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Great Debate#4 - Heel vs Toe - Which is easier

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Have I mentioned lately that Cindy Kleh's "Snowboarding Skills" is a great book? Cindy claims that beginners find that heel turns are easier to make than toe turns (because one is facing down the hill on a heel side turn). Jibster and I have experienced about a 65-35 split in favor of heel side turns, but I wonder if teaching methods might have an impact on the percentages. Cindy's teaching approach involves more steering by pushing on the back foot than current AASI recommendations (but the book was published in 2002).

Do you remember when you learned to ride which turn was easier?

Pros - what percentage of your students have favored heel side turns?
post #2 of 26
I don't know about "easier", but preferable for most newBs, because of the vision factor that you mentioned - especially when side slipping. I think that toe side turns are easier, and when watching riders, the evidence supports this. Mostly due to stiff legged heel side turns. But then again, back to the binding issue.... as I mentioned there, if the bindings aren't holding the feet in place well, toe side turns can be verey difficult when your heels lift.
post #3 of 26
Heelside was definitely easier for me to learn. I believe this was due to starting out in boots that were not that supportive, though -- the highback was a lot easier to relate to because I could feel a distinct lever there on heelsides.
post #4 of 26
Heelsides were much easier for me too as a beginner.

Even when learning carved turns, I mastered heelsides long before toesides.
post #5 of 26
Heelsides were easier for me initially. As others have suggested, I think it's due to the vision and heelbacks.

I learned how to carve toeside much faster and with much less effort than I did on my heels. That extra joint definitely helps.
post #6 of 26
I have to go with heelside on this one too. Being able to look downhill, falling leaf, etc. Most people get stuck on the heelside turn first. Funny thing is, when I am dropping a steep line especially in the bc, I'll go toeside first before turning on my heels. It's easier to keep your balance and not skip out on toeside turns, not to mention the self arrest factor.
Example: Ok everything is kewl.

Weeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!
post #7 of 26
I'm more comfortable facing downhill, so I tend not to turn as far out of the fall line on my toe edge unless I'm thinking about it. So controlling speed becomes the job of the heel turn. When this happens, I skid more on my heel turns and delay crossover to the point of falling down because I'm holding onto the heel turn too long. So I have trouble with heel turns because they are "easier". My toe turns are cleaner and I never fall turning toe-side, but it's because I transition sooner out of the turn. If I concentrate on finishing toe turns (by making sure I'm facing uphill before I change directions), I do better.
post #8 of 26
I think everyone learns their hellside first, just look around the mountain, all the beginners are pretty much sliding down on their heels... i started out the same way, but now i'm way more proficient with my toe edge than i am with my heel edge, as far as stability at high speeds... i'm just an intermediate border though.
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the typo Alpine Wonder. Hellside turn! I'm going to use that one!
post #10 of 26
Heelside was definitely easier for me to learn. But my kids preferred toeside. I think this was b/c they were afraid of falling down the hill face first. If they fall toeside leaning forward, they feel safer.
post #11 of 26
As I've only gone snowboarding once.. I'd classify myself as a complete beginner.

Quick notes:

Failed to get off lift properly
Failed to link turns

It was much easier to do heelside for falling leaf and traversing... however, when getting back up after falling... toe-edge was always easier for me...
post #12 of 26
I guess I'm in the minority.

I always thought that toe side was easier to learn and get comfortable with.

I did have the advantage of reasonably well fitting equipment to learn on---and a friend that was a board instructor to guide the way.

Look again at Killclimbz's first picture, I felt for the longest time that heelside was harder because I couldn't see where I was going and didn't have the ability at that point to look over my shoulder as much as KC is doing and still hold my balance and control the board. It felt like a giant leap of faith to throw yourself backward into a turn and not really know where you were headed. Toe side was infinitely easier because I could see where I was going.

I understand that many beginners slide down the hill on heelside---but are they turning?? Not really, and to what side will they HAVE to turn if they actually do make a turn?? Toe side eh?
post #13 of 26
For me, definitely heelside. Especially when it came to transitioning between turns. Transitions into to heelside were always easier than transitions into toeside. Perhaps a big part of that is knowing if I fall then I'll land on my ass rather than my face.
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by skier_j
I guess I'm in the minority.

I always thought that toe side was easier to learn and get comfortable with.

I did have the advantage of reasonably well fitting equipment to learn on---and a friend that was a board instructor to guide the way.

Look again at Killclimbz's first picture, I felt for the longest time that heelside was harder because I couldn't see where I was going and didn't have the ability at that point to look over my shoulder as much as KC is doing and still hold my balance and control the board. It felt like a giant leap of faith to throw yourself backward into a turn and not really know where you were headed. Toe side was infinitely easier because I could see where I was going.

