When it’s your first time on the hill the first order of business is figuring out how to ride the chairlift. I remember my first time on a snowboard at Wildcat Mountain. I had never been on a chairlift in my life. I’d seen some pictures and maybe even a TV commercial of people on them but I had no idea how it was done. I was able to skate over to the bunny hill lift, which was ancient- basically a flying park bench. I got up to the loading line and thought the chair would slow down as I waited. No such luck. It sent me ass over teakettle across the ground. Luckily, it was early in the morning and no one was around to witness this except the lift operator who was looking at me with pitiful concern like I had a mental disability. I explained it was my first time at a ski area. “Ahhh, ok let me show you what to do.” Things got easier after that.
After you figure out whether you ride goofy or regular and you have your stance angles and width all set up, you are going to want to learn to skate and ride with your back foot out of the binding. Skating involves keeping the front foot in the binding and keeping the base of the board flat against the ground and the nose of the board pointed straight. Then, you push off with your back foot. Keep your knees bent and use your weight to thrust yourself forward. Your back foot is most effective when it is behind the board so that the board is always in front of you and not between your legs.
Once you have a little momentum lean forward onto your front foot and place your back foot in front of your back binding. You can put the outside of your boot right up against the side of the binding for added stability. KEEP your knees bent and your weight leaning FORWARD. This allows you to travel in a straight path. After you practice a little bit, move to a flat slope where you can practice going down with your back foot out of the binding. This is going to simulate the feeling of riding down the off-ramp of the chairlift. When you get to the end of the slope, slide your toes forward and off the edge of the board. Tilt your boot just slightly so that the sole drags in the snow and slows you down until you stop. You don’t need to dig it in but only feel how much pressure you need to slow yourself down gradually.
Once you can ride and skate fairly comfortably with your back foot out then skate over to a lift, preferably one that is not too crowded and has access to plenty green runs. You can even start on the learning area lift where others are learning the same thing you are. Once it’s your turn skate up to the line, stop and put your back foot on your board. Turn and watch the chair as it approaches. On some lifts the operator will swing the chair around and set it steady for you BUT it will NOT stop moving forward so be ready and stay focused. Once it’s close enough to sit down on, lean forward and sit. Keep your board pointed straight so that it doesn’t interfere with the other people’s boards and skis. And so that it doesn’t get hung up on the platform frame or some other object, which may be protruding out of the snow.
(Side note: Once, not too long ago, the edge of my board got caught on a piece of carpet that had been worn away from the platform. I had my board going sideways across the deck and when the side of the board went underneath the ripped up carpet I got pulled under the chair. It ran right over me! I was perfectly fine but it could have resulted in some nasty injury I don’t even want to think about. So keep the board pointed straight until you get off the ground.)
Next, enjoy the ride up to the top. Don’t freak yourself out and start thinking of all sorts of worst case scenarios that could arise in the process of dismounting from lift. Relax yourself, talk it up with the people and smile a lot. As the people in the chair in front of you get off the lift make sure your safety bar is up and out of the way and then lift the nose of your board with your strapped-in front foot. Just tilt the nose upward and let the bottom of the land on the platform. You want your board to be perfectly straight as you come up to the platform. Once you’re on the ramp the chair will slow down but it will not stop.
Scoot your butt to edge of the chair and place your back foot firmly on your and against your back binding. The next step is easy: lean forward with weight on your front foot and STAND UP. If you can stand up you can get off a chairlift. Do not hesitate- just lean forward and stand up. The momentum of the chair along with the slope of the ramp will move forward once you are standing on your board. Particularly if you are in a learning area, you can get the lifty to slow the lift down for youso you have a little bit more time. A wave with a “slow down” motion (like a police officer gives you when you’re going a little too fast) should work. In the end everyone has the same goal…for you to get off the lift safely!
As you ride down the ramp keep your KNEES BENT and weight on your front foot. Go straight down the ramp and once you are at the bottom begin edging your toes off the board and onto the snow. Feel how much pressure you need to slow down and apply it. Once you stop, move out of the way either to the right or left depending on where you going. If you fall, which is common for everyone, be sure to immediately get up and get out of the way so the next people coming off the chairlift don’t crash into you. This is not an option-you have to move out fast!
And that’s it. Now you get to learn how to turn and swoop around on the mountain!