Saturday, January 23, 2010 by Rebecca


So, this weekend we headed up to Tahoe with some friends. It was all a but last minute, but the plan was that we would go snowshoeing while everyone else went snowboarding. Neither daniel nor I had ever been snowboarding - we've always steered clear of the high velocity snow sport due to Daniel's bad knees and my poor coordination. But on the way up, our friends suggested we try a lesson. They'd received 7 or 8 feet of snow in the last week, so conditions were just about as ideal as they would ever be. So we figured, "What the heck, we'll give it a shot, if we hate it we can always grab our snow shoes and do that instead."

We signed up for the 'learn to ride' lesson for first timers, and got in line to get setup with our gear. As soon as I started strapping into the boots the anxiety started. (I ended up with a men's 7.) How much room was there supposed to be for my toes? How tight were they supposed to be? Were they supposed to be so uncomfortable? They push your calf forward a bit - much like ski boots. I have really tight inflexible calves(something I've really been working on) but my calves were feeling tired and sore before I even made it out of the rental gear line. Not a good sign.

Then we got to the lesson. And the first thing you had to do was decide which first was going to be the foot strapped into the board when "skating" around, and then you had to try skating. At first I couldn't get my board to skate at all - apparently there was snow stuck to the bottom - and then once the snow got knocked off, and the board got slippery, i fell over every time I tried it. And the panic started to set in.

What if I was completely incapable of doing this, what if the instructor had to spend his entire time with me - how unfair to the other students, maybe i just should have taken a private lesson, maybe I should just bow out and let the class go on without me, what the hell was I going to do once I got on the lift and got to the top of the slope, how was I going to get down?! How was I even going to get off the lift without killing myself? (At this point he was teaching us the "glide" we were supposed to do to get off the lift, and I couldn't even master skating)

There were many attempts at taking deep calming breaths - but they might have been more like hyper-ventilating ... there were definitely some tears. The instructor was trying to be helpful, but I either wasn't able to hear him, or he just wasn't giving me the cues I needed. Then Daniel suggested I just try standing on the board with both feet, and just try shifting my weight from side to side - moving a couple inches in each direction. That actually really helped. It let me get a sense of where my balance was supposed to be while on the board, and just what it felt like to be on a moving board.

I haltingly made my way over to the rest of the group as we were assembling to get on the lift for the first time, and was somewhat relieved to see that there was someone else who was still struggling to make it over to the group. It's a hard thing to admit, but I think it made a huge difference that as hard I was struggling, there was actually someone in the class who was worse than I was.

On the way up the lift, once we had figured out how to sit, Daniel and I talked about how this would, ultimately, probably be good therapy for me because it would force me to learn how to stand evenly on two feet instead of always resting all my weight on my left.

We got to the top, and I did fall getting on the lift. But I managed to get out of the way so they didn't ave to stop it. The first trip down the mountain we worked on heel slides and toe slides - a controlled slide straight down the face of the mountain either facing down the mountain (heel side) or facing up the mountain (toe side). We started with heel side - which means you have to stand up while facing down the mountain - it took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to accomplish this. At first I'd get my butt over my heels and the board would start sliding down the mountain before I had the opportunity to actually stand up. I slid down the mountain about 20 or 30 feet this way. Then once I did manage to stand up, I pretty much fell back down again immediately (of course), but I did eventually manage to get about 10 solid feet of heel slide by the time I was half way down the mountain. Next was toe slide - which (if you can get over the whole going backwards issue) is somehwat easier than heel slide - or at least it's a whole lot easier to sand up.

By the time i got to the foot of the bunny slope the first time, there were no tears, no anxiety, and I suspected I might actually be able to figure this out (eventually).

The first half of the second run was about learning to traverse back and forth across the run, which I managed with some small maount of success (i think i got one or two full traverses with many failed attempts and lots of going in the oposite of the direction i was trying to go and of course falling.

The second half was was about traversing and turning to go back the other way. The third run was just to keep working on linking traverses and turns. I never mastered this - although I got close once in class, and once or twice after class. The thing about turning is that at some point you have to point your board straight down the mountain, and that makes me very nervous. I usually end up waiting to the last minute, and then i over turn or get the board facing down the mountain and can't quite get it pointed back to the other side and so I just sit down to avoid hurtling down the hill.

Class was over, and even though there was time to get in a couple more runs before lunch, I really needed the ladies room, I was getting really tired, and we needed someone to stake out a table to sit at. I figured it would be best for me to take a little break, use the facilities, and find a place for us to eat lunch.

Over lunch Alex and Gita asked which foot I was using as my back foot - when I said my left, they both said that they tended to use their stronger leg as their front foot. Well skating with my left foot in the straps would likely just be a diaster, but I decded I could try riding with my left foot as the front foot.

Once we were finished with lunch we only had about an hour or so before the lifts closed, so Daniel and I headed back out to the bunny slope.

The first run was a disaster. I couldn't stay on my feet, i couldn't get the board to go where i wanted it to go. It didn't make a difference if i was leading with my left or right foot. It probably took my 30 min or more to get down the mountain, and I had told daniel that he needed to wait for me and so I had the increased anxiety of making him wait while I made my very painfully slow way down the mountain. A foot or two at a time. It was absolutely miserable. If the day had ended after that run, I probably would have decided that snow boarding sucked and I wasn't really interested in doing it again, but the lift was still running, and so I decided to try one last run. I also told daniel that he was not to wait for me, and that he could check in with me if he wanted to when he lapped me.

My last run was pretty awesome. First, I actually managed to stay on my feet getting off the lift (until the beginner skiier next to daniel accidentally hit him in the face with his poles and knocked him over into me :-p). I only fell a handful of times, and I while I wasn't able to successfully complete a turn, i was able to successfully link several "falling leaf" traverses on my toe side. IE - i stayed facing the mountain, and I just switched my lead foot to go back in the other direction without actually turning. I also got better at modulating my speed (you definitely have more control when you are going faster, it's also just scarier)I got better at staying lower on my board and not standing up so tall, and I got to the bottom of the mountain to the ski lift line while still on my board - for whatever reason, the bottom of the hill was one of the hardest parts for me, and I usually fell a whole bunch in the last 20 meters or so, and frequently just ended up unclipping my bindings and walking/skating the rest of the way.

I wasnted to go again!!!!! I spent a couple minutes looking for daniel, and just when I had decided to head back up the mountain on my own, I realized that the lift had just closed :-( I guess it was best to end on such a high note, I definitely want to go back asap, but I was bummed I couldn't go again.

Kirkwood offeres this pretty awesome deal to first time riders - a prorated season pass for every lift except the black diamond ones, 5 free rentals and 5 free group lessons - which came to a total of only twice what we had paid for lessons and rentals for just the day - which we totally fell for, and so we will definitely be going back soon - this weekend I think :-)

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