Let’s face it, lifts are designed for skiers – so getting off the lift on a snowboard can be a little tricky at times if you’re a less experienced rider.
Especially if you’re on a full lift and surrounded by other snowboarders and skiers.
You might be just ready to leave the bunny slopes and head up a ski lift for the first time or maybe you’ve been riding the lifts for a while now but want to know how to disembark more smoothly.
Practice Riding with Only One foot in the Board
Getting on and off a ski lift, riders have to have one foot out of the binding. This means when you disembark the lift you will only have one foot strapped in.
So, the more capable you are riding with only one foot strapped in, the smoother your lift exit will be.
- Find a very gentle short slope to practice on
- Strap in your front foot (left if you are regular, right if you are goofy)
- Place your back foot on the board between the bindings but so that it is pressed against the back binding for support. If you have a stomp pad this is also great for grip
- Start to move down the slope slowly – wriggle your hips if you need some help to get going
- Ride down and then move your free foot slightly off the edge the board on the toe side and gently dig this into the snow to slow yourself down and stop
- Practice doing little turns – sometimes called J turns – on the toe edge and heel edge. It can help to have your heel slightly over the back of the board so that you can gently drag it in the snow to help you stop during a “heel J turn” and gently dig in your boot’s toe on a “toe J turn”
Alternatively to having a slope you can practice skating on a flat. Push yourself forward on your board with your free foot to get moving and then lift your free foot onto the board and let the board slide with both feet on it for a while.
Repeat this over your flat section. This can be a good way to practice before finding a gentle slope to practice one-foot riding on – and it will also help you practice skating for getting up to the lifts and in other situations.
Time to Brave the Lift!
Once you are feeling more comfortable skating and riding a gentle slope on one foot it’s time to hit the lifts.
Getting on the Lift
- Once you are at the front of the queue there will usually be a barrier or a line where you will wait.
- Once the barrier opens, or the lift for those in front of you has gone past, skate forward to the designated line.
- Once there the lift will come around and you’ll just need to sit down as the lift hits your legs
- Remember to lower the safety bar!
Right that’s the easy part.
Now for the part that most new riders don’t enjoy.
Getting off the lift
This is the harder part but this can be smooth if you follow a few basic guideline.
- As the end of the lift ride approaches start to get your snowboard ready. Turn on your side a bit and twist the board around so that it is facing the direction you want it too when you unload.
- The lift will slow down as it approaches the end so you will be able to place your board on the ground and get your back foot on there before you have to stand up. There’s not a heap of time but there’s enough. You don’t have to jump off the lift!
- Try to get ready to disembark relatively early, especially if you’re new at it. Sometimes your board can get tangled up with other boards and skis – you don’t want to be trying to untangle just as you’re about to unload!
- When you disembark try to remain upright and looking where you are going. If you look at your feet too much and bend right over (which a lot of new riders tend to do when getting off the lift) you might bump heads with other riders doing the same thing or just generally bump into others – which often results in the both of you taking an ungraceful exit from the lift.
- Ride straight out from the lift as far as possible. Most lift exits are made so that the slope eases off after a bit which will slow you down. If you try to turn straight away and dig your foot in to slow you down you will take out others who are getting off the lift
- So wait until you are clear of the lift and then do your J turns to slow yourself down
- Make sure that you are enough out of the way of the lift so that riders and skiers on the next lift have enough space to do what you just did
This may sound daunting for some new riders but it’s really not that bad. And if you practice your one-footed riding you will find it’s not too bad at all.
Here’s a Quick Video
It doesn’t have all the details but will give you a visual demonstration.
Over to You
Practicing before you get on the lift will make a big difference.
That practice will make you confident – and then after a couple of smooth exits (maybe preceded by some not so graceful exits!) you’ll feel even more confident.
Don’t worry if you aren’t smooth at this at first or take a couple of tumbles – that’s all part of it. And if other riders give you the stare remember that they were once in your position – most riders are friendly and will understand.
If skiers give you that stare just ignore them – remember that it’s much easier for them as ski lifts are designed for skiers so they don’t get it. But again most skiers, as much as it pains me to say it :-), are also friendly. If they’re grumpy and uptight then it’s their problem not yours – enjoy your day on the slopes!
Thanks for reading and I hope this post will help to make your ski lift exit a smoother experience!
Nate, thanks for the helpful info! I find if I don’t have to turn off the lift for a while, I’m good. With many lift exits I encounter, however, there are either (a) many people gathered straight ahead at the exit to the lift or (b) not much straightaway, causing me to turn to avoid a rope barrier or some other obstruction.
