I am not a snowboarder. Not even close. But my partner loves the sport, so naturally I have been keen to learn. Over the years I have attempted to join in, and taken the odd lesson or two, but each time I ‘hit the slopes’, the slopes inevitably hit me back, and it was like starting from scratch every time.
We spent our Christmas holidays and most of January in 2015/16 touring around Canada and the United States. Being winter, we were keen to check a few snow fields off our bucket lists while we were there. Here is my recap of the three different fields explored — for beginners.
Full disclaimer: All three of these snow fields offer learner slopes, group and individual ski and boarding lessons, and gear hire.
My snowboarding experience in North America
Whistler, BC, Canada
We initially visited in 2011, where I received both a group and a solo boarding lesson. I spent most of my time on the Blackcomb learner slope, which I thought was pretty great.
This time around, I skipped out on a lesson, and went through the basics with my partner instead. We went straight for the Whistler learner slope. It’s much longer and less crowded (in my experience) than Blackcomb, although they both do offer a magic carpet, so you don’t have to trek your gear back to the start of the slope for each run. The great thing about Whistler mountain is that, although you are still learning, you actually feel like you’re up the mountain — because you are.
Squaw Valley, California, USA
The area of Squaw Valley is stunning! Unlike the other mountains we visited, the learner area here is completely separate from the rest of the resort. The run is smaller than the others, but it too offers a magic carpet which takes you half-way up; and also offers a beginners chair lift, which takes you to the top of the slope. I had never used a chairlift before, but the staff were super friendly and helpful, slowing it right down so I could get on and off easily.
Although the slope is small, it is wide and was very quiet when we were there. I only had to share it with a handful of people, which is great when you are learning!
The only problem I found with this slope was that it just wasn’t long enough — who knew that would be an issue?! Although I wasn’t quite ready to head up the mountain to test my luck on the real slopes.
Park City, Utah, USA
Park City was by far my favourite of the three mountain resorts we visited.
After struggling to snowboard on my own, I relented and signed myself up for a group lesson, which really got me back on track with the basics. It was only a small group (5 of us in total, including actor Josh Bowman from ‘Revenge‘ fame! I know, right?) which was perfect, as I also got some well needed one-on-one time with the instructor.
One lesson wasn’t quite enough, so I signed up for a second group lesson, but (due to my running late) ended up getting an instructor all to myself. This was just what I needed, and the instructor was wonderful, patient, and supportive. He really broke snowboarding down into easy to manage steps, that actually completely changed my perspective and made it easier for me to master. By the end of the lesson I was so much more confident on the board, and couldn’t wait to show my partner how far I had come!
The learner area at Park City is the largest of all three mountains we went to. The run is really quite long, and also wide, allowing lots of us newbies to practice without getting in each others way.
They also have a learner chair lift, and although they can’t slow it down for you (as it is quite a long one), if you participate in a lesson, your instructor will guide you through the process. And compared to regular chair lifts, I hear it is quite a bit slower.
So there you have it
My take on three of the amazing snow fields available in Northern America.
Have you ever been to any of these fields?
Are there any others we simply MUST TRY?