How to snowboard, step 4: J turns

Turning your snowboard starts by applying pressure to your feet. Too little pressure and nothing happens; too much and you’re not smooth. In this episode, we introduce the subtle movements that make a snowboard turn with simple drills you can practice at home and on snow.

Before watching this episode, you should’ve mastered skating, stepping and straight glides. In this video, we’ll teach you the next step: J-turns. A J-turn is a turn shaped like a J. You’ll start in a straight glide and add a little edge pressure and knee movement. Before you know it you’ll start to turn.

Step 1: Practice pressure and knee movement

Since your feet do all the work, practice this subtle foot pressure and knee movement at your house.

Toe Turn: Apply gentle pressure on the toes of your front foot. Don’t stand up on your tip-toes, that’s too much—but it’ll take more than a little wiggle. Head to your nearest hard floor to practice the feeling. Gradually and evenly put pressure on your toes until the skin around the nail turns white. That’s the right amount of pressure. Once you apply toe pressure, slowly rotate your knee to the inside (about 1-2 inches).

Heel Turn: For a heel turn put pressure on your heels, pulling up on your toes, and push your knee outside. Again, gentle pressure. Put on your boots and bindings and try the motion on carpet. You should feel your toenails pressing on the tops of your boots and your calf muscle should be pressing on your high-back. Now rotate your knee to the outside about 1-2 inches.

Step 2: J-turns on the bunny hill

On the same run you were using for the straight glide, buckle your front foot into your binding. Begin a straight glide and apply pressure to your front foot. The snowboard will slowly track in the direction of pressure. To round the turn, rotate your front knee slightly. Keep your knees bent, shoulders parallel with your snowboard, and weight even on both feet.

Toe Turn: From a straight glide, apply gentle, gradual pressure to your toes. The board will slowly track in the direction of pressure. To round the turn, rotate your front knee slightly inside.

Heel Turn: From a straight glide, gradually put pressure on your heels (pull up your toes). When the snowboard begins turning, push your front knee to the outside.


  • Maintain a balanced posture and FORGET it! Apply pressure and let the board slowly turn.
  • Don’t panic and fight the snowboard or add extra movements. You’ve only got to do three things here: stay in good posture, press down on your front foot and move your knee. Do these small movements and be patient, your board will turn.
  • Avoid sitting back by putting extra weight over your front leg.

When you feel confident with one foot, strap in both feet and try toe and heel J-turns a few times. Once you have that down, you’ll be ready for the chairlift

Next Step: How to Snowboard, step 5: riding the chairlift

5 Responses to Step 4: Snowboard J-Turns
  1. Grace
    February 17, 2012 | 9:21 am

    At last!!! I finally learned how to do this trick by watching your video many times over. Thank you.

  2. Ray Baucum
    December 28, 2011 | 8:38 am

    Reagarding the end of heelside and toeside turns.
    You said at end of a toessdie turn,”slowly rotate your front knee to the inside (about 1-2 inches),plus at the end of a heelside turn to,”push your front knee to the outside.” Please explain what this inward and outward movement of the knee accomplishes??

    • Rick
      December 28, 2011 | 10:56 pm

      It really gets you to finish the turn (make a complete C shape) when skidding.

  3. Greg
    February 19, 2011 | 9:38 pm

    Once you start the J turn by putting pressure on the toes of your lead foot, do you then add pressure to the toes of your rear foot while progressing through the turn? Or, is even pressure maintained on the back foot?

    • Jill
      February 19, 2011 | 9:56 pm

      Hi Greg! You got it. First add more pressure on your lead foot, then more on your back-foot, then steer with the knee of your front foot. The front foot pressure initiates the turn, the back foot progresses the turn and the knee rounds/completes it. The pressure is subtle, so you will still maintain a pretty balanced weight distribution between your legs (55% over your front leg/45% over your back leg) — the pressure comes from moving your feet not throwing your weight around (like pressing a gas pedal of your car).

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