January 15, 2001


By KEVIN CLAPP / Staff Writer

Snowboarding man

Above: A snowboarder shows his skills going ariborne.

Snowboarding child

Above: A young snowboarder tries an easy slope at Whitetail Ski Report in Mercersburg, Pa.

Snowboarding costs

At Whitetail Ski Resort in Mercersburg, Pa., a first-class learn to ski/board package for use on beginner terrain includes an all-day lift ticket, lesson and equipment rental for either skis or snowboards. On week days and nonholidays, the program costs $50. On weekends and holidays, it is $62.

For information, call 1-717-328-9400 or go to on the Web.

Dax Zombro, manager of the snowboard department and shop at Bikle's Ski and Outdoor in Hagerstown, says these are some of the costs people should expect when purchasing equipment:

Snowboard - $299 to $700 or $800, depending on the type of board.

Boots - starting at $129.

What's that thing zooming down the mountain? It looks like someone riding a skateboard on snow.


Whatever it is, it looks like fun. ... Maybe it's something I can try.


Snowboarding, once a hobby for skateboarders expanding their horizons, has become more popular for teens and adults of all ages. Now it's easier than ever to get on a board and start experimenting with quick cuts, jumps and tricks, especially since ski areas such as Whitetail Ski Resort in Mercersburg, Pa., include sections specifically for boarders to do tricks.

But before hopping on a board, new snowboarders need to put on protective clothing. That means warm, waterproof gear that protects the backside and hands. Unlike skiing, where you fall to either side, snowboarders typically fall forward or back.

"To rest on a snowboard, you're probably going to be on your knees or your butt," says Sue Slick, training manager for skiing and snowboarding at Whitetail. "So you want good, waterproof clothing - particularly in those areas - and gloves. Even if you never fall, your hands are still going to get wetter than skiing."

Dax Zombro, manager of the snowboard department and shop at Bikle's Ski and Outdoor in Hagerstown, says the importance of wearing the proper socks can not be overestimated, either.

"Cotton socks, when they get wet, they stay wet," Zombro says. Wool socks are the way to go. "When your feet get cold, you're not having any fun."

Other recommendations from Slick and Zombro, both snowboarders:

* Take a lesson.

Snowboarding can be easier to pick up than skiing, but it doesn't mean you should haul a board to the top of the mountain before learning fundamentals.

"They'll have control," she says of students who take a lesson. "They might not be able to turn in both directions, but they will have some control over the board."

* Don't get carried away.

Slick says the most common problem she sees is people trying to do too much when they begin to snowboard. Early on, she recommends staying close to the bottom of the mountain until you've been on a board a few times.

"That's for their safety as well as the safety of those around them," she says. "Safety is a common sense thing."

* Choose the proper board.

Zombro says different boards work better for different applications. A freestyle board, more effective at performing tricks, is shorter and symmetrical. Boards for use on the whole mountain can be larger but have an edge on one side that is used for cutting across a slope on the way down.

For safety reasons, Slick says most mountains will only allow snowboards with metal edges on them.

"(Plastic-edged boards) are made for soft snow, backyard snowboarding. On the groomed slopes, it just doesn't have the control we need," she says. "It wouldn't give you the control to look out for other people or to avoid obstacles."

* Wear a helmet and wrist guards.

Zombro says more people are buying helmets for snowboarding and skiing.

"You crack your head once, and that's it," he says. "Helmets are a smart thing."

Slick says the most common snowboard accidents involve the wrists or tailbone, so extra support in either area is practical. She also says that folding your arms in front of your chest when you fall can help prevent wrist injuries.

* When learning to snowboard, rent equipment at first.

Snowboard equipment and accessories can cost several hundred dollars. Common sense is to rent a board until you know whether you will stick with the sport.

"Most people are going to love snowboarding, but some people aren't, and it's a pretty sizable investment," Zombro says. Besides, renting equipment early gives snowboarders a better idea of what they want when it comes time to buy their first board.

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