“Riding switch” is snowboarding with the opposite foot forward of how you normally ride. If you usually ride “regular” (left foot in front), when you ride switch you will have your right foot in front. And if you are “goofy” (right foot in front), switch will have you facing down the mountain left foot first. There are many reasons why you would want to learn to ride switch. To do many of the tricks the cool kids do: 180’s, buttering, spins, etc. you need to either ride into it switch, or come out of it switch. It is also handy if you find yourself turned around so that you don’t panic. And it is great for giving your back leg some relief when it gets tired. That’s “why” you should learn. But how about the “when”, “where”, and “how”?
“When” -The earlier on in your riding you start playing with riding switch, the better off you will be. As you get more confident and comfortable riding your normal way, it becomes more difficult to make the transition because it feels completely new and foreign when you start. On the flip side, once you have learned to ride your usual way, you already have all of the tools necessary to learn to ride switch. You do not have to learn all over again. You just have to do it all facing the other way. But the curve to learn switch should not be as painful as it was to learn in the first place.
“Where” - Go back to mellow terrain. By now you know that a little speed will help you turn, so you probably don’t want to go back to the magic carpet, but a nice green run would be a good place to start. You will probably feel more comfortable at first if you are not generating too much speed. Start out where it is not crowded to give yourself room for making slow and big turns and frequent stops.
“How” – You already have some edge awareness. The principles are all the same and you have already been through this once. You can do it! Start off the same way you started to learn snowboarding in the first place. Get the feel for being on your toe and heel sides with the other foot forward. If that means you practice garlands or falling leaf to start that’s fine. You already know how to turn and stop, so slowly start applying those principles to what you are doing while facing the other way.
And you already know how to link turns so just slow down and go back to basics…starting with a toe side turn, weight your toe edge with your front foot, then follow with your back foot, unweight the back foot then the front foot, allow the board to point downhill, and then weight your heel edge with your front foot, then with your back foot. It will almost certainly require a lot more thought than your usual riding, but that’s ok…take it slowly and eventually it will click.
Remember to keep your weight forward (as in toward your front foot). It is natural to lean back because a) the foot you are used to leading with is now in the back and b) fear tells you to lean back. Fight those urges and keep your weight centered – but toward your front foot so you have more control when you initiate those turns. And as always, keep your knees bent.
Remember what worked for you when you started out. We probably all heard little nuggets of wisdom as we learned to ride. Whatever resonated with you, remember that. If you need to take a lesson to remind you, go for it!
After getting through the curve of learning to ride your normal way and being able to go anywhere on the mountain you want, it’s kind of a bummer to go back to the beginning. But if you think about what you are doing, keep focused on weighting your edges at the right times, and you remind yourself that you already know how to do this, it should be much easier than the first time around. Practice every time you go out. That’s the only way you are going to get it down. Do a little each run, or pick out a run that you are going to do top to bottom. Whatever you choose, take baby steps if you need to, but push yourself a little more each time you go out. It will probably feel very strange at first, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you will be with it and the more fun stuff you will be able to do!