Is it necessary to take further lessons once you have mastered the basics of snowboarding? Ski Club’s Sophie Mead went to The Snow Centre to find out

If it is possible to master linking turns in two lessons, the rest must all just be practice, right? Wrong. After a two-week break, I returned to the slopes for my level 4 lesson and everything I learned in lesson 2 had disappeared from my memory. This is clear evidence that when you are at the learning stage, you need to keep lessons regular and consistent. 

My fellow learners had various levels of experience: for some, it had been months since their last lesson and for others, it had been a few weeks. My previous lesson was the most recent and even I had no idea what I was doing, so we duly returned to practising our S-shaped turns on the learner slope. There would be no immediate jump to the big slope it seemed… and we watched the other riders carve up the piste while we piled on to the magic carpet to continue practising. 

Following our recap of linking turns, our instructor Joe wanted to make absolutely sure we had them nailed down, so we lapped the learning slope until we had proved we could do it. Even though we were impatient to try the main slope, it was important that Joe put us through our paces. Not only did it build our confidence, but it ensured that we could demonstrate control. 

As we were doing the laps, we started to practice riding the magic carpet with one foot in the binding. This was a practice for the dreaded button lift. On skis, there’s no need to worry about the direction of travel, you simply face up the slope and easily spread your weight. Things are not so simple on a snowboard, however. You need to keep your weight on the back foot and let the lift do the work. Don’t even get me started on the dismount. 

Ready for the button lift?

Once we were deemed worthy of the main slope, we were let loose on the button lift and as expected, it was complete carnage. Everybody fell off at least once… and it was hilarious. Luckily The Snow Centre always has staff on hand to monitor the lift and stop it when things go pear-shaped. We were very excited to move to the main slope but were only permitted to go halfway. It is much steeper and generally much more chopped up due to the traffic. After all the excitement about getting over there, we were eating our words at the prospect of tackling it.

We had time for a few tentative first runs on the main slope but the migration over from the learner slope was more than enough for everyone in the group to feel accomplished. I could tell my backside turns had started to feel more natural as I started to trust my balance to push me in the right direction.

The grand finale 

Two weeks later I embarked on the final lesson which would allow me to snowboard independently. We began with a recap of how to tackle the button lift then got to work making big turns from halfway up the main slope. We were aiming to demonstrate good control, balance and posture with wide turns which allowed our instructor, Charlie, to spot any mistakes.

The first error he picked up on was my front leg position. Your leg should always be bent slightly and your weight should sit in the direction of travel. For some reason I had my leg locked straight and fixing this made a big difference. My next error was the position of my body. Although you should lean in the direction of travel, your body should always be parallel with the snowboard. If not, it’s harder to lean on your edge to control direction. As we lapped, Charlie gave us tips when we were ready, making sure we didn’t feel overloaded with information.

Once we had gained enough confidence, we were allowed to stay on the button lift up to the top of the slope. Peeking over the edge, I felt a lot different to the way I would on skis. There would be no bombing it down this piste; I needed to take it easy and try not to crash into anyone else. The Snow Centre staff do their best to keep an eye on any slope users who go too fast or cut up learners, but each lap is different and it’s important to be very aware of everyone around you. 

As the queue of people builds up at the top, its best not to wait around and just go for it. Our final 45 minutes was spent getting used to carving down the slope, with occasional challenges thrown in like sudden stops to avoid other people and surprise falls. Overall, it was a great final session and I feel prepared to get practising on real snow. 

Every lesson I had at The Snow Centre was with a different instructor, so I experienced four different teaching styles from experts with different levels of experience. You might think that having the same teacher each time would be important, but it actually helps to have fresh eyes on your technique and a new person to bounce questions off.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

At the moment, learner skiers will find that the Snow Centre has turned into even more of a winter wonderland. Santa’s elves have been busy decorating and there is a festive rubber ring course, Santa’s grotto and lots of Christmas decorations in the cosy bar upstairs. In the run-up to Christmas, it is the perfect place to come and practice snowsports with friends or family and soak up the seasonal cheer. After a session on the slopes, you can get a hot chocolate, some food or après pint and chill by the fire while you watch over the activity through the huge windows onto the slope.

Find out more about lesson prices and activity at The Snow Centre here