I understand that many beginners slide down the hill on heelside---but are they turning?? Not really, and to what side will they HAVE to turn if they actually do make a turn?? Toe side eh?
Actually that would be considered a toe side turn that I am doing in the first pic. I think you have the terms juxtaposed. Heelside gives you full view of what's below you and toeside causes you to look over your shoulder more. Anytime you are on your toes it's considered toeside and just the same for heels. Sounds like to me you are with the majority on this one.
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by killclimbz
Actually that would be considered a toe side turn that I am doing in the first pic. I think you have the terms juxtaposed. Heelside gives you full view of what's below you and toeside causes you to look over your shoulder more. Anytime you are on your toes it's considered toeside and just the same for heels. Sounds like to me you are with the majority on this one.
You start on the toes---but turn on the heel side of the board---in your picture, the first actual turn you make from the position you are in will be on your heel edge---thats what I am calling a heel side turn---until you transition to the next "facing the hill" turn which I would call a toe side turn.

By the way---when I learned on one of our beginner slopes, when I was in the exact same position, that beginner slope appeared to be steeper (in my minds eye) than what you are on in that photo!! That was part of the reason I said it was a "leap of faith" to initiate what I am calling a heel side turn!
post #16 of 26
Ok that explanation works for me.
post #17 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by killclimbz
Actually that would be considered a toe side turn that I am doing in the first pic. I think you have the terms juxtaposed. Heelside gives you full view of what's below you and toeside causes you to look over your shoulder more. Anytime you are on your toes it's considered toeside and just the same for heels. Sounds like to me you are with the majority on this one.
This illustrates one of the main reason many technique threads derail---folks are talking about the same thing in more than one way!

Going back to therusty's initial post---I see what you mean now and I agree that I might have the terms turned around. So I learned something today!

Starting a turn from a position facing down hill, from your heel side edge is easier to me as well.
post #18 of 26
Thread Starter 
Phew - I'm glad that got cleared up! It looks we're coming to the conclusion that it's a mixed bag, but heelside is more predominant. Thanks all.
post #19 of 26
The toe side turn is definitely more difficult to execute on steep terrain. In fact the toe side turn on must turn or die terrain is the best way to determine just how good a snowboarder someone is. That pick by killclimbz is a good example of what I'm talking about. If you screw up on steep terrain and fall on a toe side turn you are going to go over backwards possibly smacking your spine and the back of you head on rocks or trees as you ragdoll like Jeremy Jones did in the last 2 tgr films.
Put a guy in a steep gnarly chute with trees, rocks and or cliffs blocking the exit of the chute so that a right turn is the only option for a safe exit. Then see if the guy heelslides down the chute and pusses out or does he smoothely link turns and make a beautiful toe side turn to exit the chute.
The toe side turn made in powder is a beautiful thing when done correctly. Unfortunately too many riders only point their board and speed check heelside, these people and the gapers who follow them are the ones who scrape out good chutes and give snowboarders a bad rap.
post #20 of 26
I find that, with most of my beginner students, the heel side turn is easier, mostly due to alignment issues. The problem I see is that their shoulders and hips are lined up at the 11 o'clock position (regular stance), rather than pointing towards 1 o'clock. One practice tip I always suggest is to put your front hand on your knee before beginning the toe side turn (bending at the knees, not bending your waist), then before turning to the heel, moving your hand to your hamstring. This move not only provides understanding towards alignment but keeping the weight forward.
post #21 of 26
Just curious! Are you refering to what surfers call frontside/backside turns?
post #22 of 26
Frontside means facing the wave, so is a frontside turn going from heel edge to toe edge? A turn like that is made on the toe edge and is sometimes called a toe turn or toe edge turn by snowboarders. If backside turn is going from toe edge to heel edge, that's called a heel turn.
post #23 of 26
Thread Starter 
The problem with frontside surfing turns is that whether you are on your toes or your heels also depends on which direction the wave is breaking.
post #24 of 26
As a transitioning skier, I initially was not comfortable with heel-side turns due to the lack of forward vision.

In fact, until I was conscious of this, my toe side turns often led (unintentionally) to stops, due to my reluctance to force a toe side turn.

It took me a few days to figure this out. Once I did, I began drilling heel-side turns, and that's when I truly began feeling comfortable on the board.
post #25 of 26
On steep terrain I think that transitioning from toe to heel is harder than heel to toe. Overall, I think that heel side turns are more comfortable, although harder to carve.
post #26 of 26

to PBS rider

You stated:

I find that, with most of my beginner students, the heel side turn is easier, mostly due to alignment issues. The problem I see is that their shoulders and hips are lined up at the 11 o'clock position (regular stance), rather than pointing towards 1 o'clock. One practice tip I always suggest is to put your front hand on your knee before beginning the toe side turn (bending at the knees, not bending your waist), then before turning to the heel, moving your hand to your hamstring. This move not only provides understanding towards alignment but keeping the weight forward.


I like this suggestion a lot, thank you, but need some clarification. The student is regular and standing toe side to the slope. They just completed the toe side turn with the hand on their knee so their shoulder (toe side now) is pointing to the slope at 1:00. They are now about to go into the heelside turn so they move their hand to the hamstring which brings the shoulder across the board nose to the 11:00 position. Is this correct? I jsut wnat ot get the timing down in your coment becasue I read it as the problem is that they are in the 11:00 position. Is that not the end desired result?

Thanks

Bruce
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Snowboarding Discussions, Gear and Instruction › Great Debate#4 - Heel vs Toe - Which is easier