Escaping the winter boredom: my first time snowboarding

Hitting the slopes Literally.

So, another winter is here with all the darkness and cold weather that comes with it. It’s the perfect scenario to drive a tropical-country-person crazy, although we, tropical-country-people, love the snow.

How to not feel depressed with this weather and enjoy the snow at the same time? One of my friends had the answer: “You can take some antidepressant medicine, or you could try some adrenaline once in a while. Hey, why don’t you go snowboarding with me?”

This option seemed to be cheaper than taking medicines (I know! I was so wrong!) so I accepted. And he said he would teach me, so why not?

Snowboarding combines some elements of sports such as skateboarding and surf. It was created in the United States in the 1960s while people across the country were seeking out new winter activities rather than the traditional skiing.

By 1980, snowboarding was already a nationwide activity, but its practice was only accepted in the traditional ski resorts by 1990, after a lot of pressure from the enthusiasts. It officially became a winter Olympic sport at the 1998 Nagano Olympic games in Japan.

So far, I could never see myself doing a sport like this. I thought jogging in a park during the sunset was extreme enough. But the time has come.

The first thing I did when we arrived in the mountain was rent the gear (clothes and gloves = $65; snowboard with bindings and boots = $120; helmet and goggles $25). Yes, my tuition money for the next semester were profoundly affected).

Before going to the slopes Alex Liu, 33, my “friend/instructor” gave me some basic instructions, such as how to stand on the board and how to walk with one foot attached to it.

We headed to the lift that would take us uphill. That was my first nightmare: how to get out of it without falling? It does not stop for you to get out of it, so you need to be prepared and be fast. That was my first fall.

Despite this part, once you’re not lying on the ground or stumbling trying to stand up, you can see the most beautiful view ever. Hot tip: the moment you are on the top of the mountain, try to relax, and don’t look down, terrified, thinking you’re going to die. Just appreciate the view. Listen to the silence and feel the snowflakes falling on your jacket. Take a deep breath.

That will be the last peaceful moment you’ll have in, at least, the next 30 minutes.

Starting to go downhill was the second nightmare. Despite all the orientation I had, I couldn’t bend my knees as I should or keep my posture straight. I almost got hit by some devil kids and I’m pretty sure I spent more time on the ground trying to stand up than actually standing up. That’s not to mention all the snow that went inside my clothes, nose and mouth every time I fell.

The good part? I made it to the end.

In my own way, at my own pace, my legs hard as rocks (and aching so much), falling down every five meteres, I made it. Back at the base of the mountain, I was feeling miserable and nervous. But I had the brightest smile on my face because even after all this suffering the first thing that came into my mind was “I wanna do it again!”

The sensation of freedom and peace after this experience is inexplicable and it makes the whole experience worthwhile, no matter how many times you fall or how many kids try to use your laid-up body as a bump.

Liu is an educational advisor and it’s been three years since he started snowboarding. Even he had his bad moments in his first time in the mountains

“It was terrible! I went by myself because I had tried skateboarding a couple of times in the past, so I thought I’d be okay. But I fell a thousand times and I only stayed at the children’s run (AKA bunny hill). After one week I could still feel my entire body aching.”

I asked him what would be his main advice for those who are just starting to practice and he was pretty straightforward.

“Start practicing with some experienced snowboarder with you, go to the top of the mountain, don’t stay only at the bunny hill. You’ll need some room to learn how to fall and how to make it work without worrying too much with people falling next to you.”

I realized that I was anxious to learn how to do everything correctly, but of course it’s a lot of information, especially for those who never had any contact with this type of sport. And, according to him, that’s exactly the most common mistake beginners make.

“They try to rush things, but first of all they need to learn how to stop and how to stand up in a proper way. Some of them also don’t use the appropriate gear and that is a vital thing that needs to be taken seriously.”

For those who also want to start practicing this sport, whether being a tropical-person or not, I found 15 tips in the Wikihow to Snowboard for Beginners and I adapted some of them to my own experience:

1) You need to find which leg will lead your board and that will classify you as being Goofy or Regular. If you prefer to lead with your left leg, your stance will be considered regular. If you prefer to do it with your right leg, then your stance will be considered goofy.

2) Choose the right gear. Wearing protective gear will help shield you from any injuries that can come with falls and collisions.

3) Wear proper cold-weather clothes.

4) Find a safe area to get started, such as small slopes, preferably without many people around you.

5) Keep your point of balance low by slightly crouching.

6) Try to lean onto your front leg instead of your rear. Avoid leaning too far to one side or the other to minimize the chances of lose your balance and falling down. Learning how to shift your weight is the key.

7) Don’t be afraid to use your arms to keep yourself balanced.

8) Be ready to fall! Try to spread your weight out over your entire body if you need to fall down.

9) Learn how to fall. The most common injury will be to your wrists and hands when falling. Making a fist when you fall, it can help prevent your hands from bending too far backwards.

10) Keep the eyes on where you want to go. Wherever you are looking, your body and board will tend to steer towards.

11) Anyone in front of you has right-of-way over you, so watch out for people around you.

12) Never stop in a place that would make you hard to see.

13) Research for tips in specialized groups on the internet and even in YouTube videos. There are tons of relevant tips for you there.

14) Practice often and keep your safety in mind when trying new skills.

15) If you still need help, you should consider taking lessons with a professional.

So far, I’ve already been to the mountains four times to practice, and it’s pretty clear how much you can improve on every visit to the slopes. I’m still falling a lot, but my posture is getting better, and I’m already bending my knees a little bit, which is helping me to find my balance. Time will tell if I’m able to quit journalism soon to start my career as a professional snowboarder. But one thing I know for sure: those kids better find another bump to jump on.

In case you’re curious to see my improvement I made a short compilation about it. My video

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