I started to snowboard 4 years ago at age 31. This past Christmas, I carved down my first black diamond. The journey to this accomplishment is one I felt needed scribing.
The story that follows will be written in several parts, as there is so much that I learned during my journey to becoming a snowboarder. Ironically, this adventure also parallels a lot of lessons I’ve learned in life.
I first started out on skis, age 17. I had grown up in a pretty adventurous family. We hiked and traveled the world, tackling many adventures along the way. But, one thing we did not do growing up was ski. Or snowboard. Mom had a bad experience once on skis in college, and never looked back. Being tall, my dad mostly barreled down the hill, usually in jeans, yelling at people to move.
When I put skis on at an icy mountain in North Carolina, I was clueless. A somewhat experienced skier (he had been maybe 5-10 times) friend and I had driven up from Tennessee to experience the mountain. Growing up on the East coast and in Tennessee, we really don’t see much snow. We get ice and the slopes are mostly manmade snow. We’ve had a few blizzards for sure but nothing like the west. Powder is unheard of.
Upon arrival at the mountain, we rented all of the gear and tramped outside for a night ski. Walking in ski boots, if you’ve never done it before, is ridiculous. Everyone walking ski boots looks silly. You could easily participate in the Smooth Criminal video scene where Michael Jackson almost leans into the floor. After putting the boots that were not made for walking on, I spent 10 minutes attempting to slam my awkward boot into a ski on the side of a literal slippery slope. It took one try. Two tries. Three tries, four! I was in. I stood there for approximately 3 seconds thrilled with my accomplishment, until my companion promptly shoved me over.
“The first think you need to know about skiing is how to get up,” he said laughing.
I was not laughing.
I proceeded to get up and mostly block out what he said next due to my frustration initially. It was crowded on the hill, so we spent most of our time practicing right at the entrance to a ski lift. I am pretty sure he taught me how to snow plow but I cannot remember as what happened next was one oft he most traumatic events of my entire life. So traumatic that anything immediately proceeding this event is pretty much blocked out.
After a period of time, he declared I was ready for a beginner slope. I wasn’t. However, I remember sitting on the lift headed upwards, to what felt like was my final and last trip of my lifetime. The lift must have been 8 miles long, and my heart stopped somewhere along the way, as I watched the angle of the trails increase dramatically. This is one of those moments when you realize something stupid is about to happen, but you are so dumfounded by it, that you cannot vocalize this aloud.
At the midpoint of the lift, I was informed we were going to get off. Lift exits in the East are built by lift watchers who like a laugh. On the beginner slope, for example, of this particular mountain, the exit to the lift goes immediately down hill, has two wooden panels on the side waist high, and is always a solid sheet of ice. At the bottom right as we were about to get off, lay two sprawled out girls, arms and legs bent in varying positions. There was no way to avoid the hazard these girls were, the only option was through them. When I saw the destiny that laid ahead of me, I gripped the poles, pointed my feet into a snowplow position, sat up off the lift, and skied straight down the ice hitting both girls. The muscles in my knees pulled one way, while my legs went another. I popped out of both skis and almost stabbed a girl with my pole.
I lay there thinking, I hate this. Am I alive? And then realizing with panic that ANYONE trying to get off the lift would plow all four of us over, so I military crawled to the left hand side of the lift of death.
I’m not sure how we got down the hill, but after 45 minutes, I was done with skiing. DONE.
It took two weeks and many angry words later before my knees stopped hurting.
Skiing sucked. I hated it. I would never do it again.
(Life has a funny way of reminding me that whenever I say ‘never,’ I am usually wrong.)
First life lesson: Sometimes when people are doing something that seems fun, it isn’t going to be fun for you, only pain.