Saturday, January 21, 2012

Old Dog, New Tricks

Two off topics notes first:
1. So much for trying to meet my goal of at least one blog post per week. Will have to keep trying.
2. Frank -- no comments on the title of this post. I'm *serious*! I mean it!!

So there's that saying, can't teach an old dog new tricks. And after the last ten days spent in the Lake Tahoe area trying to learn how to snowboard, I'm on the verge of agreeing. But only on the verge...not totally convinced.

My dad taught me to ski when I was about seven. I'm pretty sure he lived in Massachusetts by then, and my sister and I would go to visit him on holidays and during the summer. That first year we went, my sister was off visiting a friend of hers in the area, so Dad and my brother, Jay, went off to the ski slopes. Jay took off to enjoy himself on the slopes, having been skiing many times before. And Dad patiently spent the time corralling me down the slopes, teaching me to snow-plow and then to turn, and finally to race down the run as fast as humanly possible. Being seven, with the kid-innate lack of fear of hurting myself, I picked it up pretty quickly, though I do remember a couple of fairly spectacular falls.

My sister joined us on the slopes the next year and was *disgusted* with me that I already knew what I was doing, and she was stuck on the bunny slope. She hasn't been back to ski since.

About six years ago, I really came to appreciate the skills my dad had instilled in me at such a young age. I went skiing for the first time in probably more than five years, and it was just like riding a bike...I pretty much remembered what I was doing. I mean, the first few runs down the mountain weren't exactly graceful, but I got to the bottom without severe bodily damage and once the rust was knocked off, really enjoyed myself. I've tried to go skiing at least once a year for the past while.

This year, though, I decided to try snowboarding. And I'm not sure why. My frie-bors (friends + neighbors, remember?), Molly and Billy have gone to Tahoe for the last three years, and over the summer, I kinda invited myself along with them. They snowboard, though, and offered to let me borrow their daughter's gear. It all fit, so I said, sure, why not? I'll try it.

I took a lesson the first day, from a very nice guy named Bill at Alpine Meadow (free lift tickets for active duty military). So glad I did. He set me up with my left foot forward. I took a couple of spills during that two hours, but felt like I was on my way to picking it up okay. Over the course of the next couple of days, I took more than a few spills...some of them so spectacular as to be named "yard sales." Ya know, like where my goggles, gloves, board and anything else that can come flying off, end up displayed across the slope like at a yard sale. Ugh, and don't be fooled...that shit *HURTS!!* I'm still not sitting down on a chair properly.

About day three, after ending up going down the hill right foot forward more often than not, Billy changed the bindings on my board so my right foot was forward. It was a little awkward the first run or two down the hill once he switched it, but it quickly became more comfortable. I took another lesson on day four from Phillip at Mt Rose (who I hope does join the CG when this season is over, because I think he'd make a wonderful addition to *any* crew. Smart, enthusiastic, a great teacher...all the things we need in our ranks.).  Again, it was useful and I picked up some good tips from him.

I think a couple of things may have made a difference in my comfort level with this new trick though. First, better conditions on the mountain would have meant easier falls and less ice...both of which completely intimidated me after the first day. Unfortunately, we scheduled our trip during Tahoe's worst snow season, like, maybe *ever!* We were on all man-made snow. It started snowing today...two days after we left. Mr Murphy, sir -- so *NOT* funny!

Second, the bindings should have been moved a bit further apart on my board. Both Bill and Phillip impressed upon me the importance of being low and flexible in the knees to make turns successfully (and without those intensely painful abrupt stops). Phillip pointed out that my feet were pretty close together on my board, which meant that I had to work harder to use the board's flexibility to turn and was less stable than if my feet were further apart. I kinda laughed at this a little, after thinking of how many times I reminded guys during crew law enforcement training (especially handcuffing) to have a deep, wide stance to ensure their stability. My favorite learning technique was to walk up alongside them if they were just bending over (instead of squatting with their knees), and gently shove their hip a little to knock them off balance. Made 'em cuss every time.

Third, crash pads. I can't overemphasize the importance of PPE enough. I was extremely grateful for my helmet and goggles. But I really should have gone the extra step, and gotten the crash pads for my backside. Would have saved a *lot* of pain and whining. Next year.

Which makes me wonder, am I seriously gonna try snowboarding again next year? or am I gonna wimp out and go back to skiing? And why? For godsakes, why? I suck at it, which means that there are a lot of crash landings that really hurt. Laughing at myself when my body doesn't respond like my brain says it should only goes so far to assuage the bruised ass, elbows, knees and yes, face...never mind my ego. So why, on god's green earth, would I try it again?

One friend said it's "bc u r n explorer. duh. u have to keep pushing urself; each day try to improve. hard work n determination. (song lyrics...)" (obviously we were texting). Not sure how true that is.

Maybe it's peer pressure. Snowboarders *look* cool. If I snowboard, that means I'm cool too.

Maybe it's 'cause I'm cheap. Free loaned snowboarding gear (even if I don't know how to use it) is better than rented skis.

Maybe, like most things, it's a combination of all those things. Does it count as a commitment to "lifelong learning?"

By the by, and regardless of all the falls, I had a *great!!* time hanging out with Molly and Billy, and Eddie and Lucas, and Jan, Hana, Avis and Dawn. What an awesome group of people to get to hang out with!


Victoria said...

IN MY DEFENSE, I was only ten years old. And I really, *really* hated falling down...still do.

Frank said...

it's taken me this long to realize that there is nothing i can comment on if i can't comment on the title, i'm just acknowledging that i read your post 10 days ago. i do suppose that i still win since i didn't have to say anything for my point to be taken ;)

Just a Girl said...

Thanks to my dad for clearing up V's skiing experience. His version is that she got down the hill once, took off her skis and said, "It's not fair. Charlotte doesn't have as far to fall as I do."

And my apologies, V, for distorting the facts to suit my story.

Frank, of course you win. But you might want to try to be less predictable...get new material, or something :)

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