Snowboard the Alps

Beginner’s Guide to Snowboarding in the Swiss Alps

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First-Time Snowboarding Tips

Spring is probably the best time of year to learn to snowboard. If you are anywhere near the Swiss Alps, it’s time to hit the slopes and the après ski. Moving to Switzerland without any skiing or snowboarding experience is like showing up to a Zumba class you’ve never been to and realizing that everyone else knows the routine very quickly. 

If you are new to the world of snowboarding and find yourself at the top of Gornergrat, taking in the glistening peaks and iconic Matterhorn while simultaneously having a nervous breakdown, here are some simple snowboarding tips to get you started.

View of the Matterhorn from Gornergrat in Zermatt, Switzerland. December 2018.

1. Listen to the Burton Snowboards How I Built This Podcast

A little inspiration goes a long way. Did you know snowboarding is a relatively new sport? Recently, Guy Raz interviewed Jake Carpenter, the man credited with co-inventing the snowboard. In 1977, he set out to design a better version of a stand-up sled he used to ride as a kid. He worked by himself at a studio in Londonderry, Vermont, incorporated Burton Snowboards, and crafted what is now known as a modern-day snowboard. Burton is recognized as the largest snowboarding brand in the world.

2. Flea Market Finds

Snowboarding can be expensive. It requires a lot of specific gear, and day passes at ski resorts aren’t cheap. Find a local flea market and sift through some of their winter offerings. I found my snowboarding boots at a weekend flea market in Zurich, Switzerland, for 7 francs ($7 USD) last season.  Use your network and ask friends if they have any old boards, helmets, or gloves to borrow. You can also use online tools such as Facebook Marketplace to buy used gear. My friend found a pair of ski goggles for free!

3. Take at Least One Lesson

I took five snowboarding trips to the mountains before taking a lesson. I wasted valuable time because I couldn’t toe-side turn, despite watching numerous online videos beforehand and trying to teach myself. This meant I side-slipped down the entire mountain (note: This isn’t an ideal method for your entire run, but it is a key skill to learn early on as it is the only effective way to control your speed). Once I linked up with a true snowboarder, it was amazing how quickly I could “monkey see, monkey do.” I finally learned how to toe-side turn, and it changed my ability and experience.

4. Don’t Worry About Other People

I was hyper-aware of those behind me and those above me in the chairlift, afraid to be in their way or afraid they’d laugh at me when I fell. Tip #1: The people behind you are aware of you, so you don’t have to be aware of them. Tip #2: Learn to laugh at yourself; falling in front of a crowd makes it much less frightening. For me, it’s easiest to forget about others when I’m plugged in. I put on my favorite Spotify playlist, POLLEN, and never looked back.

5. Take Pictures of Your Feet in Bindings

This will make you feel cool.

Snowboarding Switzerland
The Titlis Mountain is the highlight in Central Switzerland and the only developed glacier in the area.


6. Don’t Wait for Après Ski

Pat yourself on the back and swing through the mid-run ice bar at Iglu-Dorf in Zermatt, Switzerland, for white or red mulled wine.

Mulled red wine at Iglu Dorf in Zermatt, Switzerland

7. Don’t Miss Après Ski

Don’t wait for après ski, but don’t miss it either. One of the liveliest après scenes in Switzerland is at Flims Laax. They are known for having one of the best snowparks in Europe. There you’ll find the infamous Riders’ Palace Club & Lobby. You can hear the spirited music oozing out of the Lobby walls from 5 PM until 4 AM. The adjacent Palace Club offers live bands from 9 PM until 1 AM.  

8. Wear a Helmet

Protecting your brain is important!

9. Watch YouTube Videos

Learning how to mobilize with a snowboard on flat surfaces and getting on/off of a chairlift can give new snowboarders a bit of angst. In these cases, practice certainly helps. Another way to learn effective tactics is to watch videos online and observe closely how snowboarders move about. Watch this video about learning how to walk around on the flats:

and this video about surviving the dreaded chairlift:

10. Take a Buddy

Nothing is greater than tumbling down the mountain to find your friend waiting for you at the lift. It makes the chairlift less daunting and the mulled wine a lot sweeter. Together you can tackle the Bernese slopes in Meiringen or soar above Lake Walen in Flumserberg. What are you waiting for?

Shredding the Alps This Season?

Check out Pimsleur’s Swiss-German, German, Italian, and French courses! And don’t forget to use code BLOG for a cool discount.

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