Beginner Tips for Rails on A Snowboard

If you’re starting to develop a good skill set on the snowboard and keen to push yourself even further, then learning how to ride rails without getting worked might just be the challenge you’ve been looking for!

Let me start by saying this:

You can learn to ride rails/boxes without getting worked!

Just take your time when practicing the basics and you will soon learn when to commit or when to bail out and try again.

There is a sweet spot on the rail with your snowboard and when you start to get good, you know if you’re locked in or if it’s time to bail….

It all just comes from time on the Rail/Box and a good balanced stance.

Trust me when I say, if you think you can just go and hit a rail without visualising it first, you will get smacked!

Today we are going to talk about our stance on the rail, our approach and exit when stepping it up to becoming a park Rat.

By the end of this post you will know how to:

  • 50-50 a box
  • Board slide a box
  • Nose press a box

Let’s start by talking about our stance!

You really should know what our basic stance is by now, if you don’t go and check out this post……………..

For the sake of the demo’s we will only be hitting the boxes with these progressions, as you become more confident you can step it up to the rails.

APPROACH INTO ANY RAIL on your Snowboard

Before you hit any jump or rail you should always do a scope run first (Ride through the park without hitting anything), we do this to see if any changes have been made to the takeoff or landings from the previous night’s grooming.

I recommend you do this any time you enter the terrain park for the first run of the day, it’s extremely easy to get injured if you don’t know what you’re doing!

So, once you have scoped out the rail run, and everything looks good, we will now talk about how to approach a rail.

Speed is your friend when hitting boxes or rails for the first time, as long as your not doing anything too crazy, good speed will help you get on and off the rail quickly and safely.

Wait for someone to come by and watch how fast they are going.

If it’s your first time hitting a box, I would recommend pointing your snowboard straight at the box from about 15ft (5 meters).

This should be a good amount of speed to carry you and off the box without getting stuck or going to slow.



Depending what trick you are doing on the rail, your upper body might be isolated from your lower body but there are some guiding principles that remain the same.

1) Always have a Flat base

2) Always Visualize yourself doing the trick before you do it

3) Always have bent knees…Try not to stand up tall unless you know what you are doing.

4) Always have good speed, going to slow can turn ugly quickly.

5) Once on the Box/Rail make sure you are looking to the end of it, don’t look down.


rails on a snowboard

How to do a 50-50:

50-50 is where you ride straight onto the box/rail and your snowboard (Nose/tail) is going in the same direction as the feature.

Start by having a good basic stance, everything should be aligned with a relaxed light attitude.

The goal here is to ride on the box/rail, along the rail and off again.

Start from about 15ft/5m away and point your snowboard straight at the box, you should ever so slightly be on your toe edge while coming up to the box.

Right before your snowboard hits the box, go to a flat base on your board and ride the box like this.

Bent knees, straight back and looking towards the end of the rail!

At the other end, absorb the landing ride away.



How to do a Nose Press:


Start in the same position as the 50-50 but this time we are going to shift our weight forward over the nose of the snowboard while we are on the rail.

Before we go and implement this trick, I think it would be fair to mention that you really shouldfeel comfortable doing this on flat ground before taking it onto the rails.

Practice shifting your weight forward over your nose and lifting your back foot up and holding the pressure over your nose.

( Before you try this on the box, you should be able to snowboard and go straight into a nose press on the snow.)

To do this on a box, the setup is the same, strong basic stance and relaxed, this time when you hit the box, slowly shift your weight forward and hold the press!

Make sure your upper body is in alignment with your lower body otherwise your press will want to turn on you.

Think about trying to grab the nose of your snowboard when performing the trick.

As you get better, you will be able to go from the snow straight into a nose press on the rail.

Pop off the other end, done!


How to Board slide:

To learn the board slide, we start in the 50-50 position and then towards the end of the box/rail we start to twist our upper body to turn our snowboard 90 degrees to the rail/box, maintaining a flat base the whole time.

Same setup as 50-50, but this time when you are half way along the box, I now want you to turn your upper body 90 Degrees and maintain the same balance and position.

It is vital you have even weight on both feet and flexed in the knees. Too many people stand up too tall and this is where they lose balance and slip out.

– Keep flexed and relaxed

– Slow small movements

– Even weight on both feet.

As you get better, start turning your snowboard across the rail/Box earlier, slowly work your way back up the box until you board slide straight on to it.

Keep centered and have even weight on both feet


You’ll probably know what a handbrake turn is, but you mightn’t necessarily know how it works, what it’s used for, or how exactly to pull one off smoothly and consistently.

Handbrake turns originated in rally driving and are commonly used to quickly manoeuvre around the tightest, low speed corners. Generally speaking, it’s one of the bluntest tools in a driver’s arsenal and is usually only utilised on corners which are too tight to negotiate at speed via other methods.

The handbrake turn works by pulling hard on the handbrake in order to lock the rear wheels, which in conjunction with a hard steering input will cause the car to slide around in a tight radius. It can also be used to induce a drift at speed or while mid-corner in order to tighten the car’s line.

What you’ll need

The right car

The first thing that you should check for is that your car actually has a manual, cable operated handbrake. Virtually all older cars will have one, though many new ones are starting to come with button-operated parking brakes as standard, which will be of no use for pulling off a handbrake turn.

As a rule of thumb, handbrake turns work best on front-wheel drive cars. Given that locking the rear wheels on a rear-wheel drive car will kill all drive it tends to not give the desired effect, and could also damage your driveline.

It can be used on certain four-wheel drive cars, though vehicles with viscous centre differentials will often not allow the handbrake to lock the rear wheels only, so it’s worth checking the exact specs of your car.

