In the early days of your snowboarding career, you will spend pretty much all your time riding forwards. However, learning to ride switch early on will unlock many possibilities.
Being able to ride switch allows you to progress your tricks, both in the park and on the groomers. It is also a great way to give your calves a rest on those long end-of-the-day toe-side traverses.
In this article, we will go into the details of mastering riding switch, enabling you to take your snowboarding game to the next level.
The main problem with riding switch is that many riders don’t take the time to practice. It is far more fun to charge down the mountain than taking the time to learn something new.
Therefore, you need to force yourself to practice riding switch. Try to do a couple of blue runs switch each time you go out. Whenever you get to a boring run, flip it around and use it as the perfect opportunity to practice riding switch.
You can even ride the chairlift switch. Leave your back foot strapped in, and use it as your lead foot. This will build up muscle memory and confidence.
Master The "Boob" Turn
The boob turn is a great way to kick start your switch riding. You need to head to a wide and quiet slope to practice these. (Side Note: Do yourself a favor and take a day off from work to hit the slopes on the weekday. The mountain will be near empty, and you’ll have the time of your life – I promise).
Set off down the trail in your regular riding direction and initiate a toe-turn. Stay on your edge until you start riding back up the hill (so make sure you have a bit of speed for this).
As you turn up the hill, your board will slow down to a stop. At this point, go to your heel edge, and continue across the slope on a switch heel side turn.
When you look back at your track, you should see two large U-shaped arcs across the slope.
Then, from the other side of the slope, do the opposite. Start on your heel edge, gather some speed before turning up the hill, and transfer to your toe-side edge for a switch toe-side turn.
Keep doing this drill until you feel comfortable, and your "snow boobs" shape is consistent.
Think About Where You Put Your Weight
When you are riding normally, your weight is slightly forward, which your body gets used to. But when you ride switch, you will find it awkward and challenging to lean over your leading foot.
Therefore, it is common for snowboarders to lean too far back while riding switch. This makes turning daunting, so you need to work on transferring your weight to your leading foot.
You can practice this weight shifting on a run with a gentle gradient. Just before you initiate your turn, lift your rear foot off the snow slightly.
Tap it down a couple of times, then make a toe-side turn. Tap your back foot down a couple of times, then turn on your heels. If you find this easy, your weight is far enough forward.
Practice this a few times until it is second nature.
Spin To Win
Your next step in developing your switch riding is to spin 360°. Don't worry; you are not hitting the park just yet, just spinning around on flat ground.
Spinning around 360° on the snow will help you to stop catching your edge as you ride switch. It teaches you to get on your edge early, so you don't keep your base too flat on the snow.
Go to a mellow slope that isn't too busy, and head down the fall line. As you ride, spin your board around 360° at least four times. This motion forces you to do a regular turn, followed by a switch turn.
Make sure you practice spinning your 360s both backside and frontside. This move will go a long way to improving your switch riding and learning to use your edges.
Doing 360s on the snow forces you to position your weight over both feet and puts you on the correct edge for both regular and switch riding. This will also translate to when you start taking off jumps and spinning in the air.
Many riders learning how to ride switch tend to counter-rotate their bodies on toe-side turns. This is when you swing your body in the opposite direction to initiate a toe-side turn.
You will probably see beginner snowboarders using a similar technique when they try to do their first few turns. This not only looks untidy, but it is very unstable.
If you feel that your switch toe-side turns are unstable or not very smooth, there is a good chance you are swinging your upper body around to counter-rotate.
To prevent counter-rotating, you should keep your upper and lower body aligned. Rotate those shoulders and hips in the same direction. When they work in unison, your turns will be smooth and much more manageable.
Start the turn with your head, then your shoulders, followed by your hips, knees, and then your snowboard. When your body aligns, you will feel stable in your turns and develop a smooth and steezy style.
Bonus Tips For Riding Switch
Don't Overthink It: It is easy to get bogged down in all the techniques, but the best advice is to just go out and practice. After just a couple of runs, you will start to get a feel for it.
Speed Is Your Friend: Obviously, you don't want to blast down the mountain backward, but a little speed makes switch riding much easier. It gives you the momentum you need to finish your turns.
Start Early: Many snowboarders don't bother to learn how to ride switch. It is kind of understandable if their mountain time is limited or if they ride with more experienced people and need to keep up.
However, this often leads to regret; especially when they want to learn trick or improve their terrain park abilities.
Snowboarding switch doesn't have to be scary; it is just a case of practicing. So, try to resist blasting down every empty slope and spend some time mastering your switch riding.
Dare to Venture.