It's going to hurt. You're going to fall a lot. You'll want to give up. You won't be able to walk the next day.
These are all the things I was told by everyone whom I informed that, at age 32, I was going snowboarding for my first time.
And they were right. I fell, it hurt, many times I thought to myself, sprawled out on the snow with my tailbone throbbing, ‘I should just call it,’ and sure enough, I could not walk the next day. In fact, a week later, I still haven't regained my pre-snowboarding gait.
But, all my advisers also told me I'd get hooked on snowboarding. That as a surfer, I'd find a similar satisfaction in flying down a hill as I did flying down the line, and I'd fall in love with the crisp air, expansive views, and blissful quiet of a snow-covered mountain. And about all of that, they were also correct.
One week later, I remember faceplanting off the chairlift before my first run. I remember feeling like I was getting the hang of things and picking up speed, then catching my heelside edge and slamming into the snow, butt first, head second.
But what I don't remember is ever feeling cold, or wet. I wasn’t fidgeting with a zipper, or nursing a chafe. I never cursed my boots for hurting or my goggles for not shielding the glare, and miraculously, when I careened backwards down the hill and slammed my head into the snow, I don't remember it hurting for even one moment.
And that's thanks to the gear I wore. Because while it may be a disadvantage to be in your thirties when you pick up a new sport, the one perk of being an adult is that you're wise enough to not mess around when it comes to your kit. I knew if I was cold, or uncomfortable, or didn't trust my equipment, I'd be done snowboarding before I ever even started.
So here's the gear I wore on my first snowboarding trip. It kept me warm, dry and safe, and looked good too. My riding style, however, could still use some work.
The fact that I didn't notice hitting my head on my first run is thanks to the Smith Mirage Helmet, which fully absorbed the impact and kept me safe and comfortable. As someone who overheats quickly in headwear, I appreciated the 14 vents throughout the helmet, as well as the lightweight construction that made me forget I was wearing a helmet at all, until it really counted.
The Mirage comes in muted, matte colors, which was nice as I tried not to draw too much attention to myself, and has a very approachable price point ($100) for a beginner not ready to commit to the more high-tech stuff (the Mirage helmet comes with MIPS technology for $30 more).
Comfort was what I valued most about the Smith Skyline Goggles with Chromapop. The 3-layer face foam wicks moisture away from your skin and a wide, silicone-backed strap clips onto your helmet to prevent slippage while riding.
On a bright, sunny day, the Chromapop lens kept my eyes comfortable and everything in my vision bright but inoffensive. The rimless design maximizes field of vision and also gives you a cleaner profile. The Skyline is meant to be a more price-friendly alternative to their I/O model with interchangeable lenses. This was a great entry-level goggle that provided comfort for my face and eyes all day long.
As a beach baby, my biggest fear on this trip was getting too cold, a surefire way to lose motivation. That was never an issue thanks to the Burton Base Layer Midweight Merino Crew and Pant.
To the touch, these are incredibly thin and soft baselayers, but they pack a mean punch in the cold, and kept me insulated and toasty in 10-20 degree weather. Worn multiple days in a row, these base layers maintained their stretch all week long. Any moisture dried super quick, and the softlock seams meant zero chafe even on the first wear.
Falling a lot means spending a lot of time with your hands in the snow, pushing yourself back up. The Dakine Sequoia Glove uses a GORE-TEX insert below a water-repellent shell to keep your hands dry all day long. The removable Storm Liner gloves that come with the Sequoia are touch-screen compatible, which means you won’t have to go barehanded to use your phone.
Best of all, the water-resistant, external zipper pocket makes it easy to access what could arguably be the most important item on your packlist: chapstick.
Ok, let's be real. I chose Holden for my jacket and pants because their gear is just so stylish. And if my riding was going to exude zero style, I at least hoped my outerwear would have some.
But you should never choose your gear on looks alone, and so I was lucky that in breaking this rule, I ended up with a jacket and pants that performed as beautifully as they looked. I was able to pair the Holden Cypress Jacket with only my midweight baselayer and stayed plenty warm in 20-degree temperatures, even when spending a lot of time slamming on the snow.
Holden has kept it super simple in the Cypress Jacket, with a monochromatic, A-line design with two large pockets on the front and one interior zip pocket. I didn’t use the zippered underarm vents, meant for when you need to cool off, but it was nice to know they were there for a warmer day. The wrist gaiters were soft on my skin, and the drop-tail design kept snow out of my pants every time I landed on my rear.
Camo is in and I've been fully embracing the momentary trend, but that's not all that drew me to the Lennox Pant. Positioned as Holden's warmer technical pant, I chose the Lennox due to my aforementioned fear of single-digit temperatures that could stymie my motivation to put the hours on the hill that learning this sport would require.
Thanks to PrimaLoft Insulation and a waterproof outer shell with fully taped seams, these pants kept me warm and dry all day long no matter how much time I spent with my butt and legs in the snow. Simple pocket placements meant I knew exactly where my essentials were stashed at any time and water-repellent zippers helped keep everything dry. And while Holden also offers the "Skinny Standard Pant" for a slim-fit option, the Lennox didn’t feel baggy and I liked the somewhat-snug fit.
Burton's Midweight Snowboard Sock was thin enough to feel comfortable in my boot but warm enough to keep my toes happy all day long. With quality elasticity, I was able to ride in these socks on consecutive days without feeling like they were stretching out. I can tell these socks will last me a long time.
Snowboard boots have to be the most complicated piece of equipment for a beginner to figure out. When mine arrived, I had no idea how to put them on, and relied on the assistance of my snow-enthused co-workers.
Apprehensive at first about how tight they felt, I ended up absolutely loving my Ferra Pros. After just a couple hours of breaking in, they felt snug as a glove and comfortable to ride in all day long. For someone new to the Boa system, Vans’ Hybrid Boa Closure System was a nice way to ease in, as the boot had laces in addition to the Boa system.
Just as important as what you wear while you snowboard, is what you wear after you snowboard. Your legs are going to be jelly and your feet will ache, especially as you break in your boots. The Holden Puffy Slipper Shoe was the perfect respite after a long day in the elements, and nothing felt better then slipping into these and sitting by the fireplace with some hot chocolate.
The Puffy Slipper Shoe is made from PrimaLoft Eco Recycled insulation, with a water-repellent exterior and a gum sole for indoor/outdoor wear. You’ll feel like you’ve got a down jacket wrapped around your feet, and believe me, you’ll be happy.
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