Zooming down snowy mountains, learning new skills, feeling the exhilaration of the cold wind on your face… Snowboarding is an incredibly fun way to experience winter. Spend the whole day taking lessons or exploring backcountry trails, then come inside for hot chocolate and a hot meal. Finish out the day with a soak in a hot tub, then wake up in the morning and do it all again!
Whether you’re completely new to snowboarding or you’re an experienced boarder looking to develop new skills, there’s the perfect snowboarding tour somewhere out there for you. Check the average seasonal snowfall in your destination of choice to make sure that you'll have plenty of fresh powder to work with, then book your ticket, pack your bags, and head out! From the Rocky Mountains to Japan, you can find winter wonderlands to enjoy all over the world.
Where to Go
Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe provides numerous options for snowboarding, in both the states of California and Nevada. Several major resorts in the area have their own runs and pipes to play on for riders of varying levels of experience, but there are also plenty of backcountry options as well. And of course, there are incredible views of beautiful Lake Tahoe at every turn. The best time to visit Lake Tahoe for snowboarding is between December and March when you can expect plenty of powder on the ground.
Hokkaido is known in the snowboarding world as one of the best places for snow on earth. An array of resort and backcountry tour operators means that there’s something for everyone here. There are numerous available types of terrain, and there are equal numbers of runs catering to beginning, intermediate, and advanced snowboarders. There are also several parks available for those who like to jump off halfpipes. The best time to visit Hokkaido for snowboarding is during the winter between November and March.
The French Alps have always been a top destination for skiing, but they’re also home to an ever-growing snowboarding scene as well. Widely considered to be the main area for winter sports in Europe, the French Alps feature numerous resorts with runs that cater to skiers and snowboarders of all levels. The incredible natural terrain provides numerous backcountry options as well. The snowboarding season in the French Alps is November through April.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look for in a Snowboarding Tour
There are two main things that you’ll want to think about when looking for a snowboarding tour: level of luxury and level of instruction.
For some travelers, time on the slopes is paramount, and everything else is secondary. If this sounds like you, look for an adventurous tour with basic accommodations and no extra frills. For other travelers, time on the slopes should be celebrated at the end of the day with a relaxing evening sipping champagne from a resort hot tub. If this sounds like you, look for luxury snowboarding tours with higher-end accommodation and optional add-ons like spa treatments.
Second, think about the type of boarding you want to do and the level of instruction that you’ll want or need. If you’re completely new to snowboarding, choose a tour that caters to beginners and that includes instruction on the basics before setting you loose on the easier slopes. For more advanced snowboarders, you might want individualized instruction or instruction on boarding in backcountry terrain. Regardless of the level of instruction that you want or need, make sure that the tour operator employs highly experienced and certified instructors to ensure that you have an excellent experience.
Average Snowboarding Tour Length & Cost
Snowboarding trips typically last anywhere from a weekend to a week. A snowboarding tour on average will cost between $100 and $300, per person, per night, though this can vary depending on where you are in the world and the level of luxury you’re looking for on your trip.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Your priority for packing should be clothing layers that will keep you warm and dry out on the slopes. A good packing list would include long underwear for both your top and bottom, wool socks, a waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, waterproof gloves, goggles, and a warm hat. Ideally, you’ll want moisture-wicking clothes that will dry quickly so that you’ll be ready to hit the slopes again after you break for lunch. Don't forget that you'll work up a sweat while snowboarding!
Boots and snowboards can be rented almost anywhere in a skiing or snowboarding destination -- either from your hotel or resort, your tour operator, or most stores that sell lift tickets on the mountain. If you have your own gear you can travel with it, but make sure to check the transportation costs when flying to a destination.
As with any other type of trip, make sure that you have the appropriate visa and immunizations for your destination. In addition, it’s a good idea to get comprehensive travel insurance that includes medical treatment in-country, as well as emergency evacuation and repatriation.
Qualification & Training
Though you don’t need any specific qualifications or training to undertake a snowboarding tour, you should be in reasonable physical shape before undertaking any type of trip that’s focused on a physical activity. If you’ve never snowboarded before, make sure that you’ve chosen a tour that includes basic instruction to get you comfortable with essential skills like stopping and getting up if you fall and get flipped over.
Snowboarding, like any sport, comes with its own set of risks. Falls on snowboards can result in injuries, so make sure that you’re staying on trails that match your skill and ability level. Similarly, running into trees is one of the biggest dangers for snowboarders, so stay on trails that are fairly clear of obstacles until you’re comfortable with stopping and have reached a decent agility level for turning quickly. Similar to skiing, a helmet is a must to protect yourself, and will help keep you warm too! Finally, as in any cold environment, hypothermia is also a risk, so make sure that you dress warmly.
Make sure that you stick with snowboarding trails that are commensurate with your level of ability, and stay within sight of your guide at all times. Always stay on the marked trails to avoid dangerous situations like trees, wells, or avalanches. Wear warm clothing in layers to reduce the risk of hypothermia, and go indoors to warm up if you’re starting to feel too cold.