You win this time, Mountain.
Common wisdom dictates there’s almost no powder snow anywhere on New England mountains. And this is why they say that anyone who can conquer New England’s icy slopes will be a skilled skiier or snowboarder indeed. That’s at least what I’m hoping since I started snowboarding this season.
In most of my posts I like to include a picture. If you subscribe to my flickr account, you’ll notice there are none of me in my boarding gear, beaming from under my pink goggles and pom-pom beanie. Simply put, I’m a n00b, and I fall a lot. If I tried to keep a camera on my person while I’m fearlessly conquering the, erm, bunny hills, I’d crush it.
Oh yea, carving up a storm on lovely powder…somewhere out in the Rockies.
I know that pretty much anything green circle is bound to be icy, but I have some unexpected experience even with higher-level runs. How, you ask? Well, let me tell you a little story—the story of how a n00b boarder, who has only spent a cumulative six hours in her life on a snowboard, found herself at the top of a mountain with only blue squares leading the way down.
(For those unfamiliar with snow sports, skiing and snowboarding trails are categorized from easiest to hardest by a simple system.)
This past Sunday, my friend and I took a lovely chair lift up Gunstock Mountain, it’s a lovely few minutes as we blithely watch kids showing off their best tricks on the halfpipe. But did I bother to check the trail map before jumping on the lift? Of course not! (Pro-tip numero uno: always check trail closings before hopping on a lift! Duh!)
We get to the top of the lift, which is not even the top of the mountain, mind you, but about half-way up. My friend and I stop to take in the breathtaking view–a snow-kissed panorama of rural New Hampshire with shimmering Lake Winnipesaukee at the heart of it all.
I began to make my way towards the gentle green circle trail (and by make my way, I mean board for five seconds and then fall squarely on my butt). The passage to the green circle run is a bit icier and steeper than I’m prepared for, I start to freak out a bit, make some bad falls in my fear, my boots get a bit too loose. I’m doing everything wrong.
Then, more good news. The green circle, the easiest trail down–oh, and the only easy path up there–is closed off. The three trails in front of me all look like insta-death: one is narrow and winding with some menacing-looking trees, the other two are wide but very steep with great big bumps everywhere. Cue the visions of me flying (screaming) through the air, landing head-first in a snow drift, or less comically, in a coma.
Families of skiiers and snowboarders whiz by me as I sit on the snow, my total six hours of snowboarding skills not nearly enough to prepare me to take an intermediate trail. Alpine skiing parents with their toddler kids on ski-leashes swish by me without a word, just a concerned glance, and off they went. Little kids no older than seven or eight ask me if I’m ok, and I
lie tell them that I am. But I’m not budging.
Those same kids fly past me later on their second, third pass down the slopes, and I’m still stuck there, bum-on-snow. But hey, at least I know calculus–they probably can’t even do fractions. Huzzah!
Working up a bit of gumption and determining that I do need to get down the mountain somehow, I make a few feeble attempts to board down the gentler edges of the intermediate slope. You know, just off to the side a bit. Total. Freaking. Disaster. After riding for three seconds and falling, riding for three seconds and falling (repeat ad nauseum), I wondered if I could beg the chair lift operator to let me grab a ride down.
At that point, I do the only other thing I can think of–un-snap my bindings, sling my board over my shoulder, and take the walk of shame all the way down the side of the mountain. It was a lovely stroll, beautiful view, great exercise. Also embarrassing as hell.
I spent the rest of the day exactly where I belonged: with the middle-school kids on the bunny slopes. Since nothing could possibly be worse than walking down a mountain in snowboard boots (heavy snap-ons no less, ugh) I made sure to make up for the lost time. Somehow I made progress. My friend — an already skilled snowboarder who first learned the sport on the pristine powder slopes of northern Japan — came by to see how I was doing at about 2pm. To my surprise she said I’d improved a great deal, and she’s not one to exaggerate. (I think!)
So here’s hoping one day I can have a rematch with those blue square trails on Gunstock and not let the mountain win. And I’ll even take pictures. But it won’t be for a long, long while.