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Snowboarding only looks impossible.

They're not schussing on modified surfboards or skateboards--they're riding snowboards. Invented some 10 years ago, snowboarding is growing in popularity in the West. It's a fairly easy sport that can be done on almost any snowy incline. A few ski resorts let snowboarders use lifts and trails. All require use of ankle strap; snowboarders must stay on groomed slopes. This month you can even watch the World Snowboarding Championships at Boreal Ridge near Lake Tahoe, California, planned for March 30 and 31.

Snowboarding owes much to its surf and sidewalk cousins. The snowboarder squiggles down a slope using the same arm balance and hip-turning motions as the surfer (with snowboards, bindings hold your feet in position). Tight turns are executed in much the same way as they are on skateboards: you press down on the tail with your back foot and pick up the nose with your foot, swinging it into the turn.

How do you stop? Simply turn the nose uphill or, failing that, just sit down. While the basic concept of snowboarding its simple, mastery depends on coordination and practice.

Snowboards: limited choices. Measuring about 4 feet long and 10 inches wide, a snowboard weighs about 10 pounds. Less-expensive designs (about $80) made of laminated wood have simple metal fins at the back to aid turning. Newer, more sophisticated sytles offer metal edges for easier turning, slick plastic lamination on the bottom for a smoother ride, and better bindings for more turning control; they're also more expensive, costing $230 and up.

Bindings may be simple wide bands of rubber with adjustable straps or more elaborate, foam-padded plastic with ski boot-type buckles. Bindings aren't as critical to safety as they are with skiing, since your ankle isn't locked rigid as in a ski boot. But a secure binding will help you turn more easily. The boots you wear should be warm; a firm-sided, over-the-ankle boot such as those worn by snowmobilers will also aid in turning.

Availability of snowboards is still somewhat limited. They are sold at some sporting goods stores; try shops that specialize in skateboards, surfboards, or ski gear. Of the manufacturers we surveyed, these two firms can help you locate shops that sell snowboards in your area: Burton Snowboards, Department ST, Manchester Center, Vt. 05255; and Sims Snowboards, 835 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara 93103.

Where to go snowboarding? Powder snow is fun, but for the novice it's too difficult to carve turns in. Dry packed snow on a gentle slope free of rocks or trees is best for learning. A flat, broad runout at the bottom allows easy stopping.

Some cautions: you can pick up speed quickly (experts say a snowboard can travel as fast as competition skis). If you tumble, a safety strap from your ankle to the snowboard keeps it from shooting away and perhpas hitting someone.

National forests that allow sledding usually allow snowboarding; call to check. Some alpine ski resorts are open to snowboarders who buy lift tickets (though they may be confined of specific trails), a few rent boards, and one (Soda Springs) offers lessons. but many resorts don't allow them yet, adopting a cautious attitude: "We're afraid snowboards might interfere with skiers, or carve more moguls into our groomed slopes," says one manager.

We surveyed Western ski resorts and found 22 areas (mostly small, family resorts) that will allow snowboards with safety straps. Information numbers and lift ticket fees are listed below.

Alaska. Arctic Valley Ski Resort (closed at press time due to lack of snow; call ahead), 15 miles east of Anchorage; lift ticket $12; call (907) 272-7767.

Arizona. Greer Ski Area, off U.S. 60, near the Arizona-New Mexico border; $10; (602) 735-7503.

California. Borel/Soda Springs Ski Area, 10 miles west of Truckee on Interstate 80; $14; (916) 426-3666. Donner Ski Ranch, 3-1/2 miles off Interstate 80 at Norden; $10; (916) 426-3635.

Southern California. Mountain High Ski Area, 30 miles north of San Bernardino on State Highway 2; $20; (619) 249-5479. Snow Forest Ski Area, in Big Bear Lake 1/2 mile south of State 18 on Pine Knot Avenue. $16; (714) 866-8891.

Colorado. Berthoud Pass, 57 miles northwest of Denver off Interstate 70; $8; (303) 572-8014. Breckenridge Ski Area,9 miles south of Frisco off Interstate 70; $22; 453-2368. Eldora Ski Area (allowed on weekdays only), 21 miles north of Boulder; $8; 447-8012. Ski Ester Park, 75 miles northwest of Denver; $10; 586-4887.

Idaho. Bogus Basin, 16 miles norths of Boise; $16; (208) 336-4500. Schweitzer Ski Area, Sandpoint; $17; 263-9555.

Montana. Big Sky, 45 miles south of Bozeman; $20; (406) 995-4211.

Nevada. Slide Mountain, about 35 miles southwes of Reno off State Highway 431; $14; (702) 849-0303.

Oregon. Timberline, near Government Camp, 60 miles southeast of Portland; $14; (503) 272-3311. Mount Ashland Ski area, Ashland; $13.50; 482-2897.

Utah. Alta about 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City; $12; (801) 742-3333. Beaver Mountain Ski Area, Logan; $10; 753-0921.

Washington. Mission Ridge, near Wenatchee; $16; (509) 663-6543. Mount Baker, 50 miles east of Bellingham; $16; (206) 734-6771. Stevens Pass (no weekend, holiday, or Friday night snowboarding), about 70 miles east of Seattle; $18; (206) 973-2441.

Wyoming. Americana Snow King Mountain, in Jackson; $10; (307) 733-5200.
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Date:Mar 1, 1985
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