The next step beyond a rope tow is the J-Bar lift. The J-Bar is what it sounds like, a large J shaped hook that comes behind you and pulls you up the hill. This type of lift is a huge step up from a rope tow since it can move more people at a higher rate of speed over a longer distance than a rope tow can.
A J-Bar is very different from a rope tow since you are being pulled from behind and you are sort of sitting while being pulled up the hill. For this reason a greater sense of balance and a little experience snowboarding is a good idea.
Depending upon the design of the J-Bar lift, it doesn’t matter what side of the lift that you approach from. Some J-Bar lifts have alternating bars on either side while others only have bars on particular side. The J-Bar works by coming up behind you and catching your bum as you squat on the handle of the lift. This can be a little challenging since the bar moves up and down to accommodate riders of various heights but it will become easy with time.
The first step is being prepared for the lift. You will glide into the loading area with your back foot out of the binding on your snowboard. This is common for almost all types of lifts so it is a good skill to get used to. An easy way to keep your balance is to rest your rear foot on the anti-slip pad.
When it is your turn, very shortly after the previous rider has gotten on to the J-Bar, you will glide into the lift area. While standing in the lift track reach out with your hand and grab the handle of the J-Bar as it approaches you. Once you have a grip on the handle squat down a little onto the J-Bar and prepare to be pulled up the hill. You will quickly find a stance that feels comfortable for you.
The last hurdle to over come is the release at the top of the hill. In order to free yourself of the J-Bar you will need to stand up and slightly spring yourself forward in order to gently launch yourself out of the lift track. It can be difficult to do this at first so take it slow. The lift operator will slow or even stop the J-Bar in order to get you out of the track safely.
Many of the same tricks for riding a rope tow also apply to riding the J-Bar. Resist the urge to lean back or you may find yourself rolling backwards off the J-Bar and into the lap of the person behind you. Do not squat down too low as this will cause you to roll forward and out of the lift if the operator stops the lift or if you catch your snowboard on the snow. If you are new to snowboarding it always pays to take a little time to watch other people ride the lift and learn from them.
As with anything else you do, practice makes perfect. Everyone at some point had to learn how to ride the J-Bar on that hill and most people had problems the first time they tried too. When you got your first snowboarding instructions your instructor undoubtedly told you how to ride the lifts on that particular hill which may not have included the J-Bar if there wasn’t one on that particular hill. If this is true for you feel free to ask for advice from either an instructor on the hill or the lift operator. Either person will be happy to tell you what you need to know to safely ride the lift and enjoy your snowboarding experience that much more.