Style/Extreme: A natural high

Snowboarding seems to be the second most exciting adrenaline sport after sex. Well, that's what the people we have spoken to seem to think, anyway. So it comes as no surprise that those who haven't tried it already see 1998 as the year to get boarding. But it's not just a case of getting up and going to the nearest slope for a fix. Oh no. Snowboarding is as expensive as it is hip and addictive. It is also slightly snobbish, and it's a big no-no to liken it to skiing. Snowboarders class themselves as spiritual surfers; snow is frozen water, right?

As a sport it has been around for 20 years, but has only just been endorsed by the International Olympic Committee. For its growing number of converts, snowboarding represents a lot more than a pastime. It's a way of life which goes beyond the slopes and onto the streets, where the look inspired by the sport has spawned many a new shop.

Decent equipment is essential. On the streets it will save your cred and on the slopes it can save your life whether you're freeriding or freecarving. If you're a beginner, it's best to borrow or rent as much quality gear as possible. When you're ready to buy you'll have a better idea what you should be looking for.

For complete beginners we have decided to do a mini introduction to the style elements of snowboarding, with our top 10 shops to get the gear and the 10 best places to go boarding. We have also enlisted the help of a complete beginner to get dressed up and tell us what he thinks. And there is the definitive gear from Burton, the range which was invented by one of the first snowboarders back in 1977, and which is probably the most expensive and gorgeous stuff around.

Burton Outland Convertible Jacket pounds 239.95

When James Bond decides to snowboard, M will give him this jacket. Backwarmer panel, underarm venting zips (to dump excess heat or to seal it in), trekking design (no uncomfortable seams on the shoulders when backpacking), self- heating coil zip, and internal/external storm flaps. Nice colour, too.

Burton Women's Fader pounds 129.95

Freestyle riding/tricks are inspired by surfing and skateboarding moves, and soft boots give you the required manoeuvrability. Soft boots offer comfort, response and durability while boarding, and anatomically-moulded foam gives you lightweight comfort. Without the rigidity of ski boots, you're able to find your board's edge quickly for freestyle riding.

Burton A Series 49 pounds 239.95

Add another pounds 100 for bindings and you have a serious cash outlay, but consider that this durable snowboard will probably outlast you. This all-terrain board is perfect for both beginners and experienced riders. Full-length, vertically-laminated wood core for durability and quick-return flex (how fast the board straightens itself when released from a turn or trick) all help to make manoeuvring easier. Outland Pant pounds 199.95 Technical protection for the most brutal weather Mother Nature can induce. Vent zippers, velcro storm flaps and full side zippers so you can de-boot without taking your pants down. Burton Universe Under Glove pounds 59.95 Protection in all conditions while still fitting under cuffs to maintain snow seal. Also features removable leashes and fleece liners. Fleeces from pounds 40 by O'Neill To keep warm you need a lot of layers. Fleeces are the perfect lightweight item to wear under your jacket to keep heat in.

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