Core Project

Learn To Snowboard

Learn to Snowboard 

This article takes you through my experience with learning to snowboard. Detailing how the project started, my experience with it and the surprising transferable skills gained. 

Key Summary 

  • Wrist guards are pretty useful

  • Back yourself! if you're at the top of a Mountain you will find a way down, even if it's on foot

  • Most people have a preference for facing either up or down the slope when learning

  • Speak things into existence

  • The more squats you can do before giving it a go the better prepared you'll be

  • When using a button lift make sure your body faces sideways, if you feel unsteady look away from the top of the slope

  • Most of your weight will be on the front of the board not the back

  • Find more spontaneous trips! 

How the project started  

This Project has the craziest backstory of any I’ve completed so far.

It all began with a casual plan to hit a local ski slope with my dad to flying out to Italy with 6 Italians I barely knew to tackle red slopes and chair lifts on my first-ever snowboarding experience! We even went for lunch with an Olympic skier. 

How did that happen? Well let me explain

Growing up I had been a very keen, albeit nervous, skier. 

Around age 8, my dad took me to a local dry slope to teach me the basics of skiing, I’d absolutely loved it! However, having been brought up firmly in camp ski I’d never ventured out to try snowboarding and had always wondered what life on the other side was like. 

Project 50 gave me the perfect excuse to try it out. 

It was on a work call, in early January, where I excitedly told my colleagues about my grand plan to convince my dad to join me back on the dry slopes with the intent of attempting snowboarding for the first time.

Little did I know the domino effect this would have. 

You see, Davide, a relatively new colleague who I’d only met 1-2 times in person was also hoping to learn snowboarding and had organised a trip with 6 of his Italian friends to Sestriere - a ski resort just outside of his hometown in Turin, Italy. 

He very kindly invited me along! 

I was so excited by this idea it had the craziness and the full body yes I normally look for in new adventures. However, it did take me a few days to deliberate. We’d only met a few times in person, I didn't know any Italian and I had just handed my notice in at work so I knew money would be a bit tight.

However, after justifying each of the above and figuring out if I could make the plan work for me on a budget I was comfortable with I agreed. Ultimately, I knew this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities which I’d really regret not taking, especially as I’d never been on a ski trip before.  

 Before I knew if I was on a plane and off to Northern Italy for the first time.  

My experience 

Day one of arriving at the slopes I was surprised by how calm it was. Despite there being a fair few people around the mountains looked stunning and it felt like we’d gone back in time. 

With our 90’s style ski wear, we’re talking turtlenecks, boilersuits the lot, we got ready to hire out our equipment. Who would have known that snowboarding boots would be far more comfortable and easier to walk in than ski, it was like walking on air. 

Equipped with my new trusty board we got down to the bottom of the slopes and discussed our plan of action.

To be honest, I’d assumed the plan would be to wobble down a few nursery slopes and get shown up by some 5-year-olds

Next thing I knew we were deep in a very busy queue for the chair lift and I was trying to navigate my way to the front with an ungraceful drag of the board attached to one foot. It looked like a scene straight from The Walking Dead. 

In all of my time skiing, I’d never used a chair lift and it wasn’t something I thought I’d ever do. Having a fear of heights and a previous mental block around button lifts it wasn’t high on my bucket list and I was nervous.

Luckily I was far more confident (or reckless) than my 8-year-old self you can decide and was excited to overcome this fear. 

As I stepped onto the moving escalator which takes you the lift disaster struck. I dropped my glove as I tripped and I’d missed that rotation with all of my friends who were going to talk me through what to do. 

I was left to take the next lift. 

As the next set of chairs and people rolled around I got myself ready. Despite nearly getting hit on the head as the bar came down, it went without a hiccup and I was on! 

The journey up was beautiful and so much fun. It was the closest I’d probably ever get to flying and it surprised me how much the height aspect didn’t bother me.

I was so glad I had pushed myself to try it out. 

