Left cheek: 3, Mountain: 0 That was the final score in Me vs the Mountain last night and I'm not referring to my face.
In the interest of continual board testing and final adjustment making, my friend Sean! and I decided to head to Blue Mountain for one last outing before the trip to Ch on Wednesday. While I knew we weren't headed to the 230 cm base that Fernie currently has (!!!!) I still enjoy a trip to my favourite practice hill whenever I can. Luckily (?) for us, the punishing wind, biting cold, semi-questionable road conditions, and icy slopes meant that the hills weren't too clogged with annoying people. In fact when we got there it looked as though a blizzard had descended on the mountain, kind of like the way Eeyore has a rain cloud which follows him around. I quickly realized that nearly every snow making gun was belting out clouds of the white stuff which brought hope to my heart that any missed landings of mine might not make me whimper with pain.
I've been riding for a few years now and like to think that I've improved over time. Consider the day after I took my first lessons. I was in so much pain from the previous day of repeated falls that it hurt to blink. Speaking was an effort and getting out of bed nearly killed me but somehow I got dressed and lasted another 1/2 day on the slopes before retiring to the hot tub for the next 48 hours or so. And that was in Invermere BC, at Panorama which qualifies as a real mountain in my world, meaning it has decent vertical and sufficient fluffy white stuff (and big horn sheep wandering through town but that's another story). Let me take a second to suggest something: If you are considering to take up snowboarding, no matter your skill level in other sports, TAKE LESSONS and preferably not just from a well-intentioned friend. For a fairly unco-ordinated individual like me who comes from a non-athletic family, the learning curve for snowboarding was steep and painful but the key is to persevere and you will improve. You'll eat a lot of mountain, you'll get great coloured bruises, you might even unintentionally face plant off a jump on a beginner run and crack your goggles from the impact, but keep going and it will get better. I am your example. Oh, and wear a helmet from day one. Riding with a concussion is not much fun.
Last night was also my opportunity to try riding with my hydration pack as I plan to do in Ch. There were some obstacles to getting an insulation piece for it but it arrived this week and I was anxious to try the pack out. I've ridden with a backpack before but found it cumbersome. It also changed my centre of gravity which made getting up and staying up more challenging. I was hoping for better things from the hydration pack and I wasn't let down.
For some reason I've never quite understood, I often encounter gaggles of snowboarders sitting at the top of a run and blocking the way for everyone behind them. Let me clarify: most snowboarders do sit briefly at the top of a run to strap in their loose foot. We need one foot out of our bindings to ride the lifts and I am not one of those who can put their foot back in the binding and do it up tightly while standing. The last time I tried to do so my board kept moving forward and I nearly ended up in a tree. Therefore, I sit. But I don't sit for 10 minutes or so. My butt gets cold and I'm here to ride! I don't get it.
The beginner runs weren't too bad but the snow cover was minimal and patchy. Rather expected I must add, given that last week I could see dirt showing through on their webcams. Soon I retrieved my pack and we headed to the bigger runs. The hardest part about riding somewhat infrequently or in less-than-ideal conditions is the first missed or unexpected landing. Will it hurt? Will this be the time I break something? You can't really prepare for it, you just have to experience it and move on. Sure enough, eventually I caught an edge and went down hard on my posterior. "Ok, slopes are rather icy and hard", thought my body. After the second same landing, this time for an undetermined reason, my lower back started to hurt too. Up and down Sean! and I went, chatting away when we saw each other on the lifts, lost in our own worlds amid the blowing snow and numbing winds while riding down. The cramp I always get almost immediately in my left calf (I ride left foot forward in case it matters) was keeping me company as I rode hard but carefully. To injure oneself now would be asinine, I thought to myself. CRASH! Yep, it's still hard packed icy crap underneath me and that one hurt! 3 times lucky in the same spot is not very comfortable unless you're landing in 3 feet of powder. With neck, back and butt all sore now, I decided to call it a night and went to find my chauffeur with his carving board.