One ‘determined-not-to-be-a-snow-widow’s’ journey.
I love to try any new exercise craze. Biathlons, bootcamp, pilates, powerplate, kayaking, kettlebell, zumba. I’ve tried them all, even the cardio twister. (Note: unless you’ve never exercised in your entire life and are as sedentary as a 15 year old house cat, a cardio twister will not get your heart rate high enough to give you any benefit whatsoever. If only I had bothered to return the damn thing within the 30 day-money-back-guarantee period!)
If I don’t love a new type of exercise the first time, I’ll either move on or give it the benefit of the doubt and try once more. If I still don’t semi-master it or at least enjoy it? See you later.
Snowboarding falls outside this rule. It shouldn’t but it does. I am, hands down, a Summer over Winter kind of girl. I hate cold weather, I despise wearing layers of bulky clothes and I’ve had both of my knees reconstructed. I shouldn’t go anywhere near the slippery, freezing white stuff.
The problem? My man LOVES it. And not just in an ‘I’ll go once a year for a snowboarding vacation with my mates’ kind of way. He would gladly give up any tropical or safari holiday to any 5 star destination just to spend a few days on the slopes.* In our mild Aussie Winter, he’ll drive for hours at least two or three times a season to get his fix plus fit in a lengthy overseas trip for the “real snow”. In other words, his holidays are pretty much all taken up with snow. Now I’m more than happy to go on my own trips away with my other heat-seeking friends, but I would like to spend some of my time off with my bloke.
The solution? Easy, I just need to learn how to snowboard. My physio has informed my on numerous occasions that skiing isn’t an option due to the dangerous potential lateral movement of the knee joints. Snowboarding is a safer option for my type of knee issues (only just) as both feet are strapped to the board and the only movement is the natural bending action. Except when you’re attempting to get off a lift and you have only have your front foot strapped in, but that’s a whole another challenging story!
The first real holiday I’d taken in four years and the first overseas trip my man and I had taken together. Also known as our honeymoon. As blissful newlyweds, in 2009 we went to Steamboat, Colorado in USA.
Day one: I was put into snowboard school at 9am with a group of American first-timers, while my new husband whisked away into the mountains on the black diamond runs. After falling over on the beginner slope all day, I finished at 3pm. I was struggling to walk and have never been so tired in all my life.
Day two: I awoke to the most excruciating pain. My feet felt as if I’d been dancing in stilettos all night, my calves burned, my hamstrings were like tightly stretched rubber bands and my inner thighs felt as if they were being stabbed by a hot poker. Just to breathe made my stomach muscles ache and my arms were in agony, a side effect of pushing myself up from the snow every time I’d fallen over. Even my neck hurt. This was explained away, by my ever-cheerful snowboard instructor Sarah, as all due to how heavy the human head is and the impact this weight has when, you guessed it, you fall over. Nonetheless, I stayed in class again until 3pm. New husband arrived back at the chalet closer to 5pm to find me asleep on the couch with my snowboard boots still on. But we still managed to make it out for an amazing dinner at The Oar House as snow began to heavily fall.
Day three: More pain. Worse than yesterday. Realised that I’d been wearing my wrist-guards back to front, so that the supporting piece of metal was digging unnecessarily into the top of my (now bruised) hand the whole time. I’d also taken a spill the day before and fallen squarely on my left butt cheek on a lovely piece of ice. But had also awoken to a glorious Winter wonderland. Husband was divided between leaping about like a puppy, dying to get outside and checking to make sure I was ok. I whimpered but soldiered on. This new snow must surely be super soft, pillowing any falls and welcoming my sore body. I limped to my class, discovering that they were all graduating to the intermediate group. All, except me. Sarah passed me on to my new instructor and I looked at all of the unknown faces in my new class. Eager to impress and hoping that some movement might free up my aching muscles, I set off down the beginner slope.
Right at the bottom, I fell.
Bang on my left butt cheek. I’d played girl’s AFL and knew what a corked thigh felt like. It was like this. To gals who haven’t experienced a corked thigh, imagine a labour contraction, felt in your butt cheek. I sobbed as discretely as I could then shuffled off to the chalet where I took multiple Nurofen Plus and attempted to pass out on the couch, laying on my stomach because I couldn’t lay on my backside. Husband sped down the mountain to take me to the Doctors. Seasoned 50 year old ski doctor who’d lived and worked in the mountains his entire life pronounced (in a surprised American drawl) “Why honey, that’s the biggest haematoma I’ve EVER seen!” Translation: I had a swollen, bruised growth, the size of a goose egg, sitting on my left glut muscle. I couldn’t sit, walk or touch it without wincing. Sexy huh?
