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The Six Snowboard Fundamentals
To understand how our snowboard performs on the snow, while sliding different surfaces and while traveling through the air, we must first have a basic understanding of how our body moves while strapped to a board. This will help us better understand how one movement might affect another and allow you to blend movements together to create more complex actions, skills, and techniques. Examples of how movements are blended together to create performance on the board can be seen in everything from a basic skidded turn, to ollies, more complex tricks and the most technical carving skills.
Coach’s Corner: Use this guide to help better understand how movements of the body are connected to the performance of the snowboard as the building blocks for any progression. Better understanding of how the body moves allows us to relate snowboarding skills to other sports and physical training. All of this technical knowledge and understanding should be used to create more success, and most importantly more fun, for your students on and off the snow.
Weighting, Pressuring, Flexing the Snowboard
When strapped into a snowboard we are able to build pressure, release pressure, and control where on the board we drive this force. With both feet strapped into the board we can use our body to pressure, bend, and flex our board through using our legs and feet together and independently.
Control the magnitude of pressure created through the board/surface interaction.
With the combination of body weight and body movements, the rider applies force down to and through the snowboard. Using movements in the vertical plane, moving up and down, the rider is then able to release that force. This is present in the transition from one turn to the next when the board transitions from one edge to the other. This can be done by flexing or absorbing terrain, causing the rider’s center of mass to get closer to the surface of the snow, and by extending or pushing off terrain, causing the rider’s center of mass to move away from the surface. This is one of the key functions used to manage the pressure forces happening while you ride down the mountain. By manipulating how the legs flex or extend in relation to the timing of those movements relative to the terrain surface we can increase force or decrease force. This creates a chain reaction for what happens next. This can get a little confusing when related to standing still in a static exercise. Improving understanding and building kinesthetic awareness is best applied to a rider in motion.
Ask these questions in a given situation to better understand how the rider is controlling the magnitude of pressure between the board and the surface: Can I visualize the riders Center of Mass? Does the rider’s center of mass get closer to the riding surface or further away from the riding surface? Does the board's flex and rebound affect the relationship between the board and the rider’s center of mass? Does the change in pitch/transitions in the terrain affect the relationship between the board and the surface? What is happening in the rider’s body at the moment the board starts to flatten/transition into the new turn?
Now that we have addressed much of how the rider moves in relation to the vertical plane, we can start to look at how the center of mass is moved in relation to the frontal plane, (moving side to side) and the sagittal plane, (moving front to back.)
Control the relationship of the center of mass to the base of support to direct pressure along the width of the board.
A rider can shift the position of the center of mass along the sagittal plane, (forward and back.) This allows the rider to control how force is being pressured along the width of the board. While standing still and centered we can feel the pressure point move from center, to the toe edge, back to center, and to the heel edge. As we look into this fundamental it is important to reference that when these movements are isolated the board should remain flat so that we do not preemptively blend the fundamental of board tilt into this discussion. While sliding down the mountain we can best isolate this in a straight glide with the board flat to the snow. A skilled rider can manage the base of support along the width of the board to maintain a solid base of support as the center of mass shifts over different points along the width of the board.
Ask these questions in a given situation to better understand how the rider is controlling the relationship of the center of mass to the base of support to direct pressure along the width of the snowboard: How is the rider pressuring towards the toes or towards the heels? Does the rider seem stacked over the balance point from edge to edge? Does the rider's stance create unnecessary counterweighting of the head and the hips?
Control the relationship of the center of mass to the base of support to direct pressure along the length of the board.
The body’s frontal plane of movement is the movement from left to right. This is the fore and aft movement along the snowboard. As we dive into this fundamental we see how the rider can move the base of support to drive pressure into any point along the length of the board to affect how the board is being pressured, and in turn, flexed. The legs are used independently to shift the board under the center of mass, and therefore shifting the base of support. The rider has the ability to generate energy in the board by actively flexing it. This is similar to an archer flexing a bow to shoot an arrow. This comes from a rider shifting energy from one end of the board to the other, in turn flexing the board. The release of this potential energy then references snowboard rebound, also known as snowboard pop. This is mentioned in the fundamental where we are controlling the magnitude of pressure in relation to board and surface interaction. If we look at all proactive riding techniques a rider will always have some active movements controlling the relationship of the center of mass along the length of the board to create (kinetic) and store (potential) energy.
