Four years ago this past January, I embarked on a new adventure and put on a snowboard, took a lesson and started practicing. Learning new physical tasks are interesting because unlike learning mental tasks which stretch your brain, physical tasks stretch your physical movements as well as your mental state. And so it was with putting the snowboard on that first day….and so many days after.
I learned to ski as an older teen and skied a fair bit into adulthood but didn’t become a black diamond, mogul skier. After having kids, I put the skis away for a few years. When my kids got older (oldest 11 and youngest 5), I found myself at a ski day with my kids… at the top of the bunny hill ten years past the time I had last descended a hill on skis. I stood at the top of the hill for a good five minutes, looking down nervously, working up the courage to do what I wasn’t sure I could. Not only had it been so many years, but my body had changed, a little older and a little more robust. I wasn’t quite convinced skiing was the same as riding a bike where your body never forgets how to do it. So, I stood there having arrived via tow rope and continued to stand there on my old style skis, continuing to look down that short hill, continuing to wonder if it was going to be an embarrassing display of inadequacy or worse (hmmm…maybe not) a trip to the hospital with injuries.
Once I mustered the courage to make the move, I started across to where I had to turn and accomplished the turn without incident. I made it to the bottom with a couple more turns and headed to the chair lift. I quickly got into the groove of skiing and kept it up for a number of years (renting newer style skis from then on), as my kids learned first to ski, then switched to snowboarding.
When each of them learned to snowboard, it was more costly to rent the board than skis, so my rule was, they had to stay on the board for a couple hours beyond the lesson before switching back to skis. It was only a couple of snow dates on the board before they stayed with the board. I listened to their stories and they talked of their accomplishments at each milestone…’I learned to turn’, I learned to carve’, ‘I boarded switch’. All the time, I didn’t consider snowboarding. Then as the kids got older and I started to get more fit and skiing fast down the small hill became uneventful and even boring, I decided to give snowboarding a try.
I put on the rental boots that first day (lined with plastic bags, because… ewww) and went up to ask for a board. The guy looked at my feet and said, “Cool”. It became a thing every time I went to rent a board. Sometimes they would ask if the board was for me, other times they would see my boots, they would say ‘Cooool!’ and get me a board. The first lesson went well, joining a group of students and one young dad. I did really well, and was only outperformed by the 10 year old who had snowboarded before and the 10 year old who had skateboarded. Snowboarding was tough, but I figured out how to stay up on my heel edge or my toe edge and worked my way down the hill that way. I was going up the chair lift after a few runs. My next ski day, another lesson, instructions on turning and I had all I needed to continue the progression.
Progression happens, but it seems to occur at a snail’s pace when you are first starting out; mores0 when you are starting out at an age beyond childhood. I remember when I was first able to turn from my toe to heel. Each turn took so much thought and concentration before and during the turn. I remember when I learned to go from heel to toe edge; same thing. Each movement was an effort both mentally and physically. When starting out, my legs hurt and I was exhausted at the end of the day after doing 6-8 runs down that local hill.
Each new season heading to the hill brought (brings if we count this past December) back visions of that stand at the top of the bunny hill in skis. I get that knot in my stomach wondering if I will remember how to get off the chairlift without falling, if I will be able to turn without falling, or if I will be able to get down the hill without falling. As an aside, speaking of falling, I have found one of the things that snowboarding has done is reformed my feeling when falling. I have learned to fall without fear, even on my bike. I still don’t like it…it really annoys me, but when I am falling, I go with it, without trying to stop it…it’s better that way. Knowing that has helped me a bit in other areas of life. Anyway, first day, knot in stomach, worried I forgot everything…nope, I am back where I left off. The first couple years it seemed to take a run or two to realize it, but this year, I felt it right away once I dismounted the chair lift.
Four years isn’t that long. It is when you start (I didn’t know how long it would take but didn’t really care), but looking back it wasn’t so long ago that I don’t remember the first time on the board. Once I knew I liked boarding and would stick with it (after 2-3 times), I purchased my own boots (and coat by chance) at a closing sale. I got my own second hand board with new ‘last year’s model’ bindings, near the end of the season 2 years ago. I got a helmet before I even tried snowboarding. Through the season, my equipment stays in my vehicle. I have now brought in my equipment bag and my snowboard is back in the shed. I was a bit sad when I put it there.
Feeling it. This year, I started really feeling it, as it felt natural, less thought involved. The last few times I went boarding, I had that feeling of being one with my board, kind of like that feeling when I clip into my bike pedals day after day. Four years later I am able to strap on my board and feel comfortable just going down the hill, rocking back and forth to carve down the hill, slowing down when I am feeling less than confident with the speed, and turning when and where I want, the last day doing 21 runs. Four years of going 6-8 times a season to the small local hill and working really hard at first, not giving up, not switching to skis, not quitting.
So another season ends (unless I get an opportunity to go to the mountains, but that isn’t in the plans), and I have progressed well this year. I would say it is the defining year in my snowboarding skills. I look forward to next season as I have at the end of each season. It comes all to soon where we live and being older makes the time seem to go that much more quickly. Next season I will will be rocking the slopes again, but until then, I will be out cycling.