It's all about learning to board on Snö
Since the moment I drove away from Tamworth, I’ve just wanted to get back on the snow, I can’t really explain exactly what has grabbed me, it is simply just a complete escape – when I’m on the snow I don’t think about anything but the board, the snow and well me on it (preferably stood up and not sat on my ass!). I have developed an unbelievable hunger to get back in a pair of snow boots and a determination to really improve.
The period of waiting for the next session was an absolute killer, it really took me by surprise just how much I wanted to feel the board and snow beneath my body, it’s like a sickness! So what do you do whilst your waiting, well for me it’s where I began to really indulge in learning about snowboarding. Cue WE RIDE: The history of snowboarding. Now I will be truthful here it’s over an hour long, and usually with this sort of thing I would switch off after about 10 minutes, I watched the whole thing… its actually pretty interesting, its such a young sport and only in the last 15 years that rules and regulations, and boarders such as Kevin Pearce and Shaun White, have defined it into a competitive sport and cannonballed snowboarding into the public eye and onto an Olympic platform.
It’s really amazing the number of different forms of snowboarding that are out there, but the one that has really sparked the biggest thrill is definitely Jibbing – the art of jumping/sliding on or over obstacles or pretty much any surface you can find from a roof, to a wall, to a handrail or a flight of steps. The professionals make it look easy taking on some incredible apparatus then spinning, twisting, flipping and occasionally crash landing along it. Jibbing seems to display another snowboarders personality trait that is instantly enviable and respected: The unrelenting hunt to achieve the trick and resilience in the face of pain. You’d think watching videos of snowboarders trying again and again to complete a turn on a rail would be a little dull, but its not really like that you find yourself urging them on, you want them to do it, you want to see them do it. There are so many videos out there showing the perfect slide, or the absolute fails, where boards break and blood flows from the knees, but essentially its the challenge the snowboarder faces that keeps you watching, makes you want to take part. The challenge feeds the hunger, the resilience helps them achieve their goal… it was also quite interesting to note the lack of female jibbing footage out there, I wonder why that is!?!
And back to the beginner…
OK so the wait really wasn’t all that long, about 4 weeks, the snowbug had also caught hold of my cousin. After the Snowboard in a Day you’d be right to think Em and I should be a bit more confident about getting back out there and up until the drive to Tamworth we were, but as the miles got shorter and the car travelled closer we seemed to feed off each others nerves. Thankfully we’d been a bit sensible, we knew in our excitement at booking our next session that the day we’d done was really only a taster, we felt we needed a bit more guidance before being released into the painted mountain wilderness alone. So not only had we booked ourselves onto a private lesson (two-to-one coaching) we’d also followed it up with a three hour ‘fast track’ so we could practice even more.
I can quite safely say by the time we arrived for our lesson I was ridiculously nervous, more so than I have been the first time, I’d like to say it was adrenaline mixed with nerves, but seriously it was mainly just nerves. Step forward instructor Andy, the poor nice man didn’t know quite what to make of us, he had to wait 10 minutes whilst we nervously faffed with our boots and helmets, if he could have put his head in his hands I think he would’ve especially during my further five minutes of my on again – off again ‘glove saga’ and we hadn’t even walked through the barriers onto the slope (In my defence my gloves were new and my hands cold, I could only get one on at once it was so absolutely absurd, Andy had to help me, yes I hang my head in shame!).
Despite the silly initial nerves it was actually quite amazing how much we’d both retained, there were definite holes in my understanding and this is where Andy with his fabulous salt & pepper hat hair, was able to bring some clarity and support. The major issues I’d returned with were:
Andy’s relaxed, bouncy and knowledgeable temperament definitely diffused my first two problems with shouts of ‘where’s that smile’ from the bottom of the practice slope and directional chatting about anything other than what I was doing with my feet – sounds so simple and quite silly in writing, but it really helped me relax and feel/adapt to the snow instead of trying to micro-manage every move of the board.
My people fear was (and still is) my greatest issue and much harder to get past, its also the foundation stone of my growing dislike of skiers. If you’ve been to Tamworth you’ll know that the snowboarders learn from the top of the rec curve to the middle, whilst skiers learn from the mid to the bottom of the slope, which means whilst boarding down there are always a substantial number of skiers with their twiddly little sticks waiting in the area where the boarders finish.
*Screech of brakes* bad experiences can happen
Now as I described in my earlier blog, I’ve already successfully propelled one instructor (poor Steve) into a waiting group of skiers and well it kinda stuck with me, at the end point I repeatedly pulled short so I finished further away from the group learning to ski. Knowing that it meant I wasn’t able to complete my manoeuvre if I kept doing this, I then tried to correct myself, another little hiccup and not actually my fault, two skiers decided to walk/slide around the teaching group into my path and I slid (softly) into the ends of their skis.
This being my biggest fear all day I said quite a sincere apology, however the ski instructor of the group just gave me the most unfriendliest scowl I’ve ever experienced, whilst I was still apologising, Andy and a friendly young snowboarder (about 10 years old and pretty damn good at it) appeared at my side and could see I was now shaky and a little harassed. They tried to reassure me with a couple of friendly jokes and comments about boarders vs skiers but it was not an easy look to forget. Some people are always going to be good natural teachers (Andy, Dan, Luke & Steve), some are going to be nasty pretentious ski instructors….you see it got worse…
Having noticed I was now really struggling, Andy was working hard to build my confidence back up, using his hands and reassuring words to guide me to realign my curve to the left and finish properly at the mid section. This basically means my back is to the bottom of the slope before I turn my head to direct the curve (I can see nothing), what I did see however was the speediness of my instructor skipping around me down the slope. For the record I did nothing wrong! Andy was hotfooting it to remove a pair of abandoned skis flung at the bottom of the snowboarders section, and who did I have to thank for those ski’s – the very same ski instructor – to make matters worse he then gave Andy attitude for moving the ski! Ugh some people make me cross and so far not of them are snowboarders!!
Whatever you do don’t take my experience as a negative against the snowdome – I was just unlucky, it was certainly a one-off experience that I have not seen happen again since, and I take partial responsibility for being a beginner and not feeling fully in control of my snowboard. One thing I will say is that the snowboarding instructors at the dome go out of their way to ensure you are well looked after, taking you through things a step at a time. I don’t quite know how they do it and maintain such positive attitudes, especially when they have to walk up and down the slope a hundred times a day. Funnily enough the second incident helped my confidence grow, the rest of the afternoon was thoroughly enjoyable and I even made a few trips to the very top of the recreational slope. It was pretty damn scary the first time, really fun the second time and by the third time I was definitely hungry for more.
My aim now is to get to a cruising standard, so I can book a boarding holiday in the next season and really enjoy the slopes without any fear. For me if I can already snowboard to a reasonable standard, navigating the ski lifts, learning the rules of the slopes, combined with a bit of drinking will be much more fun.
@andrewtilleypix – Your a little like Obe-wan and did you notice not once did I use the term ‘Turn’