The First Time: A Girls’ Guide

For women stoked on learning how to ride, first off let me say, it’s theonly sport that has accepted women into its culture as quickly as, say, kidsinto skateboarding. Of course, it’s unfortunate that as outdoor women weeven need to be compared with a kids market, but the truth is, women don’tusually have their own equipment, clothes, or respect when it comes to sports.That is, until someone “discovers” that there’s actually a market out therefor us. Snowboarding as an industry has discovered this.

Getting started though, isn’t as difficult as skiing. First off, the bootsare more comfortable and there’s only two edges to deal with rather thanfour. Other advantages include the clothes and gloves: They’re big and roomy(no stretch pants) and snowboard gloves really do keep your hands warm becauseof the Kevlar on the outside and the major padding on the inside. As asnowboarder, your hands touch the ground often, so manufacturers have madegloves with extra protection in mind. (Sounds like a Playtex commercial,but it’s true.)

As for respect, you’ll notice it right away. As a beginner female snowboarderwaiting in a lift line, you’ll quickly notice that people give you the thumbsup/approval nod, like, “yea, right on, you can do it” sort of thing. Evenother skiers will check you out. You can practically see other women skiers’minds’ thinking, “Maybe I should try that; she can do it.”

And you can. But it hurts at first. My advice: Take a lesson from a professionalrather than learning from a buddy or boyfriend. Learning from a friend mayjust ruin that friendship after you’ve done a few head slams because you’llblame the friend that’s teaching you for teaching you the wrong way. It takesabout three lessons to really discover how to link turns. But once you haveit, the “feeling” never goes away–it’s like never forgetting how to ridea bike. Many resorts offer women’s only classes and women instructors. Thereare also a variety of women’s snowboard camps being offered every seasonaround the country. I think the best camp for women is the Wild Women’s SnowboardCamp, launched by women’s 1992 World Extreme Champ, Greta Gaines, and co-directedby Mary Seibert. It follows a philosophy by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, authorof “Women Who Run with the Wolves,” in that women need to break free; thatthere is a need and obligation for each woman to reach this level and letgo. Snowboarding’s a fluid sport that allows you to do just this. Like rockclimbing, it’s more about balance and grace than strength and ego. Therefore,women excel.

As for finding the right equipment, here’s a strategy to follow: Don’t letretailers steer you in the wrong direction. Remember what you want even ifyou only think you know what you want. Even as a beginner, you are your ownbest judge as to what fits, feels good, and works for your body and style.


Snowboards: Ask if the length and weight of the board fits your ability leveland your own weight and size. If you can pick up the board from the tip whenit’s standing on end, it’s probably a good weight. If you can’t, shelf it.Check the pre-drilled holes for binding width and put your feet on them todetermine if the board stance has the capability of going narrow enough foryou. So many don’t, so check this. Also while you’re standing there, do yourfeet come close to the edge? If they go over, it’s too narrow–although justthe opposite is usually the case for women. My motto: FatBobs aren’t forgirls. (Ask K2 if you don’t understand.) Women’s pro-model boards aren’tas rare as they use to be and if you have your choice, why wouldn’t you buyone?

Boots: This gets tricky because feet are gnarly. Take a look at your ownbone spurs and you’ll agree. First and foremost, ask the salesperson if theboot manufacturer you’re interested in made the “woman’s model” from a woman’slast. Many won’t know; some will ask what a “last” actually is. A last isthe basic mold that is formed around a foot onto which the rest of the bootsare modeled and formed. Since women’s calves start lower, and women havenarrower heels and wider balls of their feet, a woman’s-lasted boot is amust. Otherwise, you’ll be buying a scaled-down version of a men’s boot andwe all hate scaled-down-versions, now don’t we?

Bindings: Try them on in the store with your snowboard boots on. So manysoft bindings are too wide and you’ll have to cut the plastic, re-screw,and duct tape them into the appropriate place for your feet. Also, checkthe width of the binding when buckled in. For two years I had to fill upthe excess width of my bindings with twigs so my foot wouldn’t move around.Fortunately, my Original Sin bindings (plug) changed that.

Clothes: Of course, individual style is a big factor. But when it comes tocomfort, look for pants that come-up high enough so you don’t get snow downthe back when you bend over to clip in your binding. Suspender pants aregreat–especially with ones that go up the sides of your boobs or in themiddle; and look that they don’t constrict movement. Practice a tail-grabin the store (even if you’re a beginner) to see that they don’t bind. Theother key aspect for pants are drop-seats (to allow for a quick pee in thewoods). As for jackets, if the zipper or buttons go up the “wrong” side,guess what, a guy probably designed the thing. Avoid Velcro up by the hoodor collar–your hair will get stuck in it.

Kathleen Gasperini¬†(¬†hasworked as a writer for Powder, Snowboarder, Snowboarding, Women’s Sportsand Fitness, and Stick magazines. Last year she founded her own magazinetitled W.I.G. (Women In General). She lives in Park City, Utah and snowboardsmuch more than she should.