The Time I Tried to Snowboard
Or: Why I Don’t Try New Things
All teenagers have an air of invincibility; it’s part of what makes them such assholes. At 15, my lizard brain was no different. So when my cousin suggested we try snowboarding for the first time, it didn’t take me long to decide that it would be well within my capabilities.
I should point out right away that there was nothing about me or lifestyle, up until this point, that would suggest that I could ever snowboard successfully down the side of a mountain. I was nearsighted, afraid of heights, afraid of trying new things, not terribly successful at standing on two feet when they WEREN’T strapped together by a plank of fiberglass, I had never skied before, never been on a chairlift, and had suffered head injuries in every other athletic endeavor I had embarked upon up until that moment. I was like one of those cats that has never been outside and is afraid of grass. I was an “indoor kid.”
But we were bored, and my cousin was intimidating, and so I agreed.
We got to the hill and rented our equipment. The attendant asked me if I was regular or goofy and I stared at him like a statue. Was he flirting? He rolled his eyes and asked me to pretend to snowboard. Ugh, this was already hard. He gave me a board after probably not even assessing my stance because he knew I was going to die on the hill anyway.
The chairlift was to the left, the bunny hill to the right. We had to make a fateful decision. The bunny hill was crawling with children who we would later find out were all smarter than we were, and we decided that street cred was far more important than you know, like, skills, so we headed to the chairlift.
The chairlift ride was, to be brief, scarring. I was that friend at the amusement park that would hold your stuff while you rode the rollercoaster, and while a chairlift isn’t exactly a thriller, it had all the components to scare the living shit out of me: it was high, tauntingly slow-moving, and it didn’t have seat belts. I white knuckled the entire slow march to heaven, silent tears running down my frostbitten face, waiting, praying, willing the end of the ride to come sooner. And eventually it was upon us.
What I should have been doing for that molasses-like 3 minutes was planning my exit off the conveyor belt of death, but having no prior experience, I did not. This resulted in a less-than-graceful dismount that included me sliding out from under the bar with both my feet still strapped into my board, tripping over myself, sliding backward on my belly, and being pummeled in the back of my head by incoming snowboarders who were in control of their own destinies.
My cousin would have been laughing at me, except the seat shoved her to the right where she pawed at slippery ground while slowly drifting toward a snowy cliff, off of which she promptly tumbled, butt-first.
Foolishly, I thought to myself, “Okay, the hard part is over.” I army crawled toward the center of the hill because that seemed less scary than blindly throwing myself off the cliff that killed my cousin moments earlier. This trek took roughly 35 minutes. Finally, I gained my balance and stood at the top of the slope. I felt so majestic, so powerful, so in tune with the world. Just like Britney Spears did in the Crossroads music video, you know, when she’s standing on that mountain and her life finally makes sense because she lost her virginity?
I inched forward. “I’ll just take it slow,” I thought, before careening at warp speed down the steepest and most well worn section of the hill. I didn’t know how to alter my course, but I knew that if I didn’t slow down, I would have enough momentum to cross the US border into Canada, so I tepidly crouched lower and lower, planning to just kind of, sit.
I can’t really say what happened or where my fool-proof braking plan went awry, but the next thing I know, I’m tumbling rhythmically down the hill, folded in half, snowboard knocking me in the forehead at regular intervals, for what seemed like 19 long years. For one fleeting whisper of a moment, I looked to my right and saw my cousin clinging to the side of aforementioned cliff, like Scar at the end of Lion King. Eventually I came to a stop, just before the lodge, just past that bunny hill full of smug little assholes.
Twenty minutes later, my cousin came scooting down the hill on her butt, like a toddler that can’t walk yet or a dog that’s ruining your carpet with its anus. I think she finally decided it was time to get down the hill so she could retrieve my dead body.
Once we were upright and had regained our faculties, we decided that it was a solid first effort, and we should try again. We. Should. Try. Again.
Chairlift round two: As terrifying as before; slightly better dismount. We each decided to exit as if we had been kidnapped, and had to tuck-and-roll out of a moving vehicle. This left us on opposite sides of chairlift traffic though, and she had to frogger herself to my side — we decided to take a less well-worn route down the hill; one with freshly fallen snow (which I hear is nice when you’re not a bumbling fool at the whim of gravity) and lots of trees to run into.
Still not having learned how to steer (or to do anything else for that matter) we headed down the hill just as before. Just as before, I lost sight of my cousin almost immediately. Just as before, I began moving at a speed that I was sure would kill me. But this time I had a modified breaking system. The snow was deep and fluffy and forgiving, and this gave me a confidence that would condemn me in new and interesting ways.
I slowly shifted all my weight to my back leg, thinking if I could only wedge the board deep into the snow, it would slow or even stop. Instead (again, I’m foggy on the physics of what happened next), I started tumbling, but not head over feet. This time I tumbled horizontally down the hill, with my snowboard rotating end over end. While this was by no means comfortable, it was actually quite effective in slowing my momentum, so in a way, you could say my methods were a resounding success.
Until I stopped. Fatefully, I had drifted into the trees, where the snowfall was even deeper, and my snowboard had come to a teetering stop, wedged straight up and down in the snow. One of my arms was also plunged deep into the snow, holding myself up in such a way that my face was skyward and I wouldn’t suffocate. I tried to swing my hips and tip my board over, but with one leg deep in the snow and you know, being exhausted from all the winter x-games, I couldn’t move.
It was here that I offered all my goodbyes upward toward the universe and made a final peace with my decisions in life. After about twenty minutes a guy in orange skied up to me and said, “You can’t just hang out here.” I was laying in the snow, breathless and battered, with my snowboard perpendicular to the ground, and the ski patrol yelled at me for “hanging out.” I asked him to kindly tip me over, and he obliged, before skiing away without even pretending to care about my health and safety. Back then I was appalled by his negligence, but it’s occurring to me now that he was probably just a hung over college student and I was ruining his day, so… he’s forgiven. I butt-scootched my way to the bottom of the hill. To this day, I am unaware of what happened to my cousin on that second run, but I CAN report that she’s still alive. I have never participated in a gravity-driven winter sport since.