How To Carve On A Snowboard; Tear The Mountain Up

When you learn how to carve on a snowboard, it opens new possibilities on the mountain. Carving is elegant, sleek, and an epic tool to use.

On my last post, I wrote how to do a skidded turn, that’s a basic move and is still used in snowboarding. When you learn how to carve, you’ll develop a sense of what style of turn to use, and how it will effect your speed/run etc.

Depending on the snowboarder and how athletic they are, it could take 1 visit to the mountain or 3-4 for them to learn how to carve. That’s not saying everyone will learn in that time, that’s been the average I’ve seen.

What Is Carving In Snowboarding?

Carving Is Using The Edge Of Your Snowboard To Direct Your Turn. True Carves Will Leave A Trail Behind You, That’s No Wider Than The Height Of The Snowboard. While Carving, You’ll Maintain Your Speed And Control Better Than Other Turning Styles.

I learned how to carve a decade ago, and then I got lazy. For awhile, I’d even forgotten there was a difference between skidded turns and carving. While skidded turns are great, and very useful, if you want to shred hard, you’ll need every skill possible in your arsenal.

For awhile I only did skidded turns, and even bragged about never falling during a season.

If You’re Not Falling, You’re Not Learning

Ski Jammers Instructors

Whenever I’m in a true carve, it’s an amazing feeling. I’m applying pressure to my feet, and I’m in an epic arc across the mountain. When you look back you’ll see this perfect arc, or a broken one, either way you’re having a great day.

You’re gonna learn how to experience this feeling today.

Snowboard Terminology That You’ll Need To Know:

  • Heel-side: This is the metal edge of your snowboard where the heel is. For regular footed snowboarders it’s the left side, and goofy the right.
  • Toe-side: This is the edge of your snowboard where toe is. For regular footed snowboarders it’s the right side, and goofy the left.
  • Skidded Turn: The first type of turning a snowboarder will learn. If you haven’t learned this click here to learn this before carving.
  • Green Circle: The easiest rating for a run at any ski/snowboard resort. Green circles are usually wide and not steep.
  • Traverse: To Cross The Hill Horizontally. Usually Through Carving Or Skidded Turns. Sometimes By Skating.

How To Prepare For Your 1st Carve.

Whenever I’m teaching a new skill to my students, I always have them look at their stance prior to the lesson. If you have a sloppy stance whatever skill you’re trying to learn becomes 10 times harder. This is mostly due to horrible leverage, and bad balance.

Wide Flat Runs
Wide Flat Runs Similar To This One

For example : if you’re trying to learn how to ollie, but your body weight is not centered over the board. Your balance will be off and any tension you create in the tail could diminish the power available for the maneuver.

I’ve put together a couple of simple tips below, but I’ll also recommend strapping in on flat ground. Rock back from side to side on your snowboard and get a feel for your edges.

Start out standing and then crouching. You should feel a greater range of motion when crouching. This is how you’ll beginning to feel your edge, once you do that, you’re ready for the mountain.

After you find your edge on flat ground, head over to a shallow but wide green run. You want something wide so you can make the best use of the carve. You’re doing this to get a feel for your edge, and it’ll be easier in a wide open space. Don’t let the run get to steep, but you will need some speed.

Basic Tips For Learning How To Carve

how to carve on a snowboard
  1. Stay centered over the snowboard.
  2. Keep an athletic stance when carving. It makes initiating and completing the carve easier. Crouching is Good, The Lower The Better!!!
  3. Practice carving on a bunny hill or a wide green first. Then increase the difficulty as your skills become epic.
  4. If necessary, widen your board stance a tiny bit. It gives a bit more stability and helps balance things out.
  5. You’re going to wipe out, if you aren’t falling, you’re not learning. Embrace the failure.

Don’t Worry About Bailing, Because You Will

Don’t worry about falling, you’re improving your skills. When I forced myself to learn switch riding last year. I did it in front of the main chalet where all my friends were. I was made fun of for falling a lot. However, my switch riding is way better than any of theirs now, and I regularly show them up doing it.

So it evens out…eventually

How To Begin A Carve?

So now we’re getting into the actual how-to part of this post. The first few times you try this, it won’t look pretty. The first goal is to get a feel for your edge, and the pressure you’ll need to apply that’ll keep that edge.

How To Begin:

If you’re regular and not goofy, start on the left hand side of the run. Strap in and begin your ride down. Keep slow, and get low.

Maintain a straight path until you have a very little amount of speed, (not too much just enough to engage your toes) lean into your toes a little bit (both of them). You’ll notice when you’re putting pressure on your toes and crouching. That you’re turning right, and making a U shape trail in the snow.

As long as you’ve stayed in a crouched position and kept similar pressure on both toes, you should do alright.

