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A Slippery Slope: 6 Lessons Learned From A Beginner Snowboarder

I survived. No injuries, not even the smallest scratch. My first winter sports holiday was a success.

I have just returned from snowboarding in Mayrhofen in Austria on my first ever winter sports adventure. As a genuine lover of the outdoors and keen participator in anything that will take me there, I decided to get off the indoor snow slope and onto the Austrian Alps.

The process seemed quite simple at first: book a holiday, buy the equipment and get on piste. We slowly found out, however, that there was a little more to it than that.

The end result was too many thermal layers, not enough baselayers, having to go out and buy a buff and braving tricky red runs on day 3!

I thought I would talk you through 6 rookie mistakes I made to hopefully help you on your way.

1.

You can never have too many baselayers. I took two sets as advised by a friend, an expensive set and a cheaper spare. It quickly turned out that the cheaper set just didn’t cut it, there wasn’t enough stretch, movement or moisture wicking. I felt restricted and too hot, so I was down to one set that I then had to wash every night.

My Advice: Look for base layers with the capacity to stretch so they do not ride up. It’s the little things like thumb loops, which give a more secure fit, and flatlock seams that don’t rub or aggravate your skin when moving

High wicking performance keeps moisture of your skin which, in turn keeps you warm and dry. Some baselayers feature technology that fights the build-up of odour producing bacteria, which keeps you feeling fresher for longer.

2.

I took plenty of midlayers and fleeces, but I got so warm on the slopes that the only time I appreciated them was when we stopped off at restaurants and cafes on the route. This may have been because I had quite a lot of padding in my outer jacket.

My Advice: Take a packable jacket with synthetic insulation, like The North Face Thermoball. It will effortlessly fit into your day bag and doesn’t take up loads of space. It’s also that light you probably won’t notice the difference.

3.

Protect your face! We were caught in a complete whiteout, accompanied by piercing hail. This was a considerably less fun day.

My Advice: This was the last day we were on the snow without a buff or a neck gaiter. They come in every colour you can imagine and have different thicknesses so you can opt for a classic material piece or something with fleece inserts for added cosiness.

4.

When you see videos of people, arms and selfie sticks outstretched, filming themselves at perfect angles and you think ‘I fancy doing that’, don’t.

Notice how there is never anyone else around? That is because to get yourself in shot, your device has to be extended so far out it practically touches the far side of the piste. Leave this tor the professionals, or get yourself a far less intrusive helmet or chest mount.

My Advice: - I found the chest strap alright but on a snowboard, due to my natural body position it was always pointing outwards and not in the direction of travel. We later upgraded to a curved helmet mount which worked much better.

5.

My mountain walking skills came in handy. Having been on Helvellyn in a hail storm, Ben Nevis in a borderline blizzard and found myself disorientated on top of the High Street fell in zero visibility, I already had some ‘mountain sense’, which hugely helped with my decision making.

My Advice: Read the weather forecasts. It may be blue skies when you head out but it doesn’t mean it will stay that way. It’s always handy to know how to read a basic map and carry a first aid kit (and know how to use it).

Being able to look after yourself and others around you can often save valuable time and even lives.

6.

Don’t follow the crowd or agree to go off piste with your friends if you don’t feel ready, or have no idea what ‘delights’ you might have signed up to.

My Advice: It’s perfectly ok to stay on green and blues, if that’s where you feel safe and confident. We decided to try a red after a tough day negotiating a glacier in zero visibility.

We agreed we were ready for a wide, powdery, short red and we found it much easier than some of the blues we’d tried previously, although it’s worth noting that this is an exception and not the rule. The following day we were back on the blues tidying up our turns and building up confidence on our edges.

If you would like more tips and advice or have any questions, feel free to comment below and I will get back to you with what I know.

SHOP Skiing and Snowboarding

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Cooler than an ice climb, and tougher than most of the gear we sell, Pam is our outdoor guinea pig. By that we mean that whatever adventure is thrown her way, she is always willing to try it. She also sleeps in a big ball of sawdust.

Personal achievements include:

• Taking on a via ferrata despite a crippling fear of heights

• Tearing up the snowy slopes (and bars) of Mayrhofen

• Conquering the British Military Fitness Major Series 

• Not caring about anything since 2005

Pam is the authority when it comes to first aid, mountaineering, insulated jackets and amateur snowboarding. 

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Jo 20-03-16 23:06
Some great advice for me to take on my first trip to the mountain!
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