Sunday, 7 October 2012

Challenge #15: Sarah vs Snowboarding

Way before this blog and my list of things to do before 30 came along, learning how to snowboard was the one and only thing I really wanted to do before my milestone birthday. It's always looked like such a cool and fun sport, for years I've been saying I'll get around to learning at some point, but I've never actually done anything about it. Luckily, this list gave me the push I needed and so I booked myself onto a course that would teach me how to snowboard in a day at Tamworth SnowDome.

Up at 5.45am to be in Tamworth for 8am.
Someone get me caffeine. Now.

My previous snowboarding experience consisted of a one-hour taster session at Swadlincote Ski Slope a couple of years back, so there were two things I knew for certain about the course I was going to take: it would be awesome fun and it would hurt.

After collecting boots, helmet and a board, I stomped my way clumsily upstairs to meet my instructor, AT, and the other people on the course. There were only five of us, so it was a nice little group, although I was the only one who wasn't a dude. Later I noticed there were only two other women snowboarding that day, which I think is a real shame.

These are my snowboarding moon boots.
You have to do them up really tight to protect your
ankles, but it means you have no choice
but to walk like a robot. I added my own sound
effects as I walked along, but I think that's optional.

Boards at the ready. The floating head
you can see to the right belongs to a guy called Simon.
He smashed his knee into the wall during the
morning session, so he didn't get to finish the course.

Before we got onto the slope, we ran through the basic techniques. It turns out snowboarding is all about your toes, heels and head, so it helps if you can forget you have arms. Obviously that's easier said than done, especially when you fall over and you're natural reaction is to put your arms out to stop yourself. AT referred to this as something your stupid monkey body does that your brain struggles to override.

Toes and heels are basically the different ways you balance on the edges of the board and act as the brake, while all of the steering is done just by moving your head. Sounds weird, is weird, but it works. I found it easier to get the balance right on my toes to begin with and picked that up a lot quicker than the heels technique, where you have to stick your arse out at a completely unnatural angle.

My little board.
You have to put them down the wrong way
when you're on the snow so they don't slide away.

On the slopes.
You can tell I've been working hard as my
board's covered in snow. You would think 
it'd just slide off, but it sticks to it.
You have to slam it on the ground to get it off.

This is Dan having a rest

Here I am working on my heels with help from AT

Look, no hands!
This is me snowboarding on my own!

The key to balancing on your heels is down to how you stick your bum out. I struggled with it at first, partly because you can see you're going down a steep hill and partly because I couldn't get my posture right. AT's professional trick to assist people with the posture problem is to give them a wedgie. Yes, he gave me a wedgie. But it worked!

Just before lunch I was struggling to piece the different techniques together, but after a food and caffeine refuel I came back out and completely nailed it. I did a run of the middle and bottom sections of the slope, switching from heels to toes and back again and made it down to the bottom without ending up on my arse. It was a proud moment that I marked with a celebratory 'FUCK YEAH!!!!'

Then it was time to tackle the slope from the very top. It was pretty terrifying when I got up there and noticed it has a steep curve to the left, we'll refer to it as the death zone. AT came up with me to show me how to negotiate the curve of the slope without killing myself - the tactic is pretty simple really, keep to the right! I think this was the only time out of the whole day that I actually felt nervous, but once I pushed off I felt more confident about what I was doing and before I knew it I'd heeled and toed (that's how you do turns, but you're not allowed to call them turns) it all the way to the bottom of the slope on my own. I couldn't believe I'd actually done it.

It's a shame this picture's really dark because I'm
doing an awesome bit of snowboarding here
completely unaided. You can see AT following me
to make sure I don't kill myself on the way down.

This is how you celebrate when you've gone from the very
top of the slope to bottom without falling over.
The award for awesomeness goes to me.

Look at the dirty skiers behind. Urgh.

After my triumphant run we had a quick coffee break before we did our last runs. By this time I was completely knackered, but determined to keep going until the end. Unfortunately, on one of my last goes from the top of the slope, I got up a little too much speed and found myself straying into the death zone.

Even though I've learnt how to slow myself down and how to change direction, I panicked, started flapping my arms about and inevitably fell on my arse. My right cheek took the full force of the impact and at the time of writing - two days after the incident - is still killing me. It knocked my confidence a little, but I know exactly what I did wrong. So, I got back up and did another run, despite the pain, because I wanted to end the day on a good note.


Snowboarding for an entire day is absolutely exhausting and I'm now aching all over, but it's one of the best days out I've ever had and I wish I'd got round to doing it sooner. The course covered the three different levels that take you to a recreational standard and I passed all three, so I am really pleased with myself. It's been a really worthwhile challenge, as I now have a skill I can use whenever I want and am already plotting when I can get back to Tamworth. I should also say that the staff at SnowDome, particularly AT, were lovely and really encouraging.

We both passed the course and are now recreational
snowboarders, which means we're allowed on
the slopes unsupervised!

My snowboarding experience in numbers:

3,000 - number of calories I burned by taking the day course
3 - times I went down the slope from the very top!
1 - run from the very top without falling over
50 - guestimated number times I fell over in total
50 - number of times I put my arms out as I fell when I shouldn't have done
50 - probable number of times I said 'fuck'
1 - can of Red Bull to give me wings
2 - massive coffees to keep me going
2 - the surprisingly low number of bruises I ended up with, one on my knee and one on my arse
3 - number of levels I passed to get to recreational standard

Verdict: probably the best WIN yet!

1 comment:

  1. Well done Sarah! That sounds fun and can snowboard now! Wow!! Hang on.. you had to have a wedgie to snowboard?...x