WHEN IT COMES to snow, I am more comfortable when my feet are operating independently on two skis than when both are glued to one board. In college, I skied once a week during the winter, and as much as I envied the snowboarders carving down the hill, I never hopped on a board. As an adult, I moved on to skate skiing.
I love the quiet shush of cross-country skiing, but Seattle is dominated by folks with a deep love for alpine sports, and so a couple of seasons back, I went the alpine route and took snowboarding lessons.
My friend Katie and I headed up to Stevens Pass. As soon as we got in line to pick up our rental boards and boots, I remembered one reason I gave up alpine sports: I’m not fond of carrying the equipment.
Still, once we strapped our boots on and made it outside, it was exhilarating to see skiers and snowboarders flying down the runs. The smell of crisp mountain air got me excited for the lesson.
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Katie and I were among the elders of the group, made up mostly of kids and teenagers looking to hone their snowboarding skills. I wasn’t surprised; most of my friends who alpine are typically telling me about adventures in the backcountry.
Our class started off slowly, and we worked on our balance and our edges on very gentle slopes. I found it disconcerting to have my body facing one direction and my head forward. I’m sure with time you get over this; I still prefer to face forward when going at high speeds.
Not that there were any high speeds involved during class. We practiced slow turns, using the weight shift between our toes and heels to control turns. The instructor told us to keep our weight slightly heavier on the front foot, as in skiing, to keep momentum going downhill. That would require wanting to go faster. Adrenaline junkie, I am not.
I’d heard that the first time you go snowboarding, you spend most of your time on your butt or your knees. And while I had a few good falls, I still felt pretty cheerful about my balance compared to others in the group. I was more envious of Katie, whose muscle control, developed through years of high-level sports, turned into balance and speed. I admired both her balance and graceful turns.
Our technique improved quickly and soon enough, our lesson was done. We got on the chairlift to take on longer runs. I was more terrified of falling while getting off the chair than getting down the hill. Could I have some poles, please?
It was slow-going on our first run. Speed and balance don’t always go hand-in-hand. Falling often involved hysterical giggles. We didn’t get a lot of runs in.
By the end of the day, we were getting the hang of it. I had a harder time shifting weight onto my heels to carve, and I was nervous about leaning into my front foot, but I could get down the hill with a couple of falls.
I emerged from the day exhausted and happy. It was less painful than I thought it would be, and also a whole lot of fun.
Muscle memory is key to learning, and I am certain that if I went back, the second round would be even more fun.
I haven’t gone back mainly because it’s not a sport for the budget conscious. But for a day, it’s worth the cost for an invigorating way to challenge your body to something new.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.