What I find often happens is I apply too much heel or toe pressure in trying to turn to avoid people or obstacles. The result is I essentially wind up doing a couple of “butters” exiting the lift. I use that term very loosely, by the way lol!
I will take your advice and try skating on very gentle terrain to learn how to subtly steer with more control using one foot off the lift
Any other tips? Thanks so much!
No other tips I can think of – lots of practice skating and you’ll become more and more confident and able riding with one foot. It can come in handy as well, when there’s a bit of down slope that leads to a flat section that you know you’re going to have to unstrap for and skate – when you get confident – you can just skate that down slope without having to get in and out twice.
Hello & Thank You. So I am an intermediate rider, but my weak spot is getting off the life, so a good read here. In looking at the incredible amount and variety of snowboards available today, is there a design shape that is more stable for one-footing and makes getting off the lift less squirrely? (For instance is a rocker board better than camber or a flat profiled board for stable one-footing?) Thank you
Thanks for your message.
Typically speaking anything with camber or flat between the feet and under the feet will feel less squirrelly coming off the lift, in my experience. When there’s rocker between the feet, particularly when it’s quite pronounced rocker, then things tend to get more squirrely. But not all boards with rocker between the feet are the same. Some have more pronounced rocker sections and some have longer or shorter sections of rocker. Some boards with rocker between the feet, the rocker is very subtle both with how pronounced it is and how big the rocker section is – in that case typically it will feel less squirelly. All-rocker boards tend to feel the most squirelly. They tend to be the easiest to turn, but they almost want to turn on their own when one-footing off the lift – when you want to actually go straight!
Hope this helps
Do you know why the lift operators don’t want snowboarders to strap both feet in before unloading? I assume it’s simply because they don’t want people strapping in while riding the lift. However, I’ve never had a problem getting off the lift, but I like strapping both feet in if I’m on the chair by myself. It’s nice to just ride away when you get to the top, but I’ve been yelled at for doing it lol. Seems silly to me.
Thanks for your insight.
Good question. Like you I assume it’s because they don’t want you to strap in while riding the lift. It might be a safety thing. If it became a common thing and people were bending forward on the lift, particularly if they weren’t putting the bar down, and people were falling out, then it would look bad on the resort. That’s the main reason I can think of. But if anyone else knows any other reason, I would also be curious.
Tim mitchell says
I’ve seen these stomp pads to set your back foot on. I wish there was a lose stirrup that I could put my foot in to give some control, but I can’t find such a thing. I recently tweeted my knee falling on a steep off ramp and an obstruction at the bottom that I couldn’t avoid.
Thanks for your message. I’ve never thought of that idea, but could make things easier to get more control. I haven’t ever seen anything like this though, so I’m not sure if it exists.
Harley brown says
hey i am a very good snowboarder but i just cant master the getting off the lift and cuing a Sean winch means when i go to get off i cant get off in time because i am never ready then i slow down the lift and take of my bord and walk off of it and down the hill to then put it back on i need help so this year i dont look like a loser please
Thanks for your message. It can a frustrating aspect of snowboarding. Lifts were designed for skiers not snowboarders.
I didn’t quite understand which part you were having difficulty with. Not sure what you meant by “cuing a Sean”?
If you’re having issues one-footing, that’s something you can practice, and something that’s really hand to get good at.
Bruce and Moo says
Thanks for the great tips, Nate! I’m an old dude who’s never snow skied or snowboarded but I was pretty competitive waterskiing (jumping, slalom and trick skiing). I was also into skateboarding too, always left foot forward in the applicable disciplines. Do you think those past experiences will help or hinder?
Hi Bruce and Moo
Thanks for your message.
I think those past experiences will definitely help, so long as you don’t go into it with the idea that it will feel the same. If you assume that it will feel the same, then it could hinder. But if you go in knowing that it’s different, then I think ultimately those experiences will help.
John L. says
Thanks Nate. I’ve seen people get on the lift by turning the board parallel to the chair/bench, and others keep the board pointed in the direction of travel of the lift. I’ve experimented with both in my brief time as a snowboarder – what is your preference and why?
Getting on the lift I prefer to keep the board pointed in the direction of travel . I just find it easier to get on. Once on the lift I often then move it to parallel and sometimes put my detached foot underneath the board to take some the weight off if there isn’t a board rest on the lift – but this all depends on who else is on the lift