Ask these questions in a given situation to better understand how the rider is controlling the relationship of the center of mass to the base of support to direct pressure along the length of the snowboard: Are the legs working together or independently? Does the body stay aligned and stacked over the base of support? Do the shoulders tip as the base of support is shifted or do they stay parallel in relation to the board? As you watch the base of support move along the length of the board does it start and stop or have continuous motion similar to a pendulum?
Edging/Tipping the Snowboard
Control the board's tilt through a combination of inclination and angulation.
This fundamental focuses on the ability of the rider to control the tip of the board to utilize its metal edges to create a platform for gripping the snow to shape a turn. The rider also uses their body to bank into a turn and maintain alignment with the generated forces of that bank or arc. This relationship of using the body's ability to inclinate into a turn is what allows the rider to stay balanced in an arc with the applied rotational forces that occur while making a turn. This inclination, or tip, into the turn is combined with the body's ability to flex and extend to create joint angles which we refer to as angulation. While a rider will naturally tip inside the turn the rider can utilize angulation in combination with inclination to further tip and generate increased board tilt.
Ask these questions in a given situation to better understand how the rider is controlling the board’s tilt using inclination and angulation: Can you visualize a line through the rider's head and hips down to the edge? How much is the rider inclinated into a turn in relation to the surface pitch/slope? What joint angles are being used to increase or decrease snowboard tilt? Does the angle in the ankle help or hinder the body position to stay balanced over the edge? Does the rider have too much spinal bend causing counterweight? Does the rider over plantarflex the ankle causing the boot to flex beyond the boot’s static shape?
Pivoting the Snowboard
Control the board's pivot through flexion/extension and rotation of the body.
The snowboarder can generate pivot in the board through the use of flexing and extending the legs, as well as through applied rotational forces in the body. This fundamental can be broken down statically but must be applied in motion to understand how the board pivot relates to a rider's direction of travel. Once a rider is moving we can look at the direction of travel of the rider's center of mass as well as the direction of travel of the snowboard. We can then reference the board’s direction of travel to the direction the board is pointing. This relationship is how we look at the pivot of the board and how it rotates around its axis. The rotational input of the body, starting with the head, working down the spinal column, and into the pelvis is a key aspect of what allows us to coordinate and generate energy to create board pivot. As you work down the body, however, the hips rotating is what first creates board pivot. There is a direct connection to the rotation of the hips and the relationship to the center of mass that affects the board's pivot. The rider can also greatly control the board’s pivot by independently flexing and extending the legs. This is what we refer to as leg steering and can be used to finely control the board’s pivot in relation to the direction of travel.
Ask these questions in a given situation to better understand how the rider is controlling the board’s pivot in relation to the direction of travel through the use of flexion/extension and rotation of the body: How is a rider generating rotational energy? When a rider is in motion, can we visualize the rider and board’s direction of travel? How is the rider using the body to pivot the board on its axis in relation to the direction of travel? What is counter-rotation? How does a rider use anticipation to create potential rotational energy? How can a rider avoid catching an edge by connecting board pivot and board tilt?
Twisting the Snowboard
Control torsional flex of the board using flexion/extension and rotation of the body.
The board can be twisted to create opposing forces along its length. This is a function of torque generated from input of the two bindings mounted on a single board that manipulates the shape of the board. A rider can generate this torque through independent movements of the legs with movements originating at the ankles or through rotational input of the hips. With the later being able to generate more torque with the proximity of the hips to the center of mass. While the movements of the ankles once again can act as a method to fine-tune and create precise control over the twisting of the board. We use torsional flex as a component of pivot at the start of a skidded turn to generate differential friction to allow the tail to create a wider path than the nose. We also use torsional flex as a component of tilt to increase edge grip. We can easily see how a rider is utilizing torsional flex while moving by looking at knee and hip alignment in reference to the position of the board.
Ask these questions in a given situation to better understand how the rider is controlling the torsional flex of the board using flexion/extension and rotation of the body: Does the board skid or does the board carve? How are the knees flexing in relationship to one another? When does the rider show the use of twist; to initiate a turn or during the shaping phase of the turn? Does the rider over-plantarflex the front ankle at the start of the turn? Does the rider keep the hips level or do they push out towards the nose, causing a counterweight? How does the rider apply twist to initiate a heel-side turn versus a toe-side turn?
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