It's all about learning to board on Snö

Learning to Snowboard: Ummm…is this progress – well sort of

Left of the middle envy

Left of the middle envy

Woo hoooo… I finally made it back onto a snowboard after four whole months of waiting! Although I will admit I’m writing this with a small confused smile on my face as I can’t actually say my return was a resounding success… nor an absolute disaster, more a large snow covered and slightly painful learning curve.

Confidence & Nerves
Booking it my excitement was at an all-time high, but as the time built up the nerves began to set in, in fact flew into complete overdrive. My previous visits have been with my cousin but her move to Scotland means this time I go it alone…OK so I had a little help from a cheerful, friendly snowman who pointed me in the direction of a progression session, whereby you get to practice on the slope but aren’t entirely left on your own, an instructor is available to support you as you try and develop your skill level.

For me it was a great choice – yes I’ve had some lessons and been signed off to practice on my own – but my confidence isn’t what it should be, in fact I have discovered through snowboarding that my confidence is one of my biggest hurdles. I guess most sports I have undertaken are team ones, where you have a group of people to build moral and it’s easy to merge an become part of the group.

Being on a snowboard is all about what I do and how I do, with friendly people around to help me learn and so far I’m really loving it (well most of the time!).

Ooohh it’s changed a bit…
Smarter, cleaner with metal…not the snow or the boarding, the Snowdome I attend in Tamworth. It’s had a bit of a funky little revamp downstairs, very smart and utilitarian with the snowboard kit area now next to the lockers…yes very convenient for the snowboarders unless like me you wear blinkers and walk all the way to the end, where they used to be, and find yourself staring at the skiers racks – for the record my reaction to skis is fairly akin to a vampire’s reaction to sunlight – if I ever put skid on maybe I’ll turn to dust!

Snails pace
One of the bonuses to the progression session is your instructor talks to you and works with you to move you forward, at a pace you’re comfortable with, so even if you’re in a group of more advanced performers it really doesn’t matter. The disadvantage is if you haven’t developed your snowboard heckling voice and are slightly under confident it’s a little difficult to get the instructors attention.

Had a few runs of my toe and heel edge, still seem to be slightly better going down on my toe edge, but was pretty chuffed I actually managed these without too much trouble or any help. Part of my panic is I can’t seem to remember in my head what I should be doing on the slope with my body, thankfully though my body always does, which is a complete reverse to how I am in everyday life, as I’m definitely a pre-thinking, planner type of gal!

That first moment looking down the slope is the most nerve-wreaking for me, it always takes a good few minutes to get up my confidence, but as soon as I feel the snow slide beneath my feet, that’s it all other thoughts just seem to slip away too.

Instructor number 3!
Luke Lightwood…yes the one I previously hit – but thankfully like all instructors they don’t recognise faces unless you are a true regular! Best described as casual, slightly brooding and nonchalant, but don’t let that fool you! He’s incredibly good at explaining the technique you’re working on and very professional, he’s a good snowboarder (I have serious jibbing envy) and although generally quite quiet, when he does open his mouth – damn can he shout and heckle with the best of them – particularly from the rope lift!

One thing I really like about snowboarding is that I’ve come into contact with different instructors, who each have their own teaching style. Some people may think this detrimental to their learning preferring a constant teacher, but with boarding I think it’s a great way to develop… snowboarding to me is about finding what suits you, all the different instructors so far are offering me an insight into moves and actions and if I need to adapt, watching slightly different ways of doing them is a great help. Also the only horrible instructor I’ve met was on skis and maybe that’s his problem!

Smackdown isn’t just for wrestlers
So far so good you might be thinking… Luke demonstrated the curves for me down the slope and I managed the flow and speed on my own without too much trouble…practising this for a while until I was a little more confident. In fact I felt pretty good, although I do keep getting slightly confused with my lead foot, despite not ever having practised on the right foot, I seem to be able to use it and sometimes forget which way I should curve and pick the wrong foot. Next Luke demonstrated how to use my toes more and my feet independently of each other in order to gain more control – I vaguely remember getting to this point before but I couldn’t understand how to do it – well this time was no different… the result of my first attempt was to flip onto my back, how you may ask, I still don’t quite know and something which I have never achieved until this session…sort of made a starfish shape with my arms and my head facing down the slope with my eyes looking up at the ceiling…Ouch! The impact of my mistake definitely fell directly on my lower back, damn it stung! But more the trouble was the knock it instantly gave my confidence…I became slightly afraid again as I couldn’t remember what my feet were doing at the time and therefore how I could correct it on the next trip down.

As well as being worried I was also annoyed – why do I need to try and think it through why don’t I trust my body to act ore react! Luke did talk it through with me (why I fell, how I did it), but he didn’t see me fall, so didn’t know exactly what I’d done. I did force myself down the slopes a couple more times but they were nervy, slightly wobbly and agitated runs. I did manage the technique down the lower part of the slope but it always seems to be just as I’m running out of snow and the snow is slightly softer at the bottom, so easier to feel the movement.

Mr Lightwood very kindly summed up my session and he was far more positive than I felt…ultimately it seems I keep looking at the snow down at my feet, instead of where I should be directing myself and although I seem to get the occasional nice curve I need to gain more control of them. I need practice and lots of it!!

Left of the middle
Although I left that night quite annoyed with myself and a little unsure whether I should carry on, I did have some good feedback from my instructor and the one thing that does keep me going back is the rails and boxes and little jump that are always on the left side of the slope. Sometimes I take a break at the top of the slope just to watch the other people practising on the obstacles, I like that they have this massive determination to succeed and just keep practising and practising regardless of whether they fall down or slip off… I really want to be good enough to have a go at that…even if I do lose my front teeth on my first attempt! I even watched Luke take a couple of neat, effortless slides down the rail, pretty inspiring.

Ultimately I have to look at this session positively. It’s an incredibly good feeling to be doing these things on my own, yes I still have a little wobble here and there, and if I’m honest I still prefer the height of the practice area to the top of the slope, but I am doing it solo now and I’m really determined to get better and get to the left hand side of the slope.


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