The ski lift can be quite daunting to the beginning snowboarder. It's big, it moves fast, and the exit hill at the end seems enormous. Add in a tricky transition from sitting to standing on a moving snowboard and you have an equation for a face plant. Skiers have an easier time getting off the lift since they can simply stand up and coast off the hill. However, snowboarders must deal with two complications that make it easier to fall when getting off the lift. First, the snowboarder must shift from a sitting position to standing sideways on the snowboard in order to get down the exit hill. Second, snowboarders generally have only one foot locked into the snowboard. Most ski resorts require snowboarders to have their front foot strapped into the board, while the back foot remains free to aid in moving along flat regions and getting on the lift. This free foot can make it very difficult to get off the lift without falling.

Here are some tips to help beginning snowboarders successfully get off the ski lift.

  1. When you ride up the ski lift the most comfortable position is to lean back on the seat and let your snowboard hang parallel to the seat. However, you will need to shift from this position in order to get off the lift. As you near the end of the ride, turn sideways in your seat and move your front foot forward. This should turn your snowboard so it is perpendicular to the seat and pointing down the exit hill. This stance is basically identical to the stance you use to snowboard, except here you are sitting instead of standing.
  2. Once the lift reaches the exit hill where you can stand up, place your snowboard on the snow. Keep your loose back foot in check by placing it firmly on the stomp pad of your board. The stomp pad is a textured region between the two foot bindings that will give your free foot some traction. If you don't have a stomp pad then tightly wedge your foot against the back binding to keep it in place.
  3. When your back foot is in place gently stand up on your board and keep your knees bent for balance. I like to quickly glance down to make sure my back foot is in place. Otherwise, it is VITAL to look in the direction you want to go. Keeping your head and eyes down is a sure way to fall. I like to give myself a gentle push off the lift chair for a bit more momentum, however you should be able to make it down the exit hill without it.
  4. Now let the momentum move you down the hill away from the lift. Keep your knees bent and arms out for balance if you need it. Hopefully your back foot is anchored enough to stay in place. If this foot comes off the board, try to put it back on. Do NOT step in the snow with your back foot while you are moving, as this will surely lead to a fall. Most times the area beyond the hill is flat enough that you can just coast to a stop, but you may need to apply gentle pressure to your heels or toes to turn the board and help it stop.
  5. Once you have stopped, make sure you are far away enough from the lift exit to avoid collisions. At this point you are ready to strap in and head down the hill.

If you do fall, do your best to move to the side and avoid the next batch of skiers and snowboarders exiting the lift. The lift monitor may or may not stop the lift so you have more time to get out of the way. Also, watch out for the ski lift chair as it swings around to go back downhill. I've had the misfortune of getting whapped on the head with one, and it can smart quite a bit.

When you are going to ride up the lift with a group it's polite to tell people which direction you are planning on going when you get off the lift. For example, I prefer turning to the left when I get off a lift, so I like to sit on the left side to avoid crashing into people. If you sense yourself falling, try not to grab onto the other people on the lift. Doing so will create a domino effect of fallen, irked people. Halfway through my first day my friends refused to ride the lift with me anymore because I would always drag them down with me.

Above all, don't get frustrated! Snowboarding takes a while to learn and you can plan on falling countless times. Keep at it, and after a while you should notice yourself falling less and less until you rarely fall at all.

peanut's fantastic writeup does not necessarily apply if you're snowboarding in Europe, since we have button lifts as well as chair lifts (which are the type of lift referred to above). (If there are button lifts in the USA, too, I apologise, but I've never seen them there...) For those of you who've never seen one, a button lift consists of an extending pole attached at one end to an overhead cable leading up the mountain, and a disc on the other end that fits between your legs. The poles detach from the cable at the bottom of the lift; when you ski past, grabbing one, you also trip a switch with your shins/boots which engages the cable, allowing you to gracefully put the disc 'twixt your legs and be gently pulled up the mountain. (The pole is curved so as not to hurt your family jewels.)

That's all very well if you're a skier - you're facing forwards, and so you effectively sit on the disc. For boarders, they're an entirely different kettle of fish. Firstly, you're pulled up by your left (or right, if you're goofy) thigh, which is slightly blood-flow-inhibiting. Secondly, triggering the cable-engagement mechanism at the right time is tricky. Thirdly, most boarders remove their back foot, which impedes your balance: not good. Once you're at the top, you're pulled over a hump onto a downhill slope, at which point you must release the pole and slide off out of the way. Most beginners who have made it this far fall off at this point, which is not really a big deal, it's just annoying and occasionally painful.

You may notice that some boarders go up button lifts with both feet attached, which looks tricky, to say the least. In fact, it turns out that not removing your back foot makes the lift many orders of magnitude more managable. Not only is your balance improved, so you're less likely to tumble half-way up, but you're able to simply board away at the top. Fair enough, it's harder when you're just starting out, because you can't balance anyway, but it's definitely worth a try if you're having trouble getting the hang of the lifts.

mkb says we do have some similar things like t-bar and j-bar lifts. not very popular though. the one time i took a snowboarding lesson we were brought up by rope tow

T-bars and J-bars are horrible; I try to forget about them! Rope tows are easy, but slow, hence why they're used for beginners :p

If you are a beginner and are getting off a chair lift, it can be recommended that you hang on to the chair for a while once your board touches the snow. This has several advantages; you get increased stability because you can use the chair as a support, and when the small hill that the chair deposits you on actually starts sloping downwards, you can push off from the chair, thus increasing your speed, which is good since it brings added stability.

And finally, if you travel in a chair lift that's otherwise packed with skiers, there is a good possibility that they will have gotten so far ahead of you once you let go that you have space to maneuver around in.

The last point may not seem that important, but experience has shown me that some skiers tend to forget that they have a snowboarder right beside them since they're looking forwards and can't see the snowboard because it's shorter than skis. This means that they may steer into you space or place their skiing poles in your path. Also, you need more space for braking than they do.

Either way, I find getting off a chair lift one of the easiest things to do on a snowboard. It can be tricky to brake though, given that your rearmost foot is just standing on the anti-slip area of the board.

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