I’ve decided to give snowboard a try in my advanced age. We even took three trips this year, riding through crazy conditions including in pouring rain and sleet last weekend, and under scorching hot sun with dry patches of dirt and slushes of melted snow this weekend. Oh, and did I mention that the 20+ year-old bindings that I inherited from Monkey King from his college days BROKE in the middle of my lesson? Which part of the binding you asked? It was the big strap that holds your foot down to the board! What a sensation to all of a sudden feel my right foot air-borne, as I turned from my toe edge to ride flat down-hill on the way to heel edge!
With too many bruises to count and the associated pain, here are my top 5 most hated things as a beginner snowboarder:
- Pointing us to the wrong trails. So you think all easy runs are the same: green, blue, they all might as well be labeled “bunny slope” in your book. To us, the main difference is how hard we fall and how frequently we fall. So when we are making our runs and you know I’ve asked for a green run, please don’t point towards the blue one and say, “it’s this way.” I can read too, you know! Ditto for the lifts. I nearly had a stroke when I heard Monkey King whispered, “oops, I think we are on the wrong lift. Humm…” And yes, the reason I got off the lift in such an extraordinary fashion–kneeling down on the ground as soon as I landed– was because I was paralyzed with fear. I think I cracked my tailbone on my way down during that run. But hey, thanks for making sure that I didn’t go down the black diamond at the fork! Much appreciated!
- People strapping on at the bottom of a lift drop-off line. When you get off the lift, get out of the way! There are benches and banks on the side for you to strap on. It’s anxiety inducing enough trying to get off the lift, we don’t want not crashing into you to become our top priority when we are already really good at crashing without any obstacles. There is only enough space for people to get off the lift heading straight, followed by a gentle J turn. That’s it. There is no room for you to sit your a$# down in that tiny real estate. I crashed more times than I cared for because of these inconsiderate people.
- Crashing down and taking us with you. I get it when you are flailing, your arms go up and you want to grab onto whatever it is you think might help you with your unavoidable fall. Trust me, grabbing onto us is definitely not going to help you with that. You will end up hurting more with our weight on top of you, and hurting us in the process too.
- Sitting in the middle of a run. If you just fell, fine, take a moment, regroup yourself before picking yourself back up again. We get that. But if you are going to sit there and chat with your friends about their summer vacation plans, remove yourselves away from the traffic! You don’t park your car in the middle of a highway, so why are you just sitting there in the middle of a high traffic zone full of beginners who are delicately balanced on some very slippery material. In fact, this is even worse: there is no metal armor protecting your entire body except for a helmet.
- Shooting down the slope with a death wish, with no intention of hitting the brakes until you caught an edge and run the huge risk of taking us with you (see #3 above). This is by far, the most dangerous part of this winter sport. I’ve had teenage boys shooting down so close by me that knocked me off my course, only to crash right in front of me a few feet away. So while I was rebalancing myself, I had to make a quick turn to avoid a mass pile-up. That, my friend, was no small feat considering I just got off the wrong lift, and almost headed towards the black diamond right about a minute ago.
Despite the many death defying incidents, bruises and pain, I can’t stop thinking about snowboarding. Sure, I have bruises on parts of my body that I didn’t know I could get bruises on, but the thrill I hit when I finally linked my “S” turns, even as the rain was pouring down sheets of water over my helmet, was so exchilirating that I screamed with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Along with two other women who took the lesson with me, we laughed and high-fived, and pumped our fists as the sky darkened and riders thinned. When I look back at our season thus far, I mainly think about how happy and giddy Plumster and Monkey King looked as they took off ahead of me, one after another, smooth and graceful.
I also fantasize how I can get better so that I can move on to the promise land of unpopulated pristine powder. And perhaps if we can even be gifted with a bluebird day, both to soften my falls and soothe my bruised ego, I’d much appreciate that as well.
Photo credit: taken by Monkey King from the top of the Sierra, becase you know, it will take me a few more years to get there.