A soldier’s retort: embracing a rebellion | VailDaily.com
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A soldier’s retort: embracing a rebellion

Kent Roberg

The first lesson when learning to snowboard is how to fall.

Similarly, the number of times life will knock you down or slap you in the face is unknown. The only thing you can do is keep a keen eye out for what’s ahead, keep your psychic tendencies well-tuned, and ultimately, after the big blow has been struck, pick yourself up and start again.

It requires a strong core set of values and steadfast determination to accomplish your goals in life – on and off the mountain.

The Snowboard Outreach Society, founded in Vail in 1993, is a nonprofit organization that believes the values and lessons from snowboarding have a positive and lifelong influence on young minds. A grassroots organization which uses a passion for the outdoors to mentor youths, SOS has introduced over 5,000 kids to the sport of snowboarding and instilled in them the following five core values: courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion.

Perhaps in this sense snowboarders are like plastic army men, standing tall and steadfast in the face of opposition. They have the strength to handle the consequences of the new and unknown. They have the courage to pick themselves up, suffer and recover without taking time to gather lost gear in the height of battle.

The drive it takes to succeed against all odds is not something you develop with a safety release. You must strap yourself in and go for the ride. Once a civilian becomes a soldier they no longer have the choice to turn back to the familiar and comfortable. Their lives have changed forever. These are the skills it takes to be a leader, on and off the mountain.

Snowboarding allows you to be open to alternative points of view and alternative lines. It’s an arena to express your individuality and find your own style – an opportunity to embrace rebellion.

A real boarder will consider everything an option to jib, ride or slide. Skiers simply want to slide down the mountain the same way they move through life, looking straight ahead like a horse with blinders on.

Most snow riders are familiar with the phrase “earn your turns,” which refers to hiking or snowshoeing for the really fresh, untouched tracks. The wider surface area of a snowboard fuels a greater passion for the deep, deep snow. The following is an excerpt from a local rider’s backcountry journal. I think it sums up the experience nicely.

Today we hiked the Continental Divide. There is nothing comparable to fresh turns and spending time with your friends. We popped out of the trees on a tight switchback. I was standing there with my thumb in the air at the bottom of the pass watching the awe on people’s faces as they drove by wondering where we came from, how we got there. I couldn’t help feeling we are a part of the experience, the Colorado lifestyle the tourists read about in magazines. I always take pride in my backcountry turns. They are something no one can take from me – a story all my own.

I was reminded again that riding is living – hard and fast and reckless and hopeful and always on the edge of something unpredictable. The wind in your face brings change and you hike out the ridge line and do it again. No lifts, no people, nothing but what we bring with us everywhere we go – the naked and crying and desperate addiction to living, to seeing and experiencing and pushing the limits of sensibility. We are not rational people in some senses. The only things to take a conservative approach to are the things which kill-weather, avalanche. We do not die, we ride out stronger and faster and more experienced than the last run. It is what carries us through the days and nights of our time here. We have nothing to lose but a sense of desperation.

You can’t melt that with a Bic lighter.


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