Is your heel to toe turn the weak link in your snowboarding?
Do you suffer from lower back and/or back leg pain during your holidays both on and off piste? Do you often feel your heel edge locking or catching in the snow as you turn onto your toes? Do you struggle getting onto your toe edge in powder? Is riding switch a nightmare?
Have a look at this video and see if it looks familiar in terms of how you turn onto your toe edge.
Look at how they rise for the turn onto the toe edge and due to their weight being more towards the back leg/tail they have to use their shoulders and hips to force the board around. Of course you can kick the board around and make it down the hill in one piece, but at that moment of edge change you’re slightly unbalanced and vulnerable to what the snow throws as you (lumps/bumps etc).
This is a very common picture in peoples riding, which is often the result of how you’re initially taught to ride. The basic turn often involves standing up, changing edge in the fall line and sinking down to brake. That is a great technique to get you down the slope but over time peoples weight gradually shifts to the back leg making changing edge more difficult, so they start to use their shoulders and hips to push the board around.
Over time I work to change this pattern in peoples riding by getting them to pressure rather than unweight the edge during the turn. This enables us to more effectively explore trees, moguls, off piste and make quick turn adjustments in the park or piste. But first lets look a your setup.
Many people chuck their bindings on their board without any consideration for how they can effect their balance on their board. Bindings give you the option to slide them towards to toe and heel edge as well as towards the nose and tail of the board.
You want to be balanced on the board, so you’ll want to look at your boots in the bindings and aim to have an even amount of heel and toe overhanging on each edge. If you’re heels are overhanging too much then that will certainly hinder your heel to toe edge turn. Adjust the disks and the heel cups if possible to create that balance.
The easiest way to check the overhang is to flip your board over and look directly at the boots, as shown in the photo above. This is an easy fix that will help boost confidence in turning onto your toes and you do not have to work as hard to get your body over the toe edge.
Pressure the toe edge beyond the front foot
If you’re able to put downward pressure onto the board as you’re riding you’ll have way more control and stability as you drive the edge into the snow and lower your centre of mass. Next time you’re out riding, stop on your heel edge. Try and push your front knee to the farthest corner of your toe edge.
You’ll find that the board will start to drop for the turn without you having to do anything else. Try to relax and not rush the turn. Your front shoulder will drop naturally and you flex your front knee. Go with the movement and resist the urge to force the board around.
As you finish the turn, aim to be centred on your board with even weight between both feet and your head up. That will create a platform enabling you to be better prepared for the next turn as well as help you remain stable and balanced in the braking phase.
This technique is especially useful when starting to learn switch. To speed up the initial turn from the board, slightly lift your back toes just as you start to push your front knee out. That will create more of a twist in the board that will help speed up the turn. Only hold them up for the first 30–45 degrees of a turn otherwise the heel edge will start to catch in the snow.
Good luck and let me know how you get on.