Making The Nature Scene: Carve out more space in snowboarding

A Madison non-profit aims to make the sport more inclusive, and has some tips for those who’d like to get started.
A snowboarder makes their way down a slope with the "Making the Nature Scene" illustration, featuring bugs and flowers  framing the photo.
A snowboarder makes their way down the slope during BoardSlide Mission’s Pride Ride 2023 on January 15. Photo Courtesy of Emily Mills

A Madison non-profit aims to make the sport more inclusive, and has some tips for those who’d like to get started.

In Making The Nature Scene, Tone Madison explores the splendor of the outdoors in the Madison area (and beyond), and encourages Madisonians to think more deeply about their natural and built surroundings.

I… was in a bad place last winter. It was Covid Winter 2: Omicron. I was living and working alone, terrified of getting infected. Zoom and social media were my main sources of human contact.

Then some adorable snowsporters slid into my virtual life. In one popular video, a parent mics up his dino-suited 4-year-old and records her snowboarding down a mountain. The “powder-saurus,” if you recall.

She sings herself an adorable pep talk about how it’s OK to fall, greets a tree and shouts in excitement. She falls over and good-naturedly struggles to get up with a board strapped to her feet. “I’m a stuck-asaurus,” she grunts in a tired but determined voice.

Snowsports babies saved my heart. So naturally, I needed to learn to snowboard. Which is daunting af—and (therefore?) hot af, according to some. 

Luckily, the new Madison nonprofit Boardslide Mission put out an invite in December for a Pride Ride field trip to Tyrol Basin in January. I should be decent at snowboarding, I told myself, I’ve been doing yoga regularly for almost 20 years. Then the day before, my yoga teacher friend shared how sore she was from her first try at snowboarding, which consisted mostly of falling. Yay. So, I bucked up and borrowed knee and elbow pads and wrist guards. 

The founder of Boardslide Mission, Chezarae Dickson, found herself through snowboarding as a teenager. She’s now a certified instructor at Tyrol Basin. She started Boardslide in 2022 after noticing few women and girls in the ranks during a competition with binary men’s and women’s categories.

Dickson wanted to create a space where women and the LGBTQ+ community felt more comfortable getting into snowsports and boardsports. BIPOC inclusion is another tenet of Boardslide.

“Snowboarding is primarily a white sport. It’s very expensive. So I wanted to kind of break down some of those barriers and get people interested in the sport and feel a sense of community and try something new,” Dickson says.

If snowboarding is something you’re enticed to try, check out these five snowboarding tips from a pro and an amateur.

1. Get instructed. 

No need to book your own private lesson—most ski areas offer group instruction. It’s best to schedule ahead of time to ensure your spot.

“It’s really important to have some sort of instruction, whether that’s even a friend who has done it before, or getting a lesson. All ski hills have schools to introduce people to the sport,” says Dickson.

You’ll “learn the basics of snowboarding, but they’ll go over some tips for staying safe and warm and checking to make sure you have gear that’s comfortable,” she says. 

2. Suit up in layers and waterproof gear

“The biggest mistake I see people make is not having waterproof gear, because you’re going to be sitting in the snow often,” Dickson says. “A lot of people will wear cotton gloves, and then they get covered in snow and they’re soaked by the end of the day. So waterproof is essential.”

Wear layers to keep you warm when you’re not moving, but easily transition when you are. 

“Dressing in layers is really essential to be comfortable,” Dickson says.

You can rent snowpants for $25/day at Tyrol Basin, along with boards, boots and helmets. You could also layer a base, regular and waterproof layers for the same effect. Layers!

3. Pad the eff up

You’re going to fall down a lot your first time. You’ll slide around. You should wear a helmet.

I wouldn’t have made it through the afternoon without an injury if it weren’t for the kneepads, elbow pads, wrist guards and padded bike pants I layered under waterproof gear. I still ended up going to the chiropractor three times after this outing, so maybe schedule yourself an appointment a few days after you plan to try snowboarding if you’re a chiro patient. 

4. Take break

Your body can’t always do what your mind can imagine. When you snowboard, you use so many muscles in different ways than you’re used to. It’s like learning a new language, but physically. So take breaks when you’re tired and wait until you feel rested up to get out on the slopes again. You’ll keep your body in good shape and create a safer environment for everyone around you.

5. Consider chiller options

Dickson recommends assessing your physical capabilities and limitations before giving snowboarding a shot. What’s your appetite for risk?

Downhill skiing can be just as thrilling as snowboarding—with less falling down, says Dickson. Overall, cross-country skiing is going to be the easiest entry point.

And that is where I’ll likely hang out. It’s not as sexy, but it’s way hotter than needing someone to coax your lower back bones back into place multiple times.

Want to do some downhill skiing or snowboarding? Dickson recommends Tyrol Basin, of course, Cascade Mountain in Portage, Devil’s Head Resort in Merrimac and Granite Peak Ski Area in Wausau—Dickson’s former shredding grounds.

Interested in accessible skiing? Check out the SouthEastern Wisconsin Adaptive Ski Program, or SEWASP.

I’ll just get my snowboarding fix from the tiny cuties on social media that still warm my heart. And I’m in a much better place now. Hope you are too!

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