For the best part of a week I have been freezing my backside off somewhere in the Siberian countryside. Okay, let’s be more accurate; freezing my butt off in a small ski-resort town of northern Japan.
Every year, every winter, there is a select portion of the community that thinks it would be fab to strap wooden boards or skinny planks of fibreglass to their feet and slide down frozen hillsides. No, their aim isn’t to kill themselves or suffer grievous bodily harm. It’s for FUN. Sliding down these mountains is a thrill – dodging other snowgoers, trying not to take out that small child on the beginner slope. Warding off hypothermia. For at least three months of the year, there is nowhere else these snow people would rather be.
This week in Niseko has seen my third “prolonged” experience of being one of those idiots who strap a plank to their feet all in the name of snowboarding. The first experience, a magical few months in North Lake Tahoe, was more than ten years ago when I was just a young 21 year old snow-virgin. These months were magical not so much because of the snow (or the snowboarding) but because:
- it was the first time I had travelled overseas on my own; and
- it was when the husband and I, unexpectedly, first met – thereby commencing the start of our 12 year romance together.
And so it was during this magical time, that I was first convinced to strap my feet to a rented plank of wood and attempt to glide effortlessly down the snowy hills, all the while taking in the breathtaking views of the snow covered pine trees.
Let’s be clear here: before this experience, I had never seen snow. I had never skied before. And never, had I ever contemplated snowboarding. But after a few lacklustre days navigating the slopes on two pointy skis, I was persuaded by the husband (then, just the “boy”) to switch to the dark side of snowboarding. And since then, the rental skis and boots have remained where they were.
The thing about snowboarding, and perhaps the obvious thing to those who have attempted to learn before, is that it fucking hurts. The first day the husband took me out was admittedly not the best day for learning – the snow was pumping down from the sky leaving piles of soft powder on the green slope. One might think that these kinds of conditions would be good for learning – it’s soft, when you (inevitably) fall right? Sure. But how the hell do you get back up? You land on your ass and place your hands onto the snow to get yourself back up…and your hands go right through that soft, soft snow. You’re still on the ground. You’ve hardly made progress down the slope, but you’re exhausted. Then you master sliding down the hill on your heels…and wake up the next day with your quads on fire. Your ass and your knees are bruised from the falls, your forearms are stiff from hauling your own bodyweight to its feet every few metres and those shitty rental boots are sending your toes and ankles into serious cramps. Yet, in that bodily state, you go out and try, try again.
Snowboarding – unless you look like one of those cool dudes scraping the snow and making the swish-swish sound – is not dignified. After the edge of your board catches the snow, slamming you to the snowy earth, you lay there on your tummy like an upside-down turtle, trying to figure out how the hell to get back up without sliding out of control, while the smug skiers on the chairlift chuckle down at you. You try to flip like a fish out of water (a fish that has it’s ankles bound together that is) from your belly to your bum so at least you can attempt a snowplow down the mountain and show that you do in fact have some coordination thank you very much. Then somehow you are at the bottom of the run, so the only thing for it is to unclip one foot and shuffle like some kind of one-legged gimp to that chair lift and go back up. Hoping, hoping that that idiot with the skis understands howmuch more difficult it is to get off a double chair lift on a snowboard than on skis so that you don’t stack it before the run even starts.
So. After all this, I agreed once again to subject myself to the snowboard for the last week. And although we can be happy that the bruises are fewer and the quad muscles still functioning, this snow queen is not riding the black runs yet (in all honestly, she’s sticking to the green for fear of painful injury). Perhaps some improvement has been made, perhaps not. But for those of us who are not natural with the old board on the foot, practise hurts. Practise can be boring. And sometimes, practise just fricken sucks.
Perhaps it’s time this snow queen hung up her ankle-strangling boots, got a hot buttered rum and watched the snow gently floating down from a well-positioned window seat in the mountain lodge. Then again, with the beauty of time and a fading memory, perhaps she’ll be persuaded to clip into another rental and practise her heel-toe turns once again…