Snowboarding at Forty....and I do not mean 40 MPH!!!
Or the Ups and Downs of Learning To Snowboard!!!
To many of you reading this article snowboarding may be foreign....it may even seem scary!!! Both of your feet attached to one board, that is appears no one over the age of 21 is allowed to ride....and you have to wear clothes that are so baggy that you are sure to get more snow inside you than they made while snowmaking the night before.
Well I am here to tell you that snowboarding is for everyone....even for those of us who were born before rock and roll! You don't have to listen to Pearl Jam (an alternative rock band from Seattle) to enjoy the thrill of craving that is uniquely the realm of the snowboarder or as Warren Miller has come to describe us all... SnowRiders!!!
Learning to snowboard is a very interesting adventure....especially for someone as technical about skiing as I have become over the years. I could easily (from my lofty chair lift ride) dissect the carving turns of a snowboarder and determine when one of them had really made a great carve (trench)! I could also understand the mechanics and when standing quietly at the top of the beginner rope tow on Bunny Meadows, could mimic my instructors. Only when I began my first descent did reality hit....oh yes....and then I hit the ground. I didn't understand....I did exactly what my instructor said....and what I saw others doing....why did I fall....where was the quick learning curve I had heard so much about on snowboards....and besides what was I doing here anyway!!!
Well, let me explain that part ....we are a resort that caters to beginning skiers and we have developed a strong snowboarding program.... but we are still a ski area. And as such we require all of our snowboard instructors to learn to teach a beginner's ski lesson. Well it was my job to take 15 snowboard instructors and make them ski instructors at our first instructors clinic. Normally this would have been a very enjoyable task, but as so often happens today....6 of the instructors had never been on skis....so my challenge was laid out....keep them interested and committed....teach them to ski and teach a lesson....and have fun. Well that is where the challenge came in....to get two of the instructors to commit, I had to commit to hopping on a snowboard at the end of the day! Boy was that tough to do!!! I was exhausted from a very long day....and as with any sport...when you are tired it is difficult to perform....so I spent about two hours learning how to get up....how to slide side ways....and why you should always quit skiing (or boarding) when you are tired!!!
That first day was tough for me and was at the beginning of the 96/97 season....I came up with a number of reasons throughout the remainder of the season for not getting back on a board...some legitimate...I am well over 40...and some not so legitimate....I might hurt myself and not be able to finish my certification for Level II at the end of the season....basically I was embarrassed to keep falling with my instructor jacket in plain sight for everyone to see....Well then comes the 97/98 season and I have committed to myself to learn to board....and to figure out what all the excitement is about. I had learned to carve with my shaped skis and at times I could feel my elbows touching the snow as I trenched across Graeber's...just like the snowboarders...but it was different...they seemed to flow more than I could and they had a stronger base with that wide board....and I would never attempt Jurassic Park on my shapes....but even a novice seemed comfortable on a board. So I needed to unlock the secrets of boarding....and I had all season to perform this magic!!!!
Well it didn't take all season....it took only two days....I am by no means an expert, but I have made some....now I must admit....that I fell more in those two days than I have fallen in the last ten years of skiing...but as I have said many times...."If you are not falling....you are not learning"....well I learned a lot!!!
First of all....The mechanics are very similar to skiing! You need to weight and unweight just as you do with skiing....You need to make your movements subtle....just like you do with skiing....Your equipment needs to be set up correctly....and you need to find out if you ride goofy or regular (unlike skiing)....simple test...Stand with your feet together and arms stretched out in front of you....have someone pull you off balance by grabbing both your arms....the foot that you catch you balance with is the front foot on the board....left is regular....right is goofy....simple. There is a very different language and culture to snowboarding that will come with time....heel side....toe side....trenching....click in....etc....don't be intimidated... I'm not....it really is logical! There are other similarities....you need to have good gloves....you need to be in control and follow the snow rider's responsibility code.
Riding a lift...now that is a little different...but not impossible....getting off the lift....well just take your time.
But I must tell you that the first time you carve that toe side turn....the rush is incredible....the sensation of speed and power is difficult to match on skis....the freedom afforded your upper body without the encumbrance of poles is also pleasant and liberating!
In summary....the learning curve is quicker....the language is no stranger than ski language....the clothes are baggier (which is not bad for those of us without our youthful physique)....and the ride is fun!!! We are all snow riders....so the next time you see a sixteen year old on a board....remember you too can have that SMILE....but I would hold off on the tattoo and earrings until after you retire!!!