Snowboarding didn’t come easily for me.
Well, how easy is it to manouvre while throwing yourself down a mountain with a plank of wood strapped firmly to both feet? I thought I would’ve taken to it easily; after all, I’ve been water skiing, and Skateboarding.
I found myself sitting at the top of the beginners slopes, with all the boys from tour, one foot strapped in, the other still dangling from using the Ski-Lift T-Bar — at least I mastered that; whereas a lot of the others hadn’t — just a matter of balance, and staying on the board.
I strapped my loose fot into it’s bindings for the 100th time, and stayed on my ass (numb now from many hours of falling on it).
Having the best Ski gear money can buy
And these $40 ski pants are supposed to be waterproof? We just found out last night the Ski Resort (in Zakopane, Poland) doesn’t hire gear beyond boards, and googles. So we hit up a Shopping Centre in Krakow and bought the cheapest Ski pants we could find. I already had my Primark jacket, and looked a treat wearing my Christmas Day Santa cap. festive spirit and all. I didn’t think of getting Ski gloves, I thought I could save money and go with my wollen gloves from Spain. They lasted a whole 30 minutes; as soon as they touched the snow it started to form clusters of snowballs and really fnck up the gloves until they were useless. So I bit the bullet and bought a pair of gloves for $20 from the sports store on the mountain.
There I was, like a real boarder, decked out in googles, Santa hat, waterproof Primark Ski jacket, and waterproof Ski pants — sitting on the beginners slope, waiting for all the other boarders and few skiers to go before me so there was a clear path in case I couldn’t turn, stop, or just fall down.
Invaluable Ski instruction
I had to lie face down in the snow, on my belly, and stand up backwards. Everytime I tried to stand up facing down the mountain the board would start to slide out from under me, and I would end up on my backside once again.
The 2 hours of instruction I signed up for should’ve probably covered standing up; but with over 30 people to train, all complete newbies (Aussies and Kiwis), the instructors had their hands full. So much so that I felt like the invisible man, with almost no instruction at all except for the couple of minutes they spent going over basics with the group (including how to tie laces).
Girls in the group were getting guided down the mountain (of course, male instructors, ex olympic coaches and pro boarders). Any opportunity to help the girls out, and get their hands on them in the process. I remember the few times I asked for help — usually after a massive stack when trying to stand — the instructor just said
“take your feet out of the bindings, and walk back up the slope”
…yeah, I’m a pro at walking dude, I wanna learn how to Snowboard.
I’d given up on any advice from the instructors, so thought I’d just keep throwing myself down the mountain until gravity taught me.
1.. 2.. 3.. up I get, Woah!, down I go.
Getting the hang of the sliding motion and the balance is difficult at first. Just like those mornings down at the beach watching new surfers take massive stacks into the baby waves.
1.. 2.. 3.. again. I’m up! I’m up! …but I’m heading towards the fence! *Dive* I’m down.
Sometimes I got lucky and managed to turn around so I faced down the hill, lean my heels into the slope and slow the speed to a manageable pace before getting the balance right, turning my hips to a normal stance and picking up speed down the mountain. The problem was, at the bottom of the hill, near the Ski-Lift the snow was compacted by the crowds, and ice-like. Braking here for a beginner was difficult. I managed to switch the board back to face down the mountain, and lean back slightly so i cut up the ice into a nice Rooster Tail spray in front of me. I could only keep this up for a fraction of a second, before losing balance, stacking, and sliding down the ice on my butt.
But at least I stopped, and didn’t hit anyone, or anything (other than snow); and I was back at the bottom, in line for the Ski-Lift.
Master of the Ski-Lift (T-Bar)
Unstrap the back foot, grab the T-Bar rope, and up I go.
There was always one of the tour who lost balance on the lift, or drifted towards the fence. At least a dozen times