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Friday, January 23, 2015

Snowboarding as a Second Language

Ok, I'll admit it....everything hurts
My parents first strapped skis to my feet when I was seven years old. There was no such thing as snowboarding then, at least not at Yawgoo Valley Ski Area in Rhode Island where I learned to tackle the slopes. At that age you learn most everything pretty quickly and soon I was racing around with my friends, doing jumps, skiing backwards, dare-deviling on one ski and wiping out in style. Helmets were a long way off. We didn’t even wear helmets when riding bikes then, and motorcyclists weren’t required to have them, so why would we need them when playing in the soft snow? Amazing that we survived those years. 

Take Two!
While at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), I remember piling into a bus on Wednesday afternoons and heading out to Wachusett Mountain for night skiing under the floodlights. Years later, after turning 21, the world of après ski was opened up to me, and skiing took on a whole new meaning. When working outside of Philadelphia, I rented a house with about ten friends in the Pocono Mountains for the winter, and every weekend we’d head to Camelback for skiing. The most important thing about the whole weekend was making sure to have the best tables reserved in the lodge so we could party to bluegrass music at the end of the day, then ski/fall/roll down the bunny slope to our cars when the lodge closed up for the night.

When I moved to Europe I had fairy-tale visions of skiing in the Alps, complete with Saint Bernards and Swiss Chalets. But my first time skiing in Austria was a major disappointment. The resorts were miniature compared to New England, where we’d need an hour and a half to ride up and ski down, but in the Alps …a few minutes up in a chair lift and another few skiing down and then I was in that long lift line again! The conditions were poor…icy, crystalline…where are the depths of natural powder? And there were so many people! I was constantly having to watch out for traffic!

That was where I lost my desire to ski.

Two of my daughters taking a break

The kids were born soon after, so that was my excuse not to go anymore. But then when they were old enough to learn my husband insisted that we teach them. He even bought me some new carving skis to see if that would be more fun. It was…a little. But something was still missing.

Then finally when our third daughter was eight years old she insisted that she wanted a snowboard for Christmas. She hadn’t even tried it! How did she know she would like it? But she was so adamant, so for Christmas she got her board and boots and I signed her up for a three-day course. She loved it. The instructors said she was a natural.
Chillin' with my oldest daughter
This, of course, got the two older daughters into thinking that they needed to try it out too. And they felt the same way. After a day on the snowboard, despite the aches, pains and bruises, all they could think about was getting back out there again.
Hmmmm…..now I guess it‘s mama’s turn.

I can’t honestly say that I loved it right from the first moment….having one foot strapped sideways onto a board and trying to maneuver around on icy snow was so awkward. But once I overcame the initial fear and made those first few turns, I knew there was no turning back. It’s hard to describe…but it is a sort of freedom, a peacefulness in an elegantly-balanced flight. The motion is so fluid, not steered by thinking, but by feeling. It makes you wonder if magic is somehow involved, a state of nirvana whereby you completely forget the outside world. Now I understand why skiers get so upset about boarders…it’s true, they aren’t paying attention to their surroundings as much as they should, they really are in their own world, but now I understand why….they just can’t help it.
I think it’s clear. I, too, was hooked.
It’s not easy to learn, that’s for sure, and I was also covered in bruises, with sore arms, shoulders and neck muscles. But never once as the skiers flew by me sprawled out in the snow, did I regret having only one board beneath my feet.

And even as I’m sitting here writing….I just can’t wait to get back on the slopes!

Beautiful view

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