Sweat, shred and (no) tears: cut the miles to good snowboarding

Words by Anna Langer, photography by Charlie Davies

We all know what it feels like to really, really want to do something better, but not quite knowing exactly how to achieve it. Get that grade, impress this boss, stick that trick, nail this turn.To become better at snowboarding, there are different paths to follow. Watch and absorb as much snowboarding as you can – imitation is a major learning technique. Go riding as often as possible – repetition is as well. But nothing has proved to be as successful as snowboard coaching.

Which is why from GAP 1328 to High Cascade, camps have always played a major role in snowboarding. Unfortunately many girls camps seem to be missing the ultimate objective. Of course, many girls do put having fun over actually improving their riding, but perhaps a camp focussed on bringing us together to ride, and have fun with like minded shreddettes is exactly what many of us need. Sometimes you want to forget about all the unicorns, rainbows and pink bows, about looking cute on the mountain and worrying about falling on your ass in front of a guy, and get some serious work done.

And Kieran Sharp is the man able to provide you with such a camp. Offering his profound and extensive knowledge of snowboarding and shred psychology to you on a silver platter, Keiran gives you the tools to work it out for yourself,  getting you to rise above your own inhibitions, fears, or whatever else is standing in your way to become a better snowboarder.

Having worked with coaching legends including Neil McNab, Dan Burton and Keith Macintosh, Keiran eventually developed his own method of teaching, based on the flow of energy and the rider’s psyche. “I mixed all their ideas together and added some of my own, trying to simplify things. So my technique keeps to three basic principles: energy movement in your body, within the board and the physics of the mountain.” Instead of cluttering your mind with precise technical advice and specific, structured movements, he aims to give his students a logical understanding of the flow of energy. “Instead of thinking about how to move your feet to get the board to pop or turn, you can just think about spreading energy through the board to the different corners.”

This may all sound easy, but in fact it’s not. Not at all actually. Because on a course with him you will soon realise that your riding is full of mistakes/flaws and ‘bad habits’ as he calls it. “90% of people riding have all the same common problems – for example the knee of the back foot is coming in when they turn and their body isn’t positioned in line with the board at all. A lot of this comes from fear when you first start snowboarding, even if you don’t know about it.  Going from the toe edge to your heel edge for example, you want to look around to see where you’re going because you’re afraid to knock into something, while you should actually be looking ahead, straight over your front shoulder, with arms by your side and body in line with the board.” In order to become a better snowboarder, to be able to ride more challenging terrain or make it easier to learn new tricks, you need to change the memory of your muscles and make your body switch on the ‘good’ ones.

Okay yes, it does look rather stupid sometimes but the coaching definitely pays out!

“It can be a long process and it’s not always straight up, you might even feel like you’re getting worse before you’re getting better. You basically learn how to ride again but going through that period of change is what will help your snowboarding.” You might feel stupid and frustrated at first, thinking you can’t ride anymore, but this is what it takes to clear your muscle memory from years and years of riding experience. “You have to be very focused on yourself and responsive to what’s happening within your board. When you realise things aren’t going so right, look at your body and make changes, keep making changes, keep making changes. Even if that back knee keeps coming in, keeps coming in – keep pushing it out. pushing it out until it becomes something that’s just there all the time. Then that’s it in your muscle memory. Even then you might still have to think about it.” About at least 2000 times, as this is supposedly how many repetitions it takes to manifest a new set of memories or habits.

And believe us, you will see a clear change in your riding. Because Blue Mile Snowsports isn’t just a camp you attend to have fun or to learn a certain trick, but has a long term outlook, as Keiran explains “My goal is to make everyone who comes on the course not just benefit right after the course but progress their riding for the rest of their lives and take responsibility of their own learning.” Because once you are aware of what’s going on and what’s going wrong, you won’t be able to ignore your mistakes. This consciousness will also help you with specific problems and goals, like approaching a jump or spinning a trick, as it trains your mind how to switch on the good set of habits in your body.

With the mind playing such a vital part, Keiran is convinced that girls learn better when they’re on their own. On a psychological level – no Pretty in Pink or happy cruising – he clarifies that: “girls are more technically minded when it comes to snowboarding and like a lot more information, where as guys are pretty forward and just go for it. I can see that when girls are with guys they feel the pressure to perform in the same way. They don’t really try to go for the same tricks as the guys, as they see them going a little bit bigger or a little bit faster than they would feel comfortable and so they don’t try at all.” Working within a group of girls  is the best way to work at our own pace, with our own sense of camaraderie and ambition, with no fears of the boys stealing our thunder.

This doesn’t mean that riding together is a bad idea, however. We can learn a lesson or two from shredding with the guys, benefitting most of all by getting a bit more brute force into our riding, pushing ourselves to clear the kicker instead of landing on the knuckle. And vice versa, our other halves can benefit from our more precise and technical approach. and of course, be “pushed by showing off in front of the girls,” as Keiran adds with a bit of an apologetic smile.

Go for it dudes, just expect to be impressed by us as well!

Blue Mile Snowsports is based in the beautiful valley of Chamonix, where you can find all kind of terrain you can dream of – and learn on. Get there from Geneva Airport, is taking snow equipment without extra charges.

Big thanks to Cham Van, who made sure we got around nice, easy and safely, and ChamoFix Massage, without whom’s treatment there would definitely have been a lot more tears….

After this camp, you'll be able to jump like this as well


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