It was around 11:00 p.m.. Laying before me was the seemingly harmless hill stretching from Ross to Holmes Dining Hall. My competitive side had gotten the best of me once again and, this time, I found myself lining up to race against a few of the guys who lived on the same floor as me in Harrison Hall.
It was my first day of longboarding, and I was about to race them down one of UNC’s bigger hills. Rookie mistake.
I had been doing relatively well with just cruising around campus during the day. When I was tempted into racing against the guys I felt that, even though I had only begun a few hours ago, I somehow could beat all of them at this race. If they could do it, I could do it.
I stood at the end of the line of maybe three other people, staring down the long stretch of cement to the glass doors of Holmes Dining Hall, with my Ireland Sector 9 board.
Someone yelled “Go!” and we were off: ten seconds of wind blowing through my hair and feeling like I was floating. I was soaking in the adrenaline and feeling freer than I had ever felt before. At 11 seconds, panic set in. The board started to wobble beneath my white Vans as the speed picked up. I suddenly felt so exposed, nothing linking me to the board except gravity.
As the panic slowly consumed me, something else occurred to me: I didn’t know how to stop.
My first thought was “If I run off this board then I will be fine.” As an intersection was approaching, I decided to carry out this idea, even though there was only cement to cushion my landing. I ran off the board, getting maybe three steps in before I went tumbling down the rest of the way, skinning my side and landing on my head.
I sat up on the ground, trying to make sense of what had just happened; I may had bitten off a little more than I could chew.
First day of snowboarding:
I had rented all the equipment and gear that I needed from Outdoor Pursuits. Though I had lived in Colorado for about 20 of the 21 years of my life, I had never been snowboarding, or skiing for that matter. It figured that after that long of being in Colorado, it took someone from out-of-state to get me to hit the slopes.
The day began at five in the morning with a supposedly two-hour drive to Keystone turning into nearly four hours. The resort was not as busy as anticipated, but people still crowded in the lift lines. I hadn’t been nervous for the day’s events until we pulled into the parking lot. Then I began to wonder if I was just getting myself into another longboarding fiasco.
Shortly after arriving, it was straight to the bunny hill for me.
The bunny hill consisted of mostly children and classes. It was small, so it wasn’t very intimidating for a starter, or at least not for me.
Though I hadn’t become any expert longboarder, I figured that snowboarding couldn’t be too different. The only part I was afraid of was picking up speed, losing control and crashing once again. My competitive side was not going to get the best of me that day.
First step to learning to snowboard: learn how to get up. It seems like a simple task, but when one is sitting at the top of a hill and everything is slippery, it proved more difficult than expected.
I managed to stand up, get a split second of balance, but then quickly lose that balance and end up with my butt in the snow once again.
Though maintaining my balance on a snowboard was basically the same as maintaining balance on a longboard, having my feet strapped to the board took some getting use to. It’s easy to run off of a longboard when you start feeling uneasy, but with snowboarding if you start to fall, the board goes with you.
It was bittersweet having my feet stuck to the board. I didn’t have to worry about positioning my feet in the perfect spot and kicking off like on a longboard, I simply had to strap my feet in and then I was off. Somewhat more simple in that regards, at least in theory.
Having spent the whole morning on the bunny hill, constantly falling and having to get myself back up, I somehow made it from the top of the hill to the bottom without falling. Pleased with myself, I decided to give the smaller, but bigger part of the bunny hill a try.
Second step: learning how to get on and off the lift without plunging face first into the snow.
Getting on the lift was easier than I had anticipated, but getting off was a very different story. Obviously compacted snow is slick, but no one ever really knows how slick it is until they’re trying to get off of a ski lift as gracefully as possible, while it’s still moving, with a snowboard strapped to at least one of their feet. And even though I had been told to put my other foot in the middle of the board while getting off, it didn’t quite give me the security and stability I needed to keep from falling.
After a few runs on the larger part of the bunny hill, I was feeling more confident.
Final step for the day: tackle a run.
As the lift carried us to the top of the mountain, it began to hit me that it was taking a really, really, really long time to get to the top. And if it was taking a long time to get to the top, the way down would be very similar. I was not sure I was all that committed to the run.
The run started off with me falling seconds after getting off the lift. We had been riding up with a little boy, maybe about six years old, whom I asked if he would need help getting off. To my dismay, he gracefully got off the lift, sliding right to his family’s side. I, on the other hand, had hardly gotten off and went butt first into the snow. My confidence fell a few levels with me.
The run didn’t seem all that intimidating, seeing as it was a green-level route called Schoolmarm and most families were easily going down with their younger children.
Thus, I began my descent down.
The first third of the slope went smoother than I thought. I did stop a lot to catch my breath and kept a relatively slow pace, but I found a little pride in the fact that I had hardly fallen.
Having gone with someone who had been snowboarding almost all his life, I had a hard time keeping up. Imagine a snail trying to keep up with a cheetah–that basically looked like me snowboarding, or at least that’s how I imagined it.
I wanted to go faster and try to keep up, but the memory of rushing down a hill at scary fast speeds seemed all too familiar. So I decided to play it safe, trying to maintain a slow, but steady speed with the exception of a few parts I sped up on, as they were not as steep or intimidating.
Both snowboarders and skiers raced passed me with such grace and confidence, encouraging me to pick up my speed a little more slowly, but surely.
On the bright side, even if I went a little faster and fell, I figured falling and getting a small bruise on the snow was a heck of a lot better than falling off a longboard and having nasty road rash to show for it.
By two thirds of the way through the run, my body was starting to give up on me. My knees were hurting. My thighs ached. I was completely worn out. For some unknown reason my arms were killing me, even though I was pretty sure they had hardly done anything all day other than catch me when I fell. Until that point, I didn’t feel tired at all, but it was as if all the events of the day hit me all at once.
The person I had gone with was well ahead of me considering I had been going so slow and we were so close to the end. I told him to just go on without me. I would make it down eventually.
Several people warned me that learning to snowboard was no easy task, but a small part of me had thought that I would get it naturally. Natural was not a word that I would now use to explain my first time.
By the end of the day, I was sure of three things: one, I needed a beer, two, beginner snowboarder and graceful don’t ever belong in the same sentence, and three, as sore and beaten up as the day had left me, I couldn’t wait to get back out on the slopes.