Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Last year I tried snowboarding, despite preferring my bones un-pulverized. I decided to try it because the fees involved were a birthday present. I'm good with ignoring the risk of violent death as long as I don’t have to pay for it.

The limber, half-my-age Aussie instructor made the sport look easy. And our training spot wasn't even a bunny slope – it was more of a hamster slope. Yet I still stood at the top fingering mental rosary beads just to muster the courage to strap both feet into just one board. What the? The thing should really be called a snowblood.

Lift your toes to turn left; lift your heels to turn right. Got it. Turning is how you slow down. But snow is very slippery. It connives with the waxed snowboard to generate a speed inversely proportionate to your skill level. Therefore you probably shouldn’t immediately proceed to the top of the slope after only one lesson and a lifetime of acute risk aversion. So naturally, that’s what I did.

That meant braving the ski lift, and I’d only ever been on the fake kind at amusement parks. You have to ride strapped into your snowboard with only one foot, so your inevitable leg tango with your similarly outfitted lift mate ends up twisting your ankle before you even get the chance to mangle yourself properly on the mountain. Dismounting the lift was also challenging. There’s nothing quite like falling on the ground and looking up to see the next lift car swinging amicably toward your skull.

Then it was the moment of untruth. I flapped and curled down the mountain, thrashing like a bull (on a snowboard) in a china shop. I skirted moguls at the last second. I clamored to keep up with six-year-olds. I mopped up meltwater with my improper denim attire. My heart raced from the fear of colliding with snowboarders barreling right behind me. I had so much fun I figured it would take only one more time down the slope to awaken my inner Olympic snowboarder.

Once at the top of the slope again, I got cocky. Neither my ill-fitting boots nor my desire to walk again were about to hold me back. I took a mere half an hour to arrange myself in the starting position. Then I remembered being told that going faster would actually afford me more control. So I dug those edges in, I dug those edges out, I put my left knee in and I shook it all about. I pointed my snowboard straight down the mountain, scoffing at both gravity and my obvious balance deficiency. My momentum picked up and soon I was thrust into that Peppermint Patty commercial, where you’re so exhilarated that your eyeballs ice over.

Then I realized I’d better slow down if I didn’t want to fly across the resort parking lot and out onto the highway. I’m not sure what I did, but it was The Wrong Thing. Suddenly my momentum flung me backward as forcefully as in a cartoon, crashing me down onto my head and upper vertebrae with brain-numbing impact. My sunglasses flew off my face and I saw not just stars, but planets. It took me a full two minutes to regain a standing position. Spasms of pain banished me for the rest of the day to the lodge’s fireside, where not even vending machine hot cocoa and watching my jeans dry could save me from the overwhelming, cataclysmic boredom.

Of course, I’m well aware that when something defeats you, you have to get right back on the horse. I've promised myself I'll be brave and drive out to the mountain again with friends soon. Only this time I plan to triumph over that boredom in the lodge by bringing a bunch of books.