Enquiries into the Art of Snowboarding, Part 1

[Editor's Note:  We're  generally pretty serious about our snowsports here at EasternSlopes.com. But when our resident "Mr. Know-It-All" ski instructor and English Lit major suddenly "discovered"  a strange and wonderful new phenomenon on the slopes, he also  discovered how much fun it can be to try something new.  We hope you enjoy his tale.]

I have been a dedicated skier for 20 of my 25 years, and when it came to glissing on the gleaming slopes of white I thought I had seen it all. But, My Dear Readers, something completely revolutionary has recently come to my notice, and it took me completely by surprise.

I was knocking about in the terrain park at Pats Peak in New Hampshire  when my attention was captured by a person cruising down the face of the mountain, standing sideways on a wide plank that looked like hugely fat ski. This was a strange device indeed, and I asked my friend, a fellow skier, what it was called. He told me that “it” was commonly known as a “snowboard,” and that the people using the things were “snowboarders.” I looked around, and there were dozens of them.

“Ye Gods!” I cried, “How long has this been going on?! Why wasn’t I informed?”

“They’ve been around for years,” my friend said. “I thought you knew . . .”

“This is news to me,” said I, cutting him short. “The game’s afoot, Watson. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this, and quick!”

I made enquiries in the appropriate quarters, and found out that not only were these “snowboards” available for rental in the Base Lodge, but that there were members of the Pats Peak ski school who were qualified to instruct me in the matter. I decided to take a “snowboard lesson” right there and then. I, the ski instructor, would be a never-ever once again!

I had a stroke of luck, since it was Saturday night, which is POP Night at Pats

A remarkable discovery! A "snowboarder" surfs down the brightly lit slopes of Pats Peak on a winter's night. (Pats Peak photo)

Peak. POP is an acronym for Pay One Price, meaning that after 3 o’clock on Saturday afternoon guests pay only $39 dollars for rentals, a night-skiing lift ticket, and lesson tips.

What is a “lesson tip,” you ask?  To get a lesson tip on POP night, all you have to do is corner any instructor you see (they are all wearing very smart black and blue jackets) and have them to take run with you and give you advice. Soon, I was out on the beginner’s slope, which is called the “Willy Wa,” raring to go. “Hey you!” I shouted upon catching sight of an instructor, “These ski boots are too comfortable. Something’s wrong here!”

“Those are snowboard boots. They’re supposed to be comfortable,” the instructor replied. “You are snowboarding, aren’t you?” He pointed at the snowboard I held in my hands.

“Jumping Jehosaphat! I’d completely forgotten! How do I get this thing on my feet???”  I soon managed to get the snowboard strapped to my “snowboard boots”––no small feat, I assure you. So began my bold adventures!

Now, I am of the “learning by doing” school, so I immediately went up to the top of the bunny hill and pointed myself downwards–or sideways, I should say. This was a cardinal error on my part. I was soon wallowing in the snow with a nasty bump on my backside. I crawled towards the nearest  instructor, a young gentleman by the name of Isaac. “Teach me how to ‘snowboard!’” I shouted up to him. “I am ready to learn!”

The young Isaac was most helpful. He quickly taught me how to stop the thing, a piece of information that had eluded me thus far, and which proved invaluable. I learned from him, too, the difference between the heelside and the toeside of the snowboard, which was a great help to me in grasping the whole mechanism of snowboarding. If I remember correctly, the trick is to lean on the toes of the front foot to turn toeside, and the heel to turn heelside. I am sure my instructor must have put it more clearly, but you’ve got the gist of it.

I headed to Bluster, a steeper run, and thence to the Valley chair. On my way down Whisper another helpful snowboard instructor, Lee, thought I was trying to get his attention, and came over to say hello.

“You waved?” he asked me.

“I did not.” I said. I told him that I was not waving at him, but merely flapping my arms in order to stay upright. He told me to cut it out.”

“Sue thing!” I exclaimed, shooting away down the mountain. It was then that I thought, ‘It’s high time I headed to the top!’ So, off I went, my spirits high.

At the summit of the mountain, where fresh fallen snow glistened in the lights, I surveyed my terrain. It looked good. Calling out “Surf’s up!” I started schussing joyfully down the wide slopes of East Wind. All was going right and gloriously. I was flying to and fro, whooping with delight, as if borne on the wings of a dove. I felt like a child of five.

Towards the bottom, however, I was met with sudden adversity. Going along at a good clip, I got on the wrong side of a large mound of snow, caught an edge and BAM! I was dashed to the ground with a speed that would have astonished you. It certainly came as a shock to me. For a moment the whole world was white and filled with twisting limbs. My life flashed before my eyes. Fortunately, my face skidding on the snow stopped me from careening into the woods, and thus I was saved from real harm.

I was missing my goggles, scarf and, strangely enough, a glove. My erstwhile friend pulled up beside me, laughing gleefully, finding me an even more humble man than before. In need of assistance, I reached a limp hand to him.

“Take me to the Pub!” I said, meekly. “I am ready!”

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About Justin Jones

Justin Jones grew up skiing day and night at Temple Mountain (of blessed memory) in Peterborough, NH. A former member of the Atomic National Freeride Team, he is an avid winter sports enthusiast, and also enjoys fishing and tennis in the off-season.