As in skate boarding, snowboarders have also taken a liking to riding obstacles such as logs, handrails and boxes. Snowboard Parks are a FreeStyle play ground offering all kinds of cool obstacles for you to try your luck on without upsetting the owners of those objects. In this section we will look at some of the most popular obstacle riding tricks. Grinds are performed by jumping or riding onto a rail/obstacle and sliding/grinding off it. There are a few basic grinds:
Glossary of rails and slides
Boardslide - A slide where your board goes sideways down the rail.
Keep your snowboard across the rail with each side of the snowboard sticking out of the rail evenly. This grind is more dangerous as the chances are larger of your board losing/catching an edge. So keep the base of your board flat to the rail and get your body weight centred and low.
Frontside boardslide - Turning onto the rail so that your heel edge faces downhill during the slide.
Backside boardslide - Turning onto the rail so that toe edge faces downhill during the slide.
50:50 - In skateboarding, this is a grind where both trucks are in contact with the rail. It is exactly the same in snowboarding except without the trucks, so the board rides forwards down the rail.
Bonking - Is slapping an object with your snowboard. You could for instance pass a box and hit it with the nose of your snowboard in mid air. If you slap an object with your nose it is called a Nose Bonk when you use your tail it is called a Tail Bonk. . Bonking can be a fun way of drawing attention but just make sure not to bonk other snowboarders... or at least agree to bonk them before you do it.
School on Rails
Love it or hate it, it's official. Jibbing is once again a part of snowboarding. Watch any of the new videos this year, and every pro worth his salt has at least one jib in their section. So if you want to keep up with the Jones's, it looks like you're going to be paddling in the unpredictable learner pool that is jibbing this winter.
Jibbing's roots are firmly grounded in the skateboard crossover fraternity, especially when you consider the fact that skating is renowned for taking every day objects and architecture and using them for pleasure. It's only natural that this aspect of skating should find its way into snowboarding, especially when you consider that there's a multitude of weird and wonderful architectural features to explore in mountain resorts, ranging from 15th century barns to 70's abominations of concrete.
The most important thing to remember with jibbing is that it is not serious. Just because it's fashionable now, it doesn't mean you have to go out and religiously learn to slide 20 step handrails. The whole idea of jibbing is that if you see something that you think 'I could tap that with my tail' or 'I reckon I could ride up that roof', you do it, but not at the expense of a day of riding powder. Catch my drift?
Most jibs are just an extension of your already existing riding skills. As an example, bonking your tail on a snow cannon involves an ollie and a quick drop of the back leg to twat your board on the cannon, a manoeuvre hardly worthy of a whole technique article. On the other hand, sliding or 50-50ing a rail does take a little more skill, concentration and bottle. There are a number of ways to slide a rail and even more ways to hurt yourself on them, so without further ado let's knuckle down to a Monday morning of double rails.
Rails come in all shapes, sizes, gradients and materials, so attempting to slide the first one that you come across is not recommended. This won't really be too much of a problem though, as the prospect of learning to slide rails on a set of stairs that resemble a cheese-grater is one to put the fear of God into any normal human being. Worry not, because resorts are installing snowboard friendly rails in their fun parks as standard, while dry-slopes and indoor slopes are also sporting beginner friendly rails and blocks made out of plastic which eliminates a lot of the fear factor. If you find a rail that you think is suitable, ask yourself these questions:
1 Is it too steep? Ideally, your first rail should be flat or ever so slightly downhill, because if the rail is too steep it is harder to commit to as you have to lean so far forward to keep your weight over your board. You'll also find yourself reaching speeds that you are not comfortable with. This will slow down the rate at which you learn or worse, you'll slam and lose your confidence.
2 Is it too high? If this is the case then you'll have trouble getting onto it and if you fall it's going to hurt more.
3 Is it too long? Most importantly, check the length of the rail. Once you're on a rail, you are committed to it, and the most dangerous thing you can do is try and jump off before the rail has finished. If the rail is long there is obviously more time for you to make a mistake, so start off either on a short rail or at the end of a rail (if this is possible).
Assess The Rail
Once you're comfortable with your selected rail, do as I say every month and sit down and watch other people session it. This will give you a clear picture of what you're trying to achieve, and in addition watching people get it right will give you confidence and inspiration. You will see people getting it wrong, but try not to let this put you off. Instead, learn from their mistakes and vow not to repeat them.
