A new way of going down the mountain

photo 37. Learn to snowboard. 3/6/13

Amy stepped off of the lift and leaned against her snowboard.

“Where’s your coat?” I asked, noticing the lack of her fluffy white, down coat.

“I got hot, left it at the bottom of the hill,” she explained, “hope no one takes it.”

“You should have tied it around your waist or stuffed it in your snow pants,” I recommended. Amy laughed. I wasn’t joking. For a moment I thought about asking her if I could stuff her coat down my pants but we’d only just met and I didn’t think it was appropriate.

Wincing I sat myself down on my sore behind and strapped my feet into my snowboard. I took a deep breath and leaned back onto my elbows. With a sigh I looked down the mountain and surveyed the resort.

I’m not a skier. I think that I could have been, but, growing up, my family wasn’t a ski family. We went to Alpine Valley in Wisconsin a couple of times when I was little and I have distinct memories of taking ski lessons with my sister, Lizzy, riding the chairlift with my dad sandwiched between us and walking barefoot in the snow to get to the hot tub in the evening. I remember liking it: the thrill, the cold air against my cheeks and, of course, the ski pass attached to my jacket that I confidently wore to school for the remainder of the winter months. Pretty badass.

photo 2

Now it’s been about 20 years since I was last on skis. I don’t know when I first wanted to learn how to snowboard, I think it was in college, but it made it to the list. I did a little internet research before jumping in the car for my spontaneous trip last week and found a pretty good deal at the Boyne Mountain Snowsports Academy. For $60 a wannabe snowboarder like myself can get a 2 hour group lesson, equipment rental and a lift ticket for the beginner area. Not bad. I inquired about the 10am lesson and was contacted about an hour later by Curtis to confirm. Boyne Mountain is only about a half hour away from Charlevoix so on Wednesday morning, after giving Essie a good run in the snow, I jumped in the car and arrived at the Boyne Mountain Ski Resort in plenty of time to rent my equipment and watch the small children zoom down the bunny hill on their boards.

Like learning a new language, snowboarding should be learned when you’re a child. It isn’t impossible to learn as an adult, just a helluva lot harder.

photo 4“Are you sunbathing?” Jordan asked as he hit my board with a snowball and brought my attention back to the task at hand. With his blond curls and scruff Jordan looked more like a bleached out surfer than a snowboard instructor.

“I’m icing my ass.” I joked, tossing a snowball in his direction and missing him by a mile. The last trip down the mountain had been a rough one, including two hard falls on my poor tailbone. I was trying hard to smile and joke through the pain. “How long have you been doing this?” I asked him, part stalling, part making conversation.

“This is my first year.”

“Teaching?”

“No. Snowboarding. And teaching” There goes my theory about learning as a kid.

“You’re crazy.” I smiled as I ungracefully rolled in the snow and unsteadily stood on my board.

Jordan came up behind me and gave me some pointers. “You’re riding too much on your toes… bring your hip out more… you’re using your calf muscles too much…” His number one rule was that snowboarding was about relaxing but each fall made me more and more tense. “You’re shaking.” He observed. Just chill.

I took a deep breath and jumped so that my front food was was parallel with the bottom of the mountain and took off, a moment before I was ready. “Just chill.” I repeated Jordan’s advice to myself and could suddenly feel my calves loosen up, my body relax slightly. Bringing my front shoulder across my body I turned my board parallel with the mountain and leaned forward to stop.

“Woo, yeah girl!” Jordan’s cheers brought a smile to my face. “That was great, now do it again!”

photo 1Without a word I repeated the steps, this time allowing myself to get a little more speed. Another successful stop. I looked up the mountain toward Jordan helping Amy get to her feet. I waved up at him, giving a small “woo!” and allowed myself a little celebration. A little too much celebration. Down I went, back onto my sore rear. At least he didn’t see it. I’ve always been a good student and have always sought approval and a pat on the back from my teachers. Quickly I righted myself and traveled the rest of the way down the mountain cautiously and without drama.

When I got off the lift again I found Nick sitting much as I had been. I sat beside him and strapped on my board. “You seem to be really getting it.” He said, smiling.

photo 1I couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m glad you think so, but I’m pretty sure the bruise on my ass tomorrow will disagree.”

He chuckled. “Yeah. I’m sure I’ll have a few there, too. Battle wounds.”

The next couple of times down the mountain went smoother. I felt more in control, like I could better communicate with my board. Still, watching the seasoned boarders coming down the hill baffled me. Practice, practice, practice. Like anything in life, that’s what makes perfect. (Unless you’re like Jordan, then you’re probably a natural and will be doing tricks by the end of your first ride. But that’s the exception, not the rule.)

One of my favorite part of travel is trying new things. Whether it’s new food, a new way of doing something, new skills or tackling a new challenge I’m always game. Snowboarding was a bucket list item for me, and as excited as I am to cross it off, I’ve by no definition mastered it. I know I’ll be back for more! And THAT attitude is why I’m the ideal girl to win the Biggest, Baddest Bucket List competition! Have you voted for me? Please do! Voting closes in 3 weeks and, despite my best efforts, I’m trailing a bit!

5 Comments

  1. Loved it! Great story! I just recently did my first snowboarding adventure! I am WWOOFing in France, and they took us to their chalet in the mountains and gave us a crash course on skiing or snowboarding. I fell a lot, but eventually got the hang of it, can’t wait to teach myself more when I get back to the states! Great job, by the way

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