Many resorts will not allow you to use their chair lifts unless you have a leash attaching your snowboard to your leg. The superficial reason for the leash, which is also used with some skis, is to keep your snowboard under control if you wipe out. The real reason is to limit the liability of the resort by making you responsible for your snowboard at all times.
This policy does make some sense for several reasons. The main reason is that a 6 pound snowboard hurtling down the hill at 30 miles an hour can do a lot of damage. Historically this has been a problem as many bindings or snowboards where prone to releasing the rider. Original bindings where borrowed from skiing and where not designed for the kinds of movements that where exerted by snowboarding.
The issue of bindings releasing prematurely has been resolved by modern binding systems designed for snowboarding. This only leaves one time to worry about, when you are stepping into or out of your bindings. The most common time for a skier or a snowboarder to loose their ski or snowboard is when they are preparing to step into the bindings.
Now that we know why we must have a leash lets look at what the leash is and the proper way to wear it. The leash is simply a cord that runs from your snowboard’s bindings to your leg. Often the leash has small clasps on it so that you can remove either end of the cord.
Some snowboards come with a short strap, about 6" long, that is intended to act as the leash. This strap goes from the bindings on your snowboard to your snowboarding boots. This design is not practical, as it is almost impossible to step out of your bindings with the strap attached thus defeating the purpose of the leash.
The correct technique for using a leash is to attach it to your snowboard before you attempt to get into the bindings and after you have stepped out of your bindings. The leash should be fastened around or just below your knee, not your ankle. When the leash is attached to your knee and is the correct length, you will be able to step out of your bindings and walk up to the top of a snow park without having to remove the leash.
While the leash may not be as important as it used to be it is something that many resorts require of snowboarders. Aside from the safety issues that it may resolve it does have some practical benefits. If you slip on a patch of ice your snowboard can not go very far. Some leashes do have a small locking mechanism, usually a three-digit combination, which allows you to secure your snowboard while inside the lodge. We may not need the leash any more but since it is required equipment in many places it is important to always have one with you and make the most of it.