Day four, five and six: Lay on the couch, watched TV, took painkillers, slathered on deep heat and came up with interesting snacks made out of American biscuits and cheese. Did manage to get out of the house eventually to meet new husband for some delicious lunches and dinners. On one of the days, I had to call a taxi to take me into the town to visit the local drugstore so that I could buy an inflatable rubber ring to sit on for my flight home. Generally slowly limped around, exploring the town of Steamboat and drank tall vodka cranberries in chalet bars while waiting for husband to return from the slopes, calling my girlfriends back in Australia for someone to talk to.
A road trip to Thredo, New South Wales, Australia, Winter 2009.
Day one: We were all about protection this trip. Husband has bought me a pair of impact shorts – padded hot pants to wear under my ski pants. It took a while to get over the fact that I was going to look like I had a really fat arse but I coped. Day one was fine until we discovered that my ski pants didn’t really fit over the impact shorts. Tears. Sucked it up and went straight into group beginners snowboard class. I was a little better this time but very wary. I avoided turning onto my toe-side (a necessary right hand turn) at any cost. Never made it off the beginner slope.
Day two: Demanded a private lesson – these beginners were surely holding me back. Requested a foreign hot instructor called Sven but got a happy 19 year old Sydney kid instead. We did make some progression and he announced I was capable to advance to intermediate. Tomorrow I would board a blue run.
Day three: Practiced on a few beginner runs then shakily made it up the grown-ups chairlift up to a blue run. Took at least 30 minutes to make it down the run but was totally exhilarated. Just before I reached the bottom, I made a toe-side turn and fell. Right on my left butt cheek. Limped to bar and drank several celebratory glasses of vino.
Day four: Mindful of attempt #1, I wasn’t going to fall on my weak butt again. I tried to go for a few runs on the beginners slope but was too scared of hurting myself and have to drive back to Sydney for work the next day to really give it a go.
2010 Winter break to Falls Creek, Victoria, Australia.
Day one: Exciting – a bona-fide, genuine blizzard! Had to be evacuated off the mountain on skidoo. All of the lifts were closed so there was nothing to do but head to the bar. What’s a girl to do?
Day two: Lots of lovely fresh snow but I wasn’t fooled by its apparent softness, no sir-ee. Was wearing a new pair of impact shorts that I’d spent several nights sewing extra padding in to. I was like the Hunch-bum of Notre-Creek but couldn’t care less how I looked. Said farewell to husband as he once again went high into the mountain and I went straight into a private lesson with Damian from Canberra. This guy was good. He totally understood how worried I was but picked up that I was relatively fit so pushed me hard but taught me well. For at least an hour today I was having fun and went straight onto the blue runs, making slow, careful turns.
Day three: Boarded with husband all morning. Conditions very foggy with low visibility which made me spit the dummy a few times. How the hell could I make a safe turn when I couldn’t even see the snow beneath me or the slope below me? A frustrating day was made better by an unbelievable dinner at The Summit Ridge Restaurant.
Day four: Weather had improved and I was much more chipper as I went through the frustratingly boring process of getting dressed and doing up my stupid, painful snowboard boots. My feet still hurt as if I’d been out clubbing till dawn but different to the last two attempts, as soon as I took my boots off, the pain stopped. I made it down four different blue runs plus the green run back to the base of the mountain. I was thrilled and ecstatic as I finished up for the day – to have learnt how to snowboard was so satisfying but I was also just as happy to not have to get back on the board again!
So, will I go on a snowboarding trip again? You bet. Learning how to do something challenging that burns a billion calories and produces that many endorphins is hard to say no to. Will I choose to go if I’m feeling stressed and need a restful break? No.
It would be nice to be as in love with snowboarding as my bloke is but at least I don’t hate it now. And if all else fails, I do have a back up plan. I’ll just make sure that the next ski resort we go to has an enormous heated lap pool, gym and day spa. I’m sure I could find a way to while away my time there!
*Our recent rainforest trip was an exception to this rule. He’d only agreed because a) I hadn’t taken a holiday in a while and I was in major need of some downtime, b) I’d always wanted to go to the Daintree and c) at that stage, the snow was supposed to be rubbish in Australia that Winter
What do YOU say?
Have you had a better or worse snowboard learning experience?
What have you learnt to do because someone you love is into it?