5 Snowboarding Tips from Gold Medalist Kelly Clark
If you're just starting out in snowboarding or if you've always wanted to pick it up, then who better to get a few snowboarding tips from than Olympian Kelly Clark? The halfpipe snowboarder made history at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, becoming the first American to win a snowboarding gold medal at the Olympic level. In 2011, she made history again and became the first woman to land a 1080 in competition. Kelly has remained a US Snowboarding mainstay, taking home a bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and snagging yet another superpipe gold at the 2014 Winter X Games in Aspen, as well as winning various titles in the years that followed. And in 2018, she'll be representing the US once again, this time in PyeongChang.
Kelly has also become one of her sport's most prominent ambassadors, so when we asked her for some snowboarding tips for beginners, she was happy to oblige.
1. Wear a Lot of Layers
"Snowboarding is all about having fun. And if you're cold, chances are pretty good you are not having fun." Before planning an excursion, Kelly's first tip is to consider what to wear snowboarding. Here's what you definitely need:
- Sturdy scarf to help you stay warm and prevent wind burn
- Hand and toe warmers, which Kelly calls "the best $5 you'll spend"
- Moisture-wicking apparel to keep you dry
- Sunscreen—it's easier than you think get sunburn, even in subzero temperatures
2. Take Time to Find the Right Board
Just because your sister or neighbor is willing to give you their old board doesn't mean you should take them up on it. "What was top-end in equipment 10 years ago is most likely archaic today," says Kelly. She recommends starting out with Burton's Learn to Ride (LTR) boards because they're "forgiving and are proven to aid in getting you out there linking turns."
Pro Tip: Don't forget about protection! Invest in a good helmet, wrist guards, and padded shorts.
3. Don't Take Lessons from Your Friends
Although it may be tempting to let your friends teach you as you go along, Kelly doesn't recommend this route when you're learning how to snowboard. She says that most of the time, "you get some bad tips and the day ends up in frustration." Instead, spring for a professional lesson. "Just a few fundamental concepts will go a long way" and make the difference between a great first outing and a stressful one.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice! But Don't Forget to Rest
As with any sport, mastering even basic snowboarding techniques gets easier over time, but don't overdo it. Beginners should expect to get tired, both mentally and physically. Even at the professional level, taking time to rest and refocus makes a big difference when learning new skills.
"Set aside a few days to master your new skills," Kelly advises, noting that the extra time gives you the opportunity to "make the improvements you [want] to see." Most importantly, don't get discouraged. Sometimes it takes muscle memory a day or so to nail a new trick. "I could have tried and failed 10 times in a row the day before," Kelly says, "but when I'm rested and fresh, the trick comes in the first few attempts."
"I could have tried and failed 10 times in a row the day before, but when I'm rested and fresh, the trick comes in the first few attempts."
– Kelly Clark
5. Join the Snowboarding Community (No Membership Card Required)
According to Kelly, snowboarding embraces a rich tradition of welcoming all participants, no matter how fresh or inexperienced, into its culture. And heck, feel free to tell people you're a snowboarder: "If you go and play basketball with your friends, you don't call yourself a basketball player," Kelly says, "but when you snowboard, you can immediately call yourself a snowboarder."