As the lift came to a close I realised my next hurdle, getting off. As the lift in front dipped over the peak I realised that I had no idea how to get off. 

Would I need to lift the bar off me or was it automated? Was there a flat slope or a steep slope at the end? Do I face my snowboard down the mountain or across it? And most of all how do I snowboard? 

So many questions but only one way to find out. As the chair lift circled to the end I was let loose on the mountain. 

It was clear from the slope that I would be starting the descent pretty much immediately. We gathered at the top of the mountain and were taught the basics.

The more directly the nose of the board faces down the mountain the faster you go. Turning slows you down and if you need to square your body down the mountain and leaning back you can get most places. 

We were off! 

I quickly learned how to tilt the board to control my speed and how my weight distribution would effect my turns. For the most part I was faced square looking down the mountain and was slowly making my way down and figuring out my limits as I went 

Comparatively, Davide was much faster. He pointed the tip of his board straight down the mountain and went at 110% speed until he crashed and he repeated the process again.

There was no right or wrong way to learn, but it was so interesting to see the strengths and weaknesses in both of our approaches. 

Davide definitely picked up the confidence to go fast much sooner however at the start was less controlled in his movements. Having to stop for longer periods of time to recover from the falls. 

I mastered the balance aspect a lot sooner and could maintain a steady speed for prolonged periods of time but was less confident when progressing onto turns which required a lot more trust in the momentum of the board. 

This could have been due to our sporting experiences, myself a keen windsurfer whose focus is on controlled speed, whereas Davide is a surfer who carves often. 

Ultimately there is no right or wrong approach and this was definitely my biggest learning from the whole project. 

It opened my eyes as to how I and others perceive risk, tailor our approach and what feedback loop works in each situation. 

Davide would go 110% with pure speed but crash fairly frequently. Whereas I took a more considered approach testing out where my boundaries were which meant that although initially I was left behind for being more cautious, my technique was more refined. 

After 2 more goes in the red slope we moved to the blue slope and attempted the button lift which also went a lot smoother than expected. 

Despite having to hold space against some pushy kids who would cut the line. I discovered that as long as you faced away from the top of the slope and gripped tight you’d make it to the top just fine.

Ironically it was the nursery slope, the last slope of the day of the day where we struggled the most, without the momentum of the mountain to keep you going down the floors in both mine and Davide's techniques soon become apparent. 

We could make it down and didn't fall as often but we’d often get stuck with not having enough of an incline to gain momentum. 

Interestingly if I’d started with the nursery slope I don’t believe that we would’ve progressed to a red slope. 

Despite it being the more traditional route, I found there was some benefit in going in ‘blind’ and not realising the extent of which you didn't know and figuring it out on the way down.


  • Action is the best way to learn and fail fast, there’s only so far theory can take you. 

  • There are benefits to going in blind and figuring it out along the way 

  • The fear in your head is often much worse than reality 

  • The magic comes when you push yourself to overcome your fears  

  • Learning as an adult is hard, the expectation is that you know what you’re doing is greater and we lose the inhibition to try new things.

  • It’s uncomfortable to look stupid but if there are a few of you it’s not nearly as bad

  • If it’s a full body yes, just do it! You’ll regret it if you don’t 

  • Find new ways to push yourself and show up to the challenge

  • Learning styles are personal, flex in and out of yours and others to experiment with different models of thinking

  • I am so, so, so glad I took this trip and forever grateful for Davide and his friends for being so lovely throughout our adventure! 

Useful tools and resources:

- Youtube

Skyscanner for flights:

Special thanks to:

In all of my projects there were absolute superstars who helped me along the way, from pushing me to be braver, suggesting resources or even offering their time to help, these are just a few who helped me in this project:

- Davide Gallo (and family)- for organising and inviting me on the trip and welcoming me into his home family and group of friends lo
- Alan Tang- for all the pre snowboarding advice, it was our only reference going in and we were extremely thankful for it
- Vasco, Duda, Sara and Dominic for their hospitality and great vibes throughout the trip