Trading a pair of skis for a board
Trials, tribulations and triumphBy Ian CroppDaily Sports WriterI had planned it out the second I knew I was moving to Vail months ago. It wasn’t even a topic up for debate in my mind. I was going to learn how to snowboard.This past Monday, I made my ascension from rookie to”‘prolly gonna get sponsored soon,” aka I’m dec-dec. (Dec-dec: fairly decent. I’ve picked up the new vernacular and have mixed it with my old skiing mentality.)Before I tell you the real story, I’ll get a little disclaimer out of the way. I did go up to Vail one day a few weeks ago and decided to try boarding without a lesson.Big mistake. It was tantamount to putting myself in the loving arms of British nanny Louise Woodward, who then decided to shake me like I was a Polaroid picture. I caught my toe and heel edges about fifteen times, and that was just on my way to the bunny slopes.
With that day out of my mind, I opted for what any halfway intelligent person would do: take a lesson.My instructor, Gerry Strickland, boasted tons of riding experience and just about as much teaching experience. Through her quality instruction and by the good graces of God, she was able to impart upon me some of her knowledge.Road to successAs all snowboarders seem to know, before you can carve, you’ve got to leaf. The falling leaf, J-turns and linking turns were the first steps Gerry led me through on the vaunted bunny slope of Beaver Creek.Soon enough the impatient East Coaster in me seeped out, and I wanted to go to the top of the mountain.While shredding like cray-cray on the Red Buffalo and Centennial runs, I began to note how boarding was quite different from skiing or my previous board experience of wakeboarding.On the snowboard, I had to force myself to look uphill when turning and not allow my feet to point downhill like I have always done when skiing.One of my early pitfalls was that I had the tendency to lean on my back foot, which made turns difficult to negotiate. Another issue I had was with balance. At times in order to compensate for bad form, my back hand swayed to and fro like the conductor of a symphony.
“I’m going to sew your back hand to your leg,” Gerry told me.After that instruction/threat, I kept my back arm pinned to my leg, doing my best to look like a knuckle-dragger.Trust the boardGoing from four to two edges was intimidating. When on skis, I usually have two edges making contact with the snow. Initially, I thought that while turning on a board, one edge would leave me with less room for error. This wasn’t really true.Also, it took me a while to trust that if I wasn’t using an edge, I wouldn’t fall. Having forgotten physics, I had the idea that I could go from one edge to another without letting my board go flat. Good thing I didn’t forget to wear my helmet to prevent any further memory loss.Little by little, I began to gain more trust in my board and in my ability on it.Anytime I departed from good form, Gerry told me then showed me exactly what to do.Sure, I had the occasional crash, but the great thing about falling on a snowboard is you don’t have to chase your skis or poles if you bite it hard. Ah, but what the mountain giveth, the mountain taketh away. While you can’t pull a yard sale on a board, there aren’t too many ways to ease a fall, unless it happens to be in a few feet of powder.
My crashes stayed to a minimum, and by the last run, I no longer felt like a stranger on my board.After the lesson, Gerry emphasized a few points to keep in mind over some libations. I realized it’s always a good idea to spend some time with your instructor after the lesson, whether it be to learn some jokes or to plan for the next lesson.In the two days following my lesson, I heeded Gerry’s advice and boarded varied terrain. This also meant I could learn how to fall on varied terrain. If anyone saw a snowboarder cartwheeling on his head, I can neither confirm nor deny that it was I.Survey saysThree full days of boarding later, I think I’m going to split time between two skis and a board.I used to have contempt for snowboarders. But now I can sympathize with snowboarders. And what’s more is that I think I’m starting to despise skiers. That is until I become a biped once again and complain about all the reckless boarders.All things told, though, I’m happy to have found another way to enjoy myself. Or to anyone who has seen me on the slopes, another way to endanger my well-being.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado