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Snowboarding lessons: A how-to for beginners

By TravelFactory , 20/10/2022
A group of snowboarders posing with their boards in the snow

Although snowboarding as a discipline is quite young— ‘officially’ invented in the US in 1965—a comprehensive level system was devised in response to growing demand. So, as part of our Ski Travel Guide, we’re exploring winter sports lessons.  Snowboarding has exploded in popularity and sprung up at ski areas in France and around the world. Snowboarders can be seen hitting the slopes almost as often as traditional Alpine skiers.  

The ESF (Ecole du Ski Français), or French Ski School, has responded to growing demand by adding snowboarding lessons to its roster. You’ll find a detailed description of what’s on offer below, including lessons for children and adults and performance evaluations if you’d like to put your abilities to the test. Let’s start with the littlest snowboarders. 

Group Snowboarding Lessons for Children 

It’s easiest to learn a new winter sport as a child, so children can start quite young if they show interest. Technically, once your toddler has developed basic motor skills and can walk unaided, they could start snowboard lessons, guided by a certified instructor.  But there is no hard and fast rule. Most children are better off waiting until they’re six or seven. Ultimately, you’ll need to use your discretion as a parent. 

Two snowboarders practicing on a flat piste in the Alps

Goomie Rider 

Goomie Rider is the first level offered and provides an introduction to snowboarding. Upon completion of this level, your child will be able to use ski lifts independently, ride switch (with their less dominant foot behind them) and go down small hills in a straight line. 

Rookie Rider 

Rookie Rider is the second level offered, and the focus here will be turning. Upon completion of this level, your child will be able to change direction, link front and backside turns, and get back up easily after falls. They will attempt their first 50-50 (sliding across a raised surface, such as a wide box, close to the ground). 

Izzy Rider 

Izzy Rider is the highest level available for children, and the focus here will be stringing together a series of turns. Upon completion of this level, your child will be able to string together 4-6 turns, make a jump on a gentle slope, and do a 180-degree turn (spinning their snowboard while in the air). 

Group Snowboarding Lessons for Adults & Teens 

The thrill of gliding over snow-covered landscapes is available holidaymakers of all ages—it’s never too late to learn. ESF offers snowboarding lessons for teens and adults (13+) catered to your needs. So, even if you’ve never snowboarded before, with the right equipment and the right instructor, the sky’s the limit! 

Group Discovery Class 

Beginners can start with a Discovery class to get familiar with the basics. Learn how to get up a ski lift on your snowboard. Basic balance, gliding, and snowplough turns are introduced. You’ll be able to knit 4-6 turns together by the end of the session. 

To earn your Discovery Badge, you’ll need to do two of the following: frontside and backside turns, a 50-50 on a box, or heel side and toe side fallen leaf technique. 

First Snowboard Level 

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can move on to the First Snowboard Level. Make sure you know how to link 4-6 basic turns on a simple slalom course before attempting this level.  

To earn your First Snowboard Badge, you’ll need to do two of the following: 4-6 switch turns (with your less dominant foot behind you), a small jump, or two 180-degree turns. 

Second Snowboard Level 

The Second Snowboard Level is an intermediate level. You can leave the green slopes behind! You’ll be expected to do several turns on a steeper slope.  

To earn your Second Snowboard Badge, you’ll need to do two of the following: 6-8 switch turns on a simple slalom course, two 180-degree turns on a bend, a tail press on a box. 

Third Snowboard Level 

The Third Snowboard Level is an advanced level. You’ll be expected to make all different kinds of turns on groomed pistes of all shapes and sizes. You take on the red slopes with ease! 

To earn your Third Snowboard Badge, you’ll need to do two of the following: a nose slide or a tail slide, 180-degree jumps with switches and frontside turns, or a grab on a medium table. 

Snowboard Expert Level 

It’s all in the name! The Snowboard Expert level is the ultimate goal for an experienced snowboarder. You’ll need to know how to turn groomed pistes and off-piste terrain of all kinds.  

To earn your Snowboard Expert Badge, you’ll need to pass two of the following tests: X-Boarder (snow park-like course), Flat (downhill course), or Freestyle (downhill course with boxes and tables). You’ll receive a score based on how much time it takes you to complete the course. 

If you'd prefer a bit more personal attention, private lessons are also available. Inquire at your resort for more information.

Where Can I Take Snowboarding Lessons in France?  

Snowboarding lessons are available at most ski resorts in France. However, there is a different between your average snowboarding infrastructure and something really spectacular. So, we’ve assembled a list of our favourites.  

Skiers and snowboarders practice at the DC snow park in the French Alps

Avoriaz is considered the snowboarding capital of Europe. There are pistes dedicated specifically to snowboarding, and the off-piste terrain is vast and varied. Known for its many snow parks (over 30 in the area), it’s the perfect destination for freestylers.  

Meribel, a picturesque ski area peppered with chalets, is home to two snow parks and a special beginners area in Plattieres. Plan to come back with a few years of experience under your belt and tackle Moon Park.  

Chamonix is located at the foot of Mount Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe. It offers some of the most beautiful off-piste scenery in France for Freeriders. Freestylers, meanwhile, can take advantage of the Grand Montet snow park.