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This has been a large topic of debate over the past few seasons in the snowboarding world and everyone seems to have a differing opinion on which is better. This article will shed some light on the benefits of each for you and your students and help you decide which type of board is going to fit best for your riding style. I will be sharing with you what I’ve learned and experienced over the past 12 years of coaching snowboarding and give you some insight on how I help my students choose the right gear.
Ideally we would all have a different set up for each type of condition we’re riding. Unfortunately that’s just not financially feasible for most of us so we need to narrow it down to our personal riding style and how we want our board to feel.
We will be exploring three different board shapes in this article, only looking at the most common of board designs that are in the market right now. These shapes are camber, reverse camber, and rocker with dual camber. The easiest way to think of these is that camber looks like a sad face, reverse camber (or rocker) looks like a happy face, and the rocker/camber combo looks like a mustache, each one having its own set of benefits and limitations.
This is our tried and true technology. When you step onto this style of board you generally feel pretty stable. This is because your contact points are at the nose and tail of the board and it gives you a larger platform to stand on. Think of it like standing on a balance board (photo 1). If your feet are close together it can be very hard to stay balanced, but when you move your stance wider you feel much more stable. It’s very easy to load the nose or tail of the board without losing balance, sometimes making it easy to move too far forward or backwards and losing a centered and balanced stance.
If you’re into boardercross, banked slalom or GS this is probably the right board shape for you. Other than being more stable there are some other great benefits to camber, and also some downsides. On the icy hard pack days the average rider may find using a cambered board can be more effective. That extra stability can help give you the edge you need to keep from sliding out and falling. This is because of a reduced ability to pivot the board underneath of you, which might not be ideal when riding the steeps on a “pow” day or trying to perform maneuvers in the terrain park. The ability to pivot the board can be an essential step to a new student’s success in learning their first skidded turns.
Because of the shape of these boards the nose is going to constantly want to dive down into the snow forcing you to need a bigger board to ride some of our heavier Northwest “pow” days. When forced to ride a board that is too big we tend to lose some of our ability to move. When riding steep tree lines I always want to have confidence that I’m able to move in and out of every situation.
While it’s not necessarily new technology it has certainly made a giant comeback over the past few years. This is probably the least stable board design out there but it can also have some tremendous benefits in certain situations. I would not recommend this board shape for icy hard pack conditions, but when there’s two to three feet of fresh snow this is among the best board shapes you could be riding and could be even more beneficial for kids.
Have you ever taken out a ten year old on a deep snow day only to find that you have to throw them over your shoulder and carry them down the hill because it’s just too deep? Well this board shape allows even kids to get out and have fun on those days. The nose of the board wants to shoot up and out of the snow making it ideal for these conditions. Not to mention the added ability to easily pivot the board and make fore/aft movements, giving the average snowboarder a better riding experience when the snow is deep.
On that same subject, children don’t have the fully developed muscles that an adult does, making it very difficult for them to make some of the essential movements on a traditional cambered board. When we put them on a “rocker” snowboard, we’ve made it much easier for them to experience some of the movements that are key to good snowboarding; specifically those fore/aft and pivoting movements which are essential to riding steeps, bumps, park and halfpipe. This design can more easily allow a child to blend movements as it has a much looser feel on the snow and doesn’t feel like it’s glued to the ground below you. The earlier we can get a snowboarder to learn and experience good movements in riding, the more successful they are going to be in the long run.
While there are many versions out there I’m going to focus on just one of them for this part of the article. This is the camber rocker, aka; dual camber, C2, mustache shape. These boards are reverse camber dominant but have camber underneath each foot. This one is my personal favorites, giving me that loose, pivot feeling of the rocker board, yet is still quite stable, much like the traditional cambered boards. This is my “anywhere – anytime board” – it is the most versatile of all the options, although it can still be a bit unstable when conditions are icy because of the centered point of contact. Being a very versatile board containing the benefits of camber and rocker, this board shape handles itself well in powder, steeps, park and groomers.