Congrats, you just did your first cave. Look back and see what areas of the line aren’t edge thin, and keep repeating this until you go it.

Keep in mind the motions are super simple to do, but there is a lot of moving parts. Crouching low will give you balance, and digging your toes in digs the snowboard edge into the snow (play with this for a bit, be gentle or it could hurt). Crouch while you’re gaining speed and beginning the carve. When you’re half way through begin to stand up. This will help you keep the pressure even, the board make an even arc across the hill. When done correctly, you’ll even find yourself going uphill and losing speed.

Carving Tips Summary:

  1. Stay Crouched For The First Half Of The U.
  2. Apply Pressure On The Toe Side, And Make A Gradual Arc.
  3. Halfway Through, Begin standing up from the crouching position (slowly). This Will Keep Pressure On Your Edge And You Should Run Out Of Speed Forming The Top Of There U.

What Should The Trail Look Like?

If you’ve done a carve correctly, the line behind your snowboard should be extremely thin, and a natural arc (shaped like a U, although it might be a wide stretched U). If it looks like a banana (thin/wide/thin) that’s more of a skidded turn. Keep practicing until you get the motion/feel down.

With a lot of patience and practice you’ll begin to see the thin line your working towards.

Remember, you’re not there yet. Once you’re comfortable with the toe-side, it’s time for you to work on heels. Eventually when you get comfortable with these. You can begin linking these turns together, and make the carving tighter, this is where things can become epic.

Mastering The Carve: Next Steps

Once you’ve mastered the heel side and toe side, or at the very least gotten comfortable with carving on them. I recommend you up the ante and start riding switch. By learning to carve both toe-side and heel-side you open up a whole new world of possibilities. 180s aren’t as scary, and it improves your regular riding because it helps your balance.

A lot of snowboarders don’t like to ride switch, but it’ll helps immensely with your shredding. It does take awhile to get comfortable (took me a whole day and then some), but when you do, you feel more control. You’ll also have a skill that many snowboarders don’t.

While you’re doing this, you’ll probably be falling down and feel some pain. Try to stay focused, know what you’re trying to learn and don’t get frustrated. Take breaks often and drink plenty of water.

Eventually you’ll get a good feel for your edges (sometimes after many tries and bails) but eventually, you’ll see a beautiful arc behind your snowboard.

Vindication is a great thing when you’re learning a new trick. I know you can do this.

Start Linking Your Carves

What good is being able to do an arc across the mountain, when you lose speed uphill and then stop? This is where linked turns come in. When you’ve mastered the ability to carve on your toe-side and heel-side. The next step is linking the carves together. Keep them wide at first, but then start bringing the carves in tight. This helps keep your speed up, and gives you a good feel for control.

Carving On A Snowboard

Your line should look like an S going down the mountain, and it gets tighter and tighter (less wide) as you get better at it.

Edge Rolls – Tighten Your Carving Drill

Once you’ve made some tight S lines (say that fast). You’ve reached an awesome point, and it is time make them even tighter. A really good drill to learn is a maneuver called an edge roll. An edge roll is a really tight, heel side carve followed by a tight toe side carve. Your upper body won’t be doing much during this move, and the snowboard is mostly focused on going down hill.

A proper edge roll goes side to side, and probably never gets larger than 3-4 feet. The trails look like rounded zig zags down the mountain. Keep them smooth, tight, and see how small you can get them.

In other words, Your S shouldn’t be wider than 4 feet the entire way down the mountain.

Simple Carving Tips

Learning to carve on a snowboard is mostly about getting low and toe-side or heel-side pressure. Your center of gravity will work against you if you are standing up. If you’re having issues, get lower. Another saying I repeat to my students is; Stay low and dig your edge in.

When you’re digging the edge in, stay balanced inside the carve. You should feel like you’re pushing the board against the curve/snow. When you feel this, you’re feeling the edge, and you’re doing something right. You’ll sometimes have the tendency to stand up, and in deeper carves you can definitely play with that. However, if you stay low it’ll be easier to initiate the next carve. 

Learn To Carve Steps Simplified:

  1. Start On The Left Or Right Side Of Hill: Gain A Little Speed
  2. Initiate carve: (Heel-Side/Toe-Side Pressure)
  3. Halfway Through Carve: Begin to press the board edge down by rising up a little inside the curve.
  4. At the end of the carve: Start dropping low again.
  5. Switch edges: Begin initiating the next carve on the opposite edge.
  6. Repeat until you’re at the bottom. Or decide to hit up a tree run.

It’s natural to stand up a little, especially when you’re in a really tight carves and you’re pressing the board edge against the snow. Don’t forget to plan your next few moves. When it’s time to initiate the next carve be crouched, ready to go again.

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