Lessons from Learning How to Snowboard

A couple of years ago I was chatting with a friend about just how long and cold the winter is and how we were yearning for spring/summer when we could get outside and enjoy ourselves. It was only December and the warmer months were way in the distance.

How do you get through a very long winter when you don’t do any real winter sports? You look for something new to try.

“What about snowboarding?” she asked. “What about it?” I responded with a degree of sarcasm. Seriously, I am a gal who has not tackled a hill of any sort that is slick with snow and has a slant any more than 2 degrees, so the thought of actually giving snowboarding a go brought about a little more than fear and trepidation on my part. It was not on my bucket list.

Think about it. Both of your feet are strapped to a BOARD. You are effectively TRAPPED and then you are going to fling yourself down a hill. REALLY? Why would you do that to yourself?

But then I thought to myself; “You know what Sarah, you need to take more risks and try some new things. It’s OK if you are just learning. How hard can snowboarding be?

As it turns out, learning how to snowboard is frigging hard! Let me tell you my story and what I learned about myself and snowboarding from my experience.

At the crack of stupid in the morning I waited, in the dark, at a car park for a bus with a bunch of other folks that I did not know. I was bundled up in my new snowboard pants, with toque, goggles and big gloves, waiting to jump on this bus for a long ride up to north of the city to the snowbelt in Ontario. I looked like a pieced together snow bunny.

Lessons were in order, as was rental gear. (This was gross. Wearing boots and helmets that have been used by other people drags up a myriad of issues for me – the sweat and bacteria alone makes my skin crawl.)

The day was absolutely gorgeous. It wasn’t too cold and it was snowing – those big fat flakes softly falling from the sky that land on the trees and make everything look all Christmassy and stunning. It was the type of day where you marvel at being alive. The added bonus (and believe me, it was a huge bonus) was that the snow padded the hill with lots of cushioning to fall on. That was a true blessing because MAN…I fell down…A LOT.

It turns out, I can do a couple of things on a snowboard. I can stand on it while on a flat surface. I can stand on it at the top of the hill and admire the view – so pretty really. However, this is as far as “look at Sarah on a snowboard” goes when trying to appear like I have a clue what I am doing. Standing on a flat surface I look like a rock star snowboarder.

I do. No, really, I do.

It is when the trip down the slope starts that things fall apart. I could navigate the board in one direction pretty well and I got the idea of how to dig in my edge to stop, so all good there. It was when I had to change direction so I could effectively zig/zag down the hill that things go sideways (literally). This looks so easy when other people do it.

As soon as I tried to turn, I suddenly ended up heading straight down the hill, screaming on the inside and landed flat on my back. The impact of the fall was quite substantial. (This is the point where I am glad that I have a gross helmet with other people’s stuff in it protecting my delicate little head)

Did I mention that I was on the bunny hill (aka: beginners’ hill)? I know – its sad.

Then the fun begins (no, going down the hill was not the fun part) – trying to get upright again. Remember your feet are both strapped to this board, so maneuvering is not easy nor does it look glamorous at all. You have to HEAVE yourself over onto your stomach (feet strapped to a board – think about the logistics of actually accomplishing this move), and once you get there you stand up.

Right. Sure, you do…remember, you are ON A HILL.

However, it was very pretty with the snow falling down (small blessings). I gave this winter sport the good old college try (should have started to learn in college and not when I was 40, but whatever…) for one full day.

I went up the hill on the chairlift. (Oh I have reams of stories about how you get on and off the lift; however none of them actually tell you how to do it the right way, but they tell you how to spit out the snow you inevitably eat as you do a face-plant getting off the stupid lift, but I digress…) I also attempted to go down the hill quite a few times.

All of my efforts ended with me lying on my back, looking up at the trees, watching the snow fall; mainly because I could not endeavor to flip myself over so I could stand up because my abs were completely toast. It was easier to lie there and be present in the moment, watching the flakes drift through the air to land on my face. Eckhart Tolle would be so proud of me.

My peaceful moment was typically disrupted by a voice calling from above (no, not God) – my buddy yelling “ARE YOU OK?” To which I would respond “Of course I am! I’m just taking some time to admire the view!” (I didn’t want her to know that I would rather stay just as I was and I had no desire to move out of the way or attempt yet another ride down the hill).

I did learn a couple of things about myself throughout this challenge:

  1. I am not afraid to try out new things and I will give it my best shot; but that does not mean that I will end up liking whatever I am trying, and that is OK. 
  2. I also learned that no matter how strong my abs are (and they are), snowboarding and having to use them to pick myself up took them to a whole new level of agony.
  3. One other thing I know about myself is that speed seems to be something I gravitate toward. Perhaps it is the actual GRAVITY of going down a hill, but boy oh boy, can I ever pick up speed as I move from point A to point B. It’s kind of fun until it isn’t for me.

If you want to try snowboarding for yourself, here are some recommendations for you to keep in mind:

  1. Be 3 years old when you start. You will have a smaller board, no sense of fear and a low center of gravity so it will hurt less when you fall. Plus, you will look super cute and have a little outfit on that is all matchy-matchy and adults will look at you in amazement as you board and generally let out a lot of “Aww, isn’t he/she CUTE!” Win, win for you all.
  2. If you are not 3, then make sure you pad up your butt and be prepared to fall down a lot.
  3. Don’t try to snowboard all day. You will be completely exhausted and you will ache all over and forever.
  4. Be in shape – or at least have worked out so you have some decent muscles. You will need them to heave yourself to standing from a prone position.
  5. Take a buddy. You need this person with you so that when you are lying flat and she is lying flat, you can both have a big laugh about it. Laughing at each other and our combined antics was what got me through the day. Humor when trying out new things is KEY to your survival.
  6. Never take yourself too seriously – you need lessons; so listen to what the instructor says and try to actually do what they say. (This is not quite as easy as the listening part)
  7. Laugh a lot because it is what will keep you going – even when you physically can’t reach the water bottle on the table that is 1 foot in front of you because you can’t move your body because it is so sore. (Notice how laughing is KEY when trying something new.)
  8. Don’t live in a townhouse with 4 levels where your bedroom is at the top. It is really hard to get up there after snowboarding all day and your body feels like someone put you through the ringer.
  9. Take 2 weeks to recover. Your body will thank you. (Actually, you don’t have a choice – you will NEED 2 weeks to recover. OK, maybe you won’t need 2 weeks, but I sure did! Yes, I was that sore.)
  10. Don’t be afraid to try new things, even if they scare you. Be true to who you are because you may find something that you fall in love with. Maybe you won’t, but you will benefit from the experience anyway!

So, will I snowboard again? Have I snowboarded again?

No. Nor will I. That sport is for the young at heart, not the faint of heart!

But I really did enjoy looking up at the trees from my horizontal position. I loved watching the snowflakes fall down around me as I soaked up the reality of just how pretty winter can be and having multiple laughs with a buddy at just how crazy this sport is and our lack of prowess.

The next time I get outside and enjoy the winter, I will be wearing snowshoes!

Following her intuition, staking a claim on who she really is and going after what her heart desires is the essence of how Sarah lives her life. While forging ahead with a cuppa tea to her right, a journal and favorite pen in hand (either pink or purple ink) and a good book to get lost in she seeks inspiration and beauty in the everyday happenings of the world around her. After over 25 years as a marketer in the corporate world, Sarah now walks the walk of a solopreneur as a writer, marketer and sometimes coach for folks who feel the need to make changes in their lives but are not sure how to do it. You can follow Sarah at www.sarahfinneycoaching.com and on Twitter.

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