One of the greatest benefits of this design I’ve found personally, and for my students, is that it forces the rider to stay more centered in their stance. Too much movement fore/aft and you’re likely to lose your balance and nose dive or fall backwards. Students are going to have an increased likelihood of discovering how much they should move when there is less room for error. Given that, I would never suggest putting your students in a situation where they are likely to fall and get hurt. Make sure the equipment you choose is right for them.
While there are many different board shapes out there beyond what are in this article, it is up to you as a coach to figure out which one is right for your individual students. Hopefully the short descriptions in the article will give you a general framework for each of these board designs to help guide you in the right direction. I would strongly suggest trading boards with friends at the hill or checking out one of your local demo days and testing out some of the options so that you as an instructor can get a feel for each of these designs and be able to give a good recommendation to your students.
And remember that just because a board doesn’t feel good to you doesn’t mean that it’s not a good board for someone else. We each have our own riding style, body shape and preferences when it comes to snowboarding and it should be our goal to help our students discover these things for themselves and support them moving forward.
Greg Nelson is the Assistant Director and Training Manager at Summit Learning Center at The Summit at Snoqualmie. He is a Snowboard Level III, Freestyle Specialist 3 and Children’s Specialist 1 instructor. Email him at gnelson[at]summiti90[dot]com
Why go from Seattle to White Pass, to Bluewood, to 49° North, to Mt. Spokane, and to Mission Ridge? The more appropriate question for all of us west-siders is, “Why not?”
With this route, none of these areas are more than four hours apart. Think of it as a ski cruise with wonderful people, great food, beautiful scenery, and great skiing at each “port of call”. Between destinations, you’ll see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world—eastern Washington. Compared to most cruise ship cabins, the rooms, even at the cheaper motels I stayed in, are spacious and don’t bob! If you use your PSIA member benefits carefully, you can keep lift ticket cost to near zero.
Not convinced this should be your next road trip? Read on! We left Seattle for Packwood about 5 pm and arrived about 9pm. There were lots of vacancies in town. But call months ahead, if you want to be on the mountain. They often sell out for the whole season.
White Pass is about a twenty minute drive from Packwood. An early breakfast on the mountain lets you savoir the mountain and lodge coming to life under the gaze of Mt. Rainier. The sun was brilliant and only a small cloud cap briefly topped Rainier. The surrounding hills stand out as a backcountry skier paradise. The new lifts double the terrain and even though we arrived the second day after a storm, there were plenty of stashes in the trees and off the sides of packed powder groomers. Before leaving the mountain, be sure to stop by Davey’s Yurt below the base of chair 4. Maybe the great beer on tap explains why everyone is so friendly or maybe it’s just White Pass.
Off to Dayton, but leave time for the sites along the way to Yakima, the Tri-Cities, and Walla Walla. Early March or later leaves lots of daylight. There are plenty of wine tasting opps. Wow! Are the sunsets always this fantastic in Eastern Washington? You can’t miss the Laht Neppur (Drink to Life) Brewing Co. and Cellars in Waitsburg. There’s a sign at the main intersection, “Warning: Brew Pub Ahead.” I’d recommend the Toe Tingler Stout, but it will be gone by the time you get there. The brewmeister lost his award winning recipe. But he’ll have something great for you, too, to take along a 34 oz. mason jar or a 32 oz. growler. The Waldon House Inn is a great B&B with large hot tub and free lift tickets with suite or room. There are a couple of motels in Dayton. It’s about 30 minutes to Bluewood. Get there early to get your request in for the breakfast burrito. It’s a local favorite and you’ll need the extra time to eat it all before the lifts open. Check out the ski school for Doug. After the pm line up he gave Chelsea Moore his blessing to show me some of her favorite stashes. In the morning she had pointed out her favorite runs to me on the map after holding the door for me. It wasn’t hard to guess she was a ski instructor. We could all take lessons on the customer service model from her. Take a hike to intersect the proposed new chair line. It’s worth it especially if it’s been snowing all morning! Bluewood is another great area for backcountry enthusiasts, but don’t get lost. It’s only four miles to Oregon!
The Palouse is always fascinating to me. Winter wheat sprouting under a few inches of snow makes the fields a patchwork of green lawns and white blankets as the sun melts the south facing slopes. Pillow after pillow of patchwork beauty stretches out before you. Scoot through Spokane where you can hit a Costco just before leaving town. You don’t have a co-pilot with a smart phone to find the cheapest gas? You may find basing in north Spokane an option. We drove the hour to Chewelah through the tail end of the weekend storm. I do have to recommend the Norlig Motel. Friendly owner, operators Paul and Andrea Tredeau offer Adrea’s fresh muffins with the complimentary breakfast and discount vouchers for 49° North for non-PSIA members in your group. Wonderful folks are on staff and in the ski school. When I told the mountain host I wanted to ski trees, steeps and deep, he said, “Let me call Rose.” Chair 5 was closed for winds, but Rose led me through trees off Chair 4 over and over and over! Of course, that increasing, untouched powder off Chair 5 beckoned us back for yet another day. Rose invited us to check out the Prime Timers group which meets on Tuesdays at 49° since we’d decided to stay the extra day. They started signing in early and are enthusiastic skiers and boarders who clearly enjoy sharing the love of the sport and stories.
I was introduced to Sherry, also a mountain host for the day, who had taught and patrolled in the Northwest. She was heading out so a couple of Prime Timers and I joined her. She accessed my skiing across the top of the mountain and decided we should just head out to Roller Coaster. Since it’s the farthest out, it gave up untracked run after run. The rollers on the hill proved it was rightly named. Slight line adjustments proved to create delightful explorations of the powder and terrain. Of course, then we were off to some glades and trees. Sherry invited us to join the Prime Timers for their après ski in the bar. Two dollars for great appies and conversation! Some of the 49° North Prime Timers also belong to the Mt. Spokane Prime Timers. They said we absolutely had to hit Mt. Spokane tomorrow, Wednesday, since it is closed Monday and Tuesday and the snow had been coming down since Sunday. Also Wednesdays are Mt. Spokane Prime Timers’ day.
Mt. Spokane has condos near the mountain, but it’s only 30 minutes from several inexpensive motels on the north side of Spokane. True to plan, we arrived with two days of snow on the hill and more coming down. The Prime Timer’s came to the rescue, but that’s another story! Brad turned out to be a previous ski patroller, instructor, part-time ski shop salesman, retired firefighter, and proud participant in many heliski adventures. He knew the best tree runs with snow coming down and the best lines off the top as the weather cleared. At lunch a group headed out for some side country and I couldn’t pass that up. Rob, leading the group, cautioned us to pick a partner and never lose sight of each other. As we started off the back side and into a wide glade, Mike and his partner made four turns, cut left into the trees, and I didn’t see them until the bottom.
I headed down the gut of the meadow with a “V” of trees ahead and nothing but untracked ahead of me and the others to my right. As we hit the trees, I imagined the God of Powder had lined them up just for me. I howled with joy, encouraged by the group. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, “Because there’s powder, I know there’s a God who loves us and wants us to be happy.” As we got to the trail back, Mike was being helped out of a creek by his partner. He must have thanked Brad three times on the hike out. Brad had insisted we stick with our partners and Mike knew he would have been in serious trouble with his. I’ll remember those turns and friends forever. Thanks Mt. Spokane and Prime Timers.
