In his guest blog, professional snowboarder Alex Payer shares how he got into snowboarding and gives you some tips on how to get started in this sport.
My first step into snowboarding.
People keep on asking me why I decided to become a snowboarder and not a skier. But I don’t really have a satisfying answer to “why”. Maybe it was the fact that snowboarding was very trendy at the crucial moment of my youth or that my father was so into board sports that he always took me boarding with him.
Reflecting on it myself, I think it was more the appeal of trying something new and unknown for the time (we’re talking about the late 90s here). I was one of only a few boarders on the slopes and yet the number of kids on the slopes was increasing quickly. This is, of course, the ideal environment to take up a new sport and stick with it. The kids I hung out with back then are still my best friends today and that’s maybe the special thing about snowboarding for me – the team spirit of the scene combined with the fun on the mountain. No matter what board, age or skill level.
What’s the best way to start off with snowboarding?
Snowboarding is like any other sport – at the beginning you need a certain amount of motivation, then everything comes a little bit easier. In my opinion, the best way is still to know someone within your family or circle of friends who can support you during your first few hours on the board. I would advise against independent snowboarding alone, as it often takes a long time to reach a level of success. That’s why it’s best to start with friends or book a course in a snowboard school in as small a group as possible. After a few hours in the beginner’s terrain, the mountains are open to you.
Suitable age for learning how to snowboard?
I am and always will be a fan of using the opportunity to learn different forms of movement as early as possible. From personal experience, I would recommend around the age of 5 as a good age to start. In my past, however, four-year-olds have accompanied me on the board – and once a seven-year-old with a shoe size of 11.5 showed me how to do the perfect carving turn.
For the first attempts at going on the snow, I recommend boarding alongside skiing, because as I said, every form of movement is an advantage for later life.
I can only agree with the saying “you’re never too old to give it a go”: snowboarding is a form of exercise for life and therefore there is no upper restriction as far as the starting age is concerned. It may be a little harder to get going as you get older, but once you’ve taken your first step and got used to the board under your legs, age doesn’t matter!
Which board is right for you and when? Hard boots vs soft boots?
Probably the toughest, most philosophically challenging topic in the snowboarding world. When I started snowboarding, this question essentially never came up since the hard boot setup actually dominated the slopes. Freestyling with soft boots was more park-based. For me, there’s still nothing on the groomed slopes that comes close to the carving fun of a raceboard with hard boots, even though softboard equipment has come on in leaps and bounds.
That’s why I don’t really think there’s a right or wrong here, but simply recommend that people try out both, because for me they are related and yet different types of snowboarding. If you want to carve down the slopes quickly and elegantly – you’re more of a racer. And, if you prefer the playful approach – then you’re a freestyler. But first and foremost you are always a snowboarder. ;-)
Material – The favourite topic of snowboarders.
I’m not sure if there’s any other sport (apart from road cycling) where there is so much discussion about material, trends and tuning as in snowboarding. For me, this is an unending field and anyone who delves deeper into the sport will at some point be faced with the crucial questions of the board world.
Which board, which boot, which binding, gloves and so on. No parameter is neglected in the normal way and yet, from my point of view, it all comes down to a few points:
Favourite slope in the skiing area Bad Kleinkirchheim.
The skiing area you’re boarding in is at least as important as the equipment and skills. If you are a carver like me, the main thing is to find wide and well-groomed slopes, because nothing is more tiring than a slope in poor condition.
That’s why I particularly enjoy boarding in the skiing area Bad Kleinkirchheim on the slopes around the Biosphärenparkbahn Brunnach and the Spitzeckbahn - because both the slope and the sunny setting are important factors for me for a successful day on the board.
The slope Spitzeckabfahrt (24) in particular has become a real favourite for me with the modern 6-seater chairlift. Fast turns, a steep start and a perfect slope width for carvers make this slope my absolute favourite.
Bad Kleinkirchheim's skiing area = snowboarder-friendly.
The skiing area Bad Kleinkirchheim is definitely a skiing area where there’s something for everyone. Wide slopes, hardly any flat draw paths and an extremely varied topography offer huge potential for snowboarders. If you prefer sunboarding, then the best way to start your boarding day is with the Biosphärenparkbahn Brunnach. If you prefer the more challenging, steeper slopes then I recommend starting the day with the Kaiserburgbahn. Especially when there’s fresh snow, the area around the Kaiserburg summit is a must, as this area offers perfect tree runs in the middle of the Nockberge and the panoramic view is priceless.
If you really want to challenge your muscles in a highly active way, I can recommend a ski area circuit from the peaks of the Kaiserburg to those of the Brunnachhöhe and back. The schnitzel dinner tastes especially good after all the altitude.