Always keen to try out a new experience and particularly snowboarding which I’ve wanted to give a shot for a while, when the opportunity to sneak out for a few runs before dinner with some friends arose, I nearly bit their hand off.
Like virtually everything, snowboarding is one of those things which, when done by someone good, looks very easy. In what I now know to be my extreme ignorance I believed snowboarding was one of those things which was easy… full stop. If you’ve ever seen someone carving down a steep snow-covered mountain, their arms hanging limp by their hips, knees slightly bent, eyes fixed vacantly into the distance, you will understand that snowboarding could be used in the definition of casual, and surely have sympathy for my mistake.
It was with that mistaken belief however, that I confidently strolled past the nursery slope, snowboard under one arm, and straight to the Palafour lift, with its many chairs mechanically whirring, ascending into and through the clouds, over the mountain ridge before disappearing out of sight, continuing until 2,566 metres above sea level. It was only when I sat on the lift, some notion of self-preservation awoke from recesses deep within me and I remembered; I cannot snowboard – I’ve never even tried in my life.
It was within about 5 seconds of standing up at the top that I was brought back to Earth, back to 2,566 metres, and realised this may be harder than anticipated. Through trial and error, but mostly error, I managed to develop some sense of control with the heel-side edge. I must say, when confronted with a pretty steep slope, the ability to slow down is not something which should be taken for granted… and even less so when it was such a painful lesson. I wasn’t counting, but even if I’d tried, I’d have lost count anyway. Even at low speeds I constantly caught an edge and was flung onto the snow for a less than comfortable landing. There were however, more improvements and by the middle of second run I was managing to turn onto my toe-side edge and even link a few turns. Most importantly however, I was spending far less time in a heap on the piste and feeling slightly less battered.
Oops, spoke too soon. I’d caught a little too much speed and suddenly hit my front edge on a lump of snow and was dramatically catapulted forwards. Fortunately the fall was softened. Unfortunately the fall was softened with my head. I must say, I’ve never been so happy to wear a helmet as it definitely took the blow, but I was still left dazed and counting stars. The instantly recognizable taste of blood in my mouth and a swollen lip were added to the list of injuries; battered knees, bruised bum, sore elbows, and a damaged pride all signalled that the ‘Gone 9 rounds with Muhammad Ali’ experience was complete.
Standing at the bottom in a slump of aches and pains, I watched snowboarders coming down the mountain, looking as cool as ever and I found I had a new respect for them; it’s definitely not as easy as they make it look. I also had a new respect for the sport – I’m already looking forward to giving it another shot, but maybe this time I’ll be slightly more prepared, and it’ll be less trial and error.
I have now been snowboarding again, and it was rather more successful!