The last leg of our cruise through eastern Washington was the trek on Highway 2 from Spokane to Wenatchee. Truly awesome! Snow on the Columbia plateau is phenomenal as the sun sets in late winter. Stop by Grand Coulee, if time allows. Our wheeled cruise through eastern Washington was a spectacular palette of vistas, valleys, gorges, and canyons. Wenatchee has plenty of motels, B&B’s and restaurants and it’s a short drive to Mission Ridge. Of course, (are your picking up the plan yet?) Mission had been closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and the snow had been piling up. Being early once again paid off. Although I waited 45 minutes in line for the lifts to open, I was 27th out of at least 150 lined up. The locals love their mountain and flock there on a day like this. I followed a group of four that looked serious and I was not disappointed. A powder morning at Mission can turn into an afternoon of spring skiing. The sun came out by noon. The mountain and surrounding terrain were gorgeous. As we were greeted at the beginning of our trip, Mt. Rainier also bid us farewell. And so we ended our ski cruise of eastern Washington.
Why would you? Five great areas, six days of fantastic skiing and riding, gorgeous scenery, wonderful people – Why not!
Ray is a PSIA Level III Alpine instructor with Summit Learning Center. He has skied over 60 different ski areas in North America. He doesn’t claim to have invented the road trip, but is committed to perfecting it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Text and photos by Linda Cowan
The state of education in our nation is a hot topic. As a result, the amount of research and study on the practices that lead to student learning are reaching unprecedented levels. The Center for Educational Leadership works in partnerships with school districts across the nation employing current research from University of Washington’s College of Education to maximize learning for all students. Core elements of high quality instruction are a primary focus of their work. There are several dimensions, but two of the key elements for effective instruction are purpose and teaching point.
The purpose of this snowsports tip is to share the importance of having a clear purpose and teaching point every time we step in front of a group of students (or athletes if you’re a coach.)
Purpose is defined as being the “why or because”of our teaching, and the teaching point is the ‘what or how’ we achieve that purpose. Let me give an example of how I would start my teaching segment with a clear teaching point and purpose once my students have warmed up.
Follow me through this familiar scenario: After watching my students skate to the lift line, for our first run together, I can’t help but notice their hips continuously falling behind their feet. Now, I begin thinking through what I want to teach
“Class, everyone gather around, we have some important learning to do today! Effective skiers have continuous shin cuff contact because it allows them to balance on a moving surface.”
My teaching point (TP) in this teaching segment is to have continuous shin cuff contact, and the purpose for this movement is to stay balanced on a moving surface. By having a clear purpose for my teaching, now, every decision I make during this teaching cycle is intentional and meaningful and centered around this purpose.
“OK group, I am going to model for you what shin cuff contact looks like. What do you notice? Where are my hips? Where are my shoulders?”
I like to have my students quickly turn and talk with a neighbor so everyone is engaged in what I want them to see and eventually do. Cognitive engagement moves students towards physical success, and when I’ve heard several comments that show me understanding, I continue teaching. This is also checking for understanding, but holds higher accountability than “Does everyone understand?” which is a question most students are reluctant to respond with a “no.”
“Now I want to model for you what skiing backwards slowly in a wedge looks like and feels like on my shins. Remember shin cuff contact helps me to balance on a moving surface (TP). Once I can feel my shins against the front of my boots, I’m going to turn around and try to produce the same sensation on my shins while moving forward.”
While moving through the teaching cycle, we know that students need to understand the teaching point for themselves, so I continue to weave in my teaching point verbally throughout my lesson as I model and share feedback with each student. The reason? If my supervisor slides up to my class, he or she should be able to ask any child (or adult) in my lesson, “What are you learning right now?” And my students need to be able to answer, “We are working on constant shin cuff contact because it helps us balance.” If my students are not able to articulate what we are doing and why, is my teaching truly effective? If I don’t hold my students accountable for understanding, how can they apply this learning to another environment on their own?
Providing effective instruction has many benefits for both students and instructors. For instructors, always having a clear teaching point and purpose, keeps our lessons meaningful and focused. For our students, this helps them to clearly see and understand what we are doing, and why and supports their owning the information for themselves, which should always be our end goal as teachers.
Linda Cowan is a member of the PSIA-NW Technical Team, is an Alpine Examiner, coaches for Stevens Pass Alpine Club at Stevens Pass and is a 5th grade teacher at Woodmoor Elementary School, in Bothell, WA. Email: email@example.com