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

The dreaded ski lift. It’s one of the few moments when you’re a beginner snowboarder where you’ll ever envy skiers when they’re pulling away in a straight line with just a touch of snowplow. As you see the top of the elevator approaching, lift the bar and turn sideways, hoping you can make it this time.

Things only get worse when you start riding lifts with strangers – it’s one thing to obliterate your buddies, but another to cling to a stranger like Jack clings to Rose in Titanic while you’re in the driving sunset. So how do you master the ski lift and make sure you ski down the next summit in style?

The good news when it comes to elevators is that you probably already have the answers stored in your skills. And that’s because beginner snowboarding usually starts with at least a little one-leg riding up Bunny Hill. Even if you’ve spent time at a beginner-friendly ski resort, you’ve most likely had to roll down a flat green run or cat track on one leg.

If you’re not comfortable riding one leg, now is the time to start. My top tip here is to relax. Most beginners ride way too stiff when riding off lifts or on one foot in general. Bend your knees a bit and allow the front foot to initiate your edges for turns—don’t expect sharp or big turns here. When you’re starting out, you can hang your toe or heel off the side of the board a little and drag it in the snow to slow you down, especially on steep elevators.

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Once you’re comfortable with monopod skiing, follow these steps to succeed next time on the slopes:

  • Try positioning yourself on the outside of the chair – this is especially helpful when riding with skiers who are better positioned in the middle.
  • When it’s your turn, slide to the green line that indicates where the lift chair will pick you up.
  • Keep your board straight, but rotate your body a little so you’re ready to sit down.
  • If the chair picks you up, lift your board up a bit—especially the leading edge—to prevent it from catching and being dragged under the lift.
  • As you approach the top of the lift, raise the bar and rotate your body slightly to the side to level your snowboard.
  • When you feel your board touch down, push yourself up and away from the lift a little to initiate your slide.
  • Relax. Let the board go straight away from the lift.
  • Once you exit the lift station, use your heel or toe to slow down.
  • Exit the lift station.

Don’t stress if things don’t go perfectly. Trust me, we’ve all fallen off the top of a chairlift and ended up in some weird positions. The best option is to find a lift with a reasonable incline at the top and lap it several times until you perfect it. If you’re riding in a quiet resort, you can always try to catch a less busy lift or ride alone – just don’t do this when it’s on busy lift lines or you’ll catch well-deserved flak.

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Go shred.

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