Garlands are called garlands because the trail left in the snow looks like a garland. Garlands are an important survival technique for on the slopes and generally the next skill learnt after side slipping. Why are they an important survival technique? Because being able to perform a garland will allow you to turn very sharply and stop very quickly when needed.
So what is a garland? The other name for the garland is a J-Turn and more aptly describes the sequence of events. Basically you are moving downhill, perhaps at a high rate of speed, and see an obstacle in your path. As you’re rapidly approach it you swing the back end of your snowboard out to effect a sharp turn and avoid the problem or stop very quickly. Alternatively you can do a less aggressive garland to zigzag your way down a slope avoiding whatever may be in your path.
In order to perform the garland you need to change your riding style. Up until now you have been working on maintaining the balance of your weight between your front and rear feet. However, the key to a garland is not being balanced evenly. You will want to shift the focal point of your balance in order to allow the rear of your snowboard to quickly swing out and then act as a rudder to steer you though the maneuver.
To begin the garland, start by riding straight down a slope with your snowboard in full contact with the surface of the slope. Your rear foot should be resting on the stomp pad at this point. This makes a garland turn a natural event while traversing since your rear foot is most likely on the stomp pad while traversing. As you approach the point where you wish to perform the garland begin to shift your weight forward. You will want to put 70-80% of your weight on to your front foot.
Placing this much weight on your forward foot makes it the pivot point for this turn. With the pivot point on your forward foot it is easy to spin your snowboard too far. The amount that your snowboard turns is partially controlled by adjusting the weight on your rear foot. Having your snowboard twist very sharply and dumping you into the snow is generally caused by not having enough weight on your rear foot.
Ride into the garland with your weight mostly forward, your knees slightly bent and when you are ready to turn allow your forward toes to push down thus causing the forward toe edge of your snowboard to bite into the hill. This will cause you to execute a turn that looks like a ‘J’ when viewed from above.
Once you are comfortable with garlanding to the toe side, try doing so to the heel side. The process is the exact same as before except you lift your toes up instead of pushing them down. Turning to the heel side is usually tougher for most people as it is easier to loose your balance. Once you get the hang of turning to the heel side you are ready for the final step, alternating from toe side to heel side.
As you most likely know, being able to garland is extremely important to snowboarding and avoiding injuries. While being able to garland will allow you to dodge other people on the hill who suddenly move in front of you or stop, it will also allow you to move between inanimate objects such as trees and rocks. Remember that speed is meaningless with out control.