Go and have a good look at the rail as well, to check that the thing is safe. If the rail is made out of anything soft (ie, wood or plastic), make sure that there is nothing protruding that might catch on your edges or wreck your board.
The 50-50 is the first step to having fun on rails. The idea is to ‘ride’ along the rail as you would normally ride a snowboard across the ground. The simple key here is to get the approach right. As with absolutely every facet of rail-sliding the main trick is remembering that you can NEVER use your edges once you’re on the rail. So get the approach right and make sure that when you land on the rail you’re in the position you want to be in for the entire slide. It sounds easy and to a certain extent it is. Remember: land on the rail in the position you want to slide in.
1. As you approach the kicker which will throw you onto the rail you need to look straight along the rail like a marksman looks down the barrel of a gun. This means your trajectory is in a straight line when you lands on the rail, hopefully sending you sliding along in a straight line to the end of the metal.
2. Keep on target with your eyes firmly focused on the beginning part of the rail, thinking positive thoughts.
4. As you leave the kicker, you olly off the snow with enough ‘pop’ to land smoothly on the rail. You don’t want to go to high and land with a thud on the rail, as this could put you off balance. Nor do you want to jump too little and thud into the rail as that would have obviously disastrous consequences.
5. As you’re in the air you don’t make any wild movements as you want to keep your body position the same as the approach: straight onto the rail.
6. Land firmly on the rail. Your board is totally straight, your body weight is right over the rail, and your feet are flat to keep the board on a spirit level.
7. Now firmly on the rail all you have to do is keep your body still, make no sharp movements and focus on the end of the rail and your exit. Notice how your position is almost exactly the same as if you were straight-lining a cat track; Relaxed with your weight centralised over your toe and heel edge.
8. Looking down the rail at the end point you are happy to simply slide along. Your relaxed posture shows you’ve landed firmly square on the rail. If you’d got it wrong you would simply have slid off the side not making it along the rail. For this reason the 50-50 is the best trick to learn as there is little danger of coming off the rail forwards or backwards and landing on your back or front.
9. As you approach the end of the rail you are simply going to ride off it like you would ride off a small drop on the piste. With enough speed you’ll simply drop off the rail and ride away.
10. You are now at the very end of the rail and in exactly the same position as when you landed on it.
11. As you leave the rail you let yourself drop on to the landing.
Nose press/wheelie - The same as a 50:50 except, only the nose of the board (from the front binding forward) makes contact with the rail.
Tail press/wheelie - Same as the nose press, just done on the tail of the board.
Rails for Intermediates
Once you're comfortable with all the basic slides, you can progress onto steeper handrails, nose or tail presses and spinning on to rails. It's good to watch people on videos to start with, just to get an idea of what is possible (pretty much anything with the right rail and a bit of imagination). The main thing to remember is that if you can do a trick independently on the piste or on a jump, there's no reason why you won't be able to do it on a rail. Just remember not to go mental, but to start off slowly and work your way up.
The main difference when you slide steeper rails is the level of commitment. You simply cannot go at them half-heartedly. You must adjust your weight so that it is centred over the rail, which means the steeper the rail, the further forward you will have to lean. Bear in mind that you can offset this against the surface that you are sliding. Metal slides quickly, concrete slides slowly, whereas wood is soft and grippy and easy to catch an edge on. If the surface is fast then you need to lean further forward to keep up with the slide. If it's slower then you can lean further back to drive the board down the rail.
Nose and tail presses
If you can do these comfortably on the piste, there's no reason why you can't do them on a rail. The easiest way to learn these is on a block or a wide rail because it will give you more stability in comparison to a thin or rounded rail. Rumour has it that JP Walker slashes his topsheet widthways to allow his board to flex properly, but I wouldn't recommend this kind of behaviour unless you have loads of money, a generous board sponsor or no desire to ride anything but rails.
Spinning on to rails
Spinning on to rails is really good fun, and the first spin I learnt was a switch-stance 270 to backside lipslide. Now I know that this sounds impossible, but I'd watched Devun Walsh and JP Walker progressing on videos and I was really comfortable spinning switch on kickers, so I gave it a go and found that it wasn't as hard as it sounds. The best advice for spinning onto rails is to keep your spin really flat, because this will keep your weight over the board and enable you to control your slide when you land instead of eating shit! Good luck.