Handbrake turns also work best with cars that have a manual gearbox, or in the case of a rally or racing car one with a sequential gearbox and a clutch pedal that allows power to be cut from the wheels.

More advanced drivers may want to fit their cars with a special hydraulic handbrake, given that handbrake turns are hard on the car’s components and will stretch the handbrake cable under heavy usage.

Open space

It’s absolutely vital that you have plenty of open space to practice handbrake turns in. You should never attempt a handbrake turn or any other stunt driving technique on a public road, or in a public car park.

If there’s no open and available space near you, take a look on Google for your nearest racing circuit or driving experience centre, most of which will come with a skidpan area for you to practise techniques, drifts and skids in a safe, controlled environment.

Suitable conditions

If you want to prolong the life of your tyres, it’s worthwhile only practising handbrake turns in suitable conditions. Practising on dry tarmac will wear the tread off your rear tyres extremely quickly, and it also means you’ll have to carry more speed into the turns in order to initiate a proper handbrake turn.

To start out, you’re best either finding an area with a low-grip surface like gravel, dirt or grass. Wet tarmac will also work better than dry tarmac, and many race track skidpans will come with sprinklers which periodically shoot water onto the surface in order to reduce friction.

If you’re really in a pinch, you could opt for a set of spare tyres, or pick up a pair of plastic tyre covers like those made by Easydrift, which are specially designed to fit over your rear tyres and reduce the amount of grip available, and which are used by professional drivers and stuntmen alike.


Finally, to really learn how to nail a consistent handbrake turn you’ll want some cones to practise turning around. You can start with just a single cone and all of our diagrams below are displayed with just one cone, but once you start to get the feel for it you can set up additional cones and practise sliding the car around or through them.

How to handbrake turn

Once you have everything you need and you’ve found a suitable spot to practise in, it’s time to learn how to pull off a handbrake turn. Although it seems like a simple manoeuvre, we’ve split it down into six distinct stages below.

Stage one

Accelerate towards the cone at a reasonably low speed. As a rule of thumb, 30mph is plenty when learning and you should stay in first gear until you’ve properly got the feel for doing it consistently at lower speeds.

Just before you turn the steering wheel, lift your right foot sharply off the accelerator, which will cause the weight of the car to transfer over the front end, lightening the load on the rear tyres and allowing for a sharp turn in.

Stage two

You should have your hands positioned in a way which allows you to apply the greatest amount of steering lock in a single, smooth motion. If you’re turning left around the corner, place your right hand at the five o’clock position and prepare to smoothly turn it all the way to 11 o’clock.

Likewise, if you’re turning right, position your right hand at the 7 o’clock position and prepare to move it to the 2 o’clock position. We’d suggest starting off by turning left, however, as it’s easier to operate the steering by pulling rather than pushing.

Stage three

In one fluid motion turn in hard but smoothly, and aim to clip the cone with the front left wheel of the car if you’re turning left, or the front right wheel if you’re turning right.

At the same time as you’re steering, press in the clutch pedal with your left foot and yank the handbrake up hard in a quick motion, taking care to make sure you’re pressing in the release button for a smooth action.

Note that you shouldn’t hold the handbrake on, as this will only kill your speed. You want to only apply enough handbrake to get the rear end of the car to swing round and release it as quickly as it was engaged.

Stage four

As you feel the back of the car coming round and the radius of the turn starting to tighten, begin to unwind the steering lock that was applied. The wheel will try to force its way round in the opposite direction, but you want the front wheels to point in the direction you want the car to go.

It’s vitally important that you always look in the direction you want the car to end up, even if you’re temporarily looking out of the side window instead of the windscreen. Just like in normal driving, the car will naturally tend to go towards whatever point your eyes are fixed on.

You may also have to let the wheel slip through your hands in a controlled manner in order to unwind the steering lock quickly and ‘catch’ the car, and it will probably take a few tries to get this just right.

Stage five

When the car has rotated in the desired direction and at the desired angle, press on the accelerator to get the engine revs up. Generally, give it enough throttle to make the wheels spin slightly, and then bring the clutch up quickly to get the best possible start in your new direction.

This is probably the trickiest bit of the entire handbrake turn, as beginners will often either not give the car enough gas, will not bring the clutch up quick enough or will overcook the angle and have to countersteer in order to reign the car back into line.

Stage six

Once the turn has been completed, simply drive off and then start again for another try. If you’ve pulled it off right, the whole manoeuvre should take between two or three seconds.

It can be tricky to get the coordination down, but as with everything, practice makes perfect and the more you do it the better you’ll get, and the better a feel you’ll get for what the car’s doing underneath you.

Common mistakes

Trying your best but just can’t get it right? Troubleshoot what you’re doing with some of the more common mistakes drivers make below.

Taking the corner too slow

If you take the corner at too low a speed, or alternatively if you’re on a surface with too much grip, you won’t be able to achieve the right amount of rotation, and the car will either not get a tight enough turn or simply slow down.

Taking the corner too fast

Conversely, carrying too much speed into a tight corner will either result in a spin if you’re too aggressive with the turn-in or the handbrake, or you’ll understeer and run off the opposite end of the turn.

Holding the handbrake for too long

At higher speeds, this will make the car rotate further than you’d initially intended, or alternatively at lower speeds it’ll simply scrub all your speed off and bring the car to a halt.

Traction control is on

The majority of new, or at least recent, cars will come with some sort of traction control function, which will, among other things, limit your ability to pull off a handbrake turn. If you’re completing all the steps correctly but it feels like the handbrake is doing nothing, check to see whether you’ve left the traction control on.