The past week in Tignes started strangely, like no other of this season; on my face, on the nursery slope. From the vantage point of my skis, the nursery slope is a ‘flat’, gentle stress-free slope, but clip into a snowboard and it suddenly shifts into an intimidating and challenging, steep-pitched testing ground, striking fear into the hearts of men long before I first pitted myself against it. It was bizarre shying away from the mountains’ more dominating runs, and retreating back to the domain of out of control beginners and sledgers.
There are a few fundamental differences between skiing and snowboarding. Firstly, on a snowboard, your feet are strapped together. If you lose balance, you can’t just stick out a leg like you can when skiing, and you’re probably just going to fall. You don’t even have poles to help balance – what are you meant to do with your hands?! Another difference is that you’re going down the mountain sideways, which requires completely different movements to stay in control. Finally, you also have to keep up the ‘cool’ snowboarding image, by having a ‘rad’ style… ‘dude’.
I had never snowboarded before, save for that one time which didn’t go all too great. Taking it more slowly this time, and with some friendly competition from a handful of friends who also dropped the skis to learn snowboarding, I found things began to fall into place quickly. Although continuing to require much mental effort thinking through each turn, I was slowly becoming marginally more confident in both my heel and toe edge. I say ‘marginally’ because the spontaneity of catching an edge remained ever present; it took only a fraction of second to go from being perfectly in control, to falling onto your face, dazed and confused about what had gone wrong! I can think of no better way to keep you alert and fearful; in those early days, no matter how in control I felt, disaster was always imminent, only ever half a turn away! I’d anxiously gaze at other snowboarders shooting past me, wondering how they could comfortably go so fast, when it was so easy to get brutally catapulted onto the floor… even at low speeds!
I thought that after so many days taking a beating, my ski legs would have prepared me well for anything a snowboard could throw at them. Not so. This naïve view was shattered within roughly 0.5 seconds of stepping out of bed on Day 2, as my legs buckled, and I collapsed into a heap on my bed. My legs, seemingly turned into jelly from top to bottom overnight have remained sore much of the week, however fortunately (or unfortunately?) I was distracted from the ache in my legs, by the pains and bruises which riddled the rest of my body! Oh well, hopefully these new leg muscles I didn’t even know I had will be helpful on the bike!
The joy of learning something new was constantly seeing improvements. Not just from day to day, but also from one run to the next I’d notice fewer crashes, more control and growing confidence. I noticed a definite cross-over with skiing; while other beginners who couldn’t ski remained on the nursery slope, I soon ditched that, gradually becoming confident on steeper, longer blue runs, and by the third day, even navigating difficult black runs without falling over. I also managed to get to the park to hit a few jumps, and even a few 180’s! These quick progressions are surely a result of my skiing: an understanding of edges, how snow works, confidence of sliding downhill and trying new things.
I’m going to keep learning on the board for the rest of the season. Normally I’d have some ambitious targets to achieve, but I’m just going to see what happens over the next few weeks, and keep having fun on the board. Stay tuned!