They’re not schussing on modified surfboards or
skateboards–they’re riding snowboards. Invented some 10 years
ago, snowboarding is growing in popularity in the West. It’s a
fairly easy sport that can be done on almost any snowy incline. A few
ski resorts let snowboarders use lifts and trails. All require use of
ankle strap; snowboarders must stay on groomed slopes. This month you
can even watch the World Snowboarding Championships at Boreal Ridge near
Lake Tahoe, California, planned for March 30 and 31.
Snowboarding owes much to its surf and sidewalk cousins. The
snowboarder squiggles down a slope using the same arm balance and
hip-turning motions as the surfer (with snowboards, bindings hold your
feet in position). Tight turns are executed in much the same way as
they are on skateboards: you press down on the tail with your back foot
and pick up the nose with your foot, swinging it into the turn.
How do you stop? Simply turn the nose uphill or, failing that,
just sit down. While the basic concept of snowboarding its simple,
mastery depends on coordination and practice.
Snowboards: limited choices. Measuring about 4 feet long and 10
inches wide, a snowboard weighs about 10 pounds. Less-expensive designs
(about $80) made of laminated wood have simple metal fins at the back to
aid turning. Newer, more sophisticated sytles offer metal edges for
easier turning, slick plastic lamination on the bottom for a smoother
ride, and better bindings for more turning control; they’re also
more expensive, costing $230 and up.
Bindings may be simple wide bands of rubber with adjustable straps
or more elaborate, foam-padded plastic with ski boot-type buckles.
Bindings aren’t as critical to safety as they are with skiing,
since your ankle isn’t locked rigid as in a ski boot. But a secure
binding will help you turn more easily. The boots you wear should be
warm; a firm-sided, over-the-ankle boot such as those worn by
snowmobilers will also aid in turning.
Availability of snowboards is still somewhat limited. They are
sold at some sporting goods stores; try shops that specialize in
skateboards, surfboards, or ski gear. Of the manufacturers we surveyed,
these two firms can help you locate shops that sell snowboards in your
area: Burton Snowboards, Department ST, Manchester Center, Vt. 05255;
and Sims Snowboards, 835 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara 93103.
Where to go snowboarding? Powder snow is fun, but for the novice
it’s too difficult to carve turns in. Dry packed snow on a gentle
slope free of rocks or trees is best for learning. A flat, broad runout at the bottom allows easy stopping.
Some cautions: you can pick up speed quickly (experts say a
snowboard can travel as fast as competition skis). If you tumble, a
safety strap from your ankle to the snowboard keeps it from shooting
away and perhpas hitting someone.
National forests that allow sledding usually allow snowboarding;
call to check. Some alpine ski resorts are open to snowboarders who buy
lift tickets (though they may be confined of specific trails), a few
rent boards, and one (Soda Springs) offers lessons. but many resorts
don’t allow them yet, adopting a cautious attitude:
“We’re afraid snowboards might interfere with skiers, or carve
more moguls into our groomed slopes,” says one manager.
We surveyed Western ski resorts and found 22 areas (mostly small,
family resorts) that will allow snowboards with safety straps.
Information numbers and lift ticket fees are listed below.
Alaska. Arctic Valley Ski Resort (closed at press time due to lack
of snow; call ahead), 15 miles east of Anchorage; lift ticket $12; call
Arizona. Greer Ski Area, off U.S. 60, near the Arizona-New Mexico
border; $10; (602) 735-7503.
California. Borel/Soda Springs Ski Area, 10 miles west of Truckee
on Interstate 80; $14; (916) 426-3666. Donner Ski Ranch, 3-1/2 miles
off Interstate 80 at Norden; $10; (916) 426-3635.
Southern California. Mountain High Ski Area, 30 miles north of San
Bernardino on State Highway 2; $20; (619) 249-5479. Snow Forest Ski
Area, in Big Bear Lake 1/2 mile south of State 18 on Pine Knot Avenue.
$16; (714) 866-8891.
Colorado. Berthoud Pass, 57 miles northwest of Denver off
Interstate 70; $8; (303) 572-8014. Breckenridge Ski Area,9 miles south
of Frisco off Interstate 70; $22; 453-2368. Eldora Ski Area (allowed on
weekdays only), 21 miles north of Boulder; $8; 447-8012. Ski Ester Park,
75 miles northwest of Denver; $10; 586-4887.
Idaho. Bogus Basin, 16 miles norths of Boise; $16; (208) 336-4500.
Schweitzer Ski Area, Sandpoint; $17; 263-9555.
Montana. Big Sky, 45 miles south of Bozeman; $20; (406) 995-4211.
Nevada. Slide Mountain, about 35 miles southwes of Reno off State
Highway 431; $14; (702) 849-0303.
Oregon. Timberline, near Government Camp, 60 miles southeast of
Portland; $14; (503) 272-3311. Mount Ashland Ski area, Ashland; $13.50;
Utah. Alta about 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City; $12; (801)
742-3333. Beaver Mountain Ski Area, Logan; $10; 753-0921.
Washington. Mission Ridge, near Wenatchee; $16; (509) 663-6543.
Mount Baker, 50 miles east of Bellingham; $16; (206) 734-6771. Stevens
Pass (no weekend, holiday, or Friday night snowboarding), about 70 miles
east of Seattle; $18; (206) 973-2441.
Wyoming. Americana Snow King Mountain, in Jackson; $10; (307)