your style.

  • Freestyle: Lots of tricks, spins, and time spent in the snowboard park. Usually, the boards associated with freestyling have twin tips (that is, identical nose and tail shapes) for riding forward and backward. Freestylers also spend a lot of time in the air. This is an advanced "trick" style, for which you'll need a trick board.

  • Alpine/freecarving/racing: Unlike the other styles, alpine riding is concerned with going very fast; to this end, alpine boards are much narrower and longer than other types and use a hard boot and binding system (like skis).

If you're unsure of which style to choose, just start with freeriding and get used to the feeling of snowboarding. You'll see plenty of hot-doggers on the slopes doing all kinds of styles; see which one looks the best and tackle that style next.