When you first start to learn to snowboard there is only one way to get down the hill, straight down. As you become more skilled, you turn a little and snake down the hill, but you are still basically moving straight down.
Why try traversing?
While going straight down hill can be fun, there will be many times when you do not wish to go as fast, wish to go straight across the face of the hill or you want to move to the other side. In order to be able to cross the face of any slope you need to use a new technique called traversing. Traversing is a way of riding your snowboard so that only one edge of it is in contact with the hill thus allowing you to cross the face of a slope with out tumbling downhill. To picture what this is like think of the hill as a wall and your snowboard as a shelf mounted so that the riding surface is level on the horizontal plane like a shelf should be.
The key to traversing is balance. Start off by finding a slightly sloped hill that you have room to practice on. Using your rear foot for balance, slightly dig your snowboard into the face of the slope so that the heel side of you snowboard is resting horizontally against the face of the slope and your snowboard will not slide downhill when you put your weight on it. When you are ready place your rear foot on the stomp pad while making sure that the toe edge of your snowboard does not contact the slope of the hill.
Balancing is the hardest part of snowboarding and is toughest when starting and stopping. An important point to keep in mind is that your weight should be centered between your feet or perhaps slightly towards the front of your snowboard. To start traversing across the face of the slope, allow your front toes to come down a little. This will cause the front end of your snowboard to point slightly downhill thus allowing you to move diagonally across the slope. Remember that the downhill edge of your snowboard must never come in contact with the snow while traversing.
Now comes the finer points of traversing such as stopping. Stopping is fairly easy to do. All you have to do is raise your toes to bring the toe side of your snowboard back up to level or slightly higher. This will cause the front of your snowboard to point slightly uphill thus gently reducing your speed and bringing you to a graceful stop.
An interesting thing to bear in mind is the purpose of your rear foot while traversing. You use your foot to stabilize your snowboard and prevent it from pointing too far downhill or uphill. Your snowboard will not rotate much if you have a lot of weight on your rear foot. However, if you are heading for an obstacle, then you will want to put a lot of weight on your front foot to rotate your snowboard considerably.
Not only does traversing look elegant, it is key to a controlled decent down and across the face of any slope. Learning to traverse also forms an important building block for many other skills. Take the time to practice this vital skill and master soon after your learn the basics of snowboarding.