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Ahoy, the winter is upon us and already it is expected to bless us with luscious conditions for SNOWBOARDING.

This article is intended to get you informed on snowboarding and to provide some background information on how to get started with lessons, boards, haircuts, baggy pants, etc.

One misconception I have noticed when talking to people who want to Snowboard and haven't yet, is that it is difficult to learn.

This is not so, however, if it is approached in the correct manner. Use an instructor.

Design-specific instruction methods or (D.S.I.M.) for abbreviation junkies of technical terms (A.J.T.T.) has given us the opportunity to learn without injury.

Progressively using (D.S.I.M.), you will move from face planting on the beginner slopes to carving fresh waist deep powder on 55 degree slopes. It's that simple. The hardest part is leaving the cafe, bar, cafe, bar, bar and off the couch into the hills. An instructor will look after you on the mountain and on the lifts, so this once more is advisable.

Boards vary in shape and size according to their intended purpose. Basically, now that there are so many brands on the market, you can't really go wrong when selecting a board. The board when set on the ground on it's tail should reach between your chin and your brow as a general rule for choosing length.

The selection of the board's shape is most important as the shape determines what boots you wear and into which bindings they are fastened. Together these components comprise what is known to the modern world today as STYLE.

Three general styles prevail. The style you ride also determines the clothes you wear, so get this part right otherwise you'll look like a dork wearing the wrong clothes on the wrong board.

Freestyle boards are for tricks and jumps and oversized pants enthusiasts. Their antics include 360's, 720's and 4320's (12 revs. in the air), rail slides, riding backwards or fakie, this jump and that jump, halfpipe specific and occasional powder steeps.

These boards are generally symmetric with the same nose and tail shape. The length ranges from 135-155cm, resulting in an extremely maneuverable board. They are difficult, however, to maintain an edge with at high speed. The flexion of these boards is generally softer, and as a result they are forgiving at the tip and end to allow numerous lucky escapes while landing HUGE jumps.

Freeriding is to me the essence of snowboarding (church music in the background, followed by power chords.) These boards are designed to handle all the conditions the mountain will throw at you. They are longer boards that can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Specific for powder, large drop-offs, and all-mountain riding: the type of board you would be happy hiking with in backcountry. Freestyle boards are also suitable for cruising the groomed trails and carving on edge for skilled riders.

Please use soft boots and strap in bindings with high backs. This will provide you with stability and comfort with speed but also allow lateral ankle movement for landing jumps. An excellent choice of board for someone who wants to ride in all conditions. Lengths range between 150-200cm and are stiffer than freestyle boards, enabling a nice responsive ride. All boards are designed to be ridden by people of certain weights. However, there are no rules saying if you are female you need a specific board for women and vice versa.

These boards are designed for highly skilled snowboarders. The main concept, as the name suggests, is speed. They are generally longer than other boards and are narrower in the center. Basically, with one of these boards you can reach humongous speeds and still maintain good edge contact with the snow.

This requires strength in the body, mind and riding skill, something to look forward to. Looks most impressive, however it will take you a few years to get this level. Great for maintrail riding on hardpack snow and still o.k. off piste.

If you want nothing but speed buy or rent a race board or alternatively head to Chateau Rouge.

Other equipment that you will require can be hired, borrowed from friends or purchased. You definitely need good gloves if you like your hands and want to use them again. Contact with the snow is always inevitable. Also, waterproof pants are essential to stop your butt from freezing. To begin with, you will spend a few hours on it before you really get going, so these are handy.

Jackets are a bonus but probably not as essential as pants. Bearing in mind that while you are on the mountain weather can become harsh at the drop of a hat, pin, glove, joint etc. so anything that will keep you warm is worth carrying. Style of clothing is very important as described earlier and a rule to follow here is the faster you want to go the tighter your clothes become, yes even lycra for racing.

Yes, you can snowboard in The Czech Republic, no problems. Špindlerův Mlýn offers excellent terrain for learning and great lifts. To get there you have to catch a bus which will take you to the town itself. From there, lift access is well within walking distance straight onto the slopes.

Look out for the Burton sponsored snowboard school in Špindlerův Mlýn. They are the largest and best equipped with gear and instructors.

Accommodation is difficult to find in the winter, as many of the hotels and pensions cater mostly to foreign tourists. Ask your Czech friends where their family holiday home is. Chances are they may have something in this vicinity as the Krokonose mountains are a mainstay for Czech people.

Alternatively, of course, there are travel agents which can assist. One which I have dealt with before is Reko Tours, right around the corner from Ujezd. They offer info on tours throughout Europe and within The Czech Republic.

The High Tatras in Slovakia offer better and more challenging fields but are a further travel. My suggestion is to head to Spindler for a daytrip to get you started. Buses leave from Florence and Praha hlavní nádraží. Cost is about 300 Kč - 420 Kč each way, with a 1 hour transfer. The train is 248 Kč - 381 Kč, and takes 5.5 hours includes with a 2 hour transfer.

Thinky goes snowboardingThinky goes snowboardingGlossary of Terms for Newbies:

symmetrical - draw a line through the center of your board lengthways. one side's shape will be identical to the other's.

asymmetrical - board shape whereby the beginning of the edges are slightly offset from each other, resulting in a smooth transition (for plebs who can't ride normal boards.)

injury - something you will get for sure if you don't have an instructor and/or rent a race board.

face planting - the bit before the injury is sustained.

carving - riding gracefully through evenly arced turns using the edged only. impossible for jibbers.

cafe -a place in which to congregate and dream of fresh mountain air.

bar - a place inwhich to drink yourself into a stupor as a result of a depression from lack of mountain air.

style -Errrrrrrrrrrrr.

dork - anyone who says "I'll take my skis just in case I can't snowboard". It's better to leave them at home, stay home, and watch it on tv.

oversized pants - any pairs of pants you can attach to strings and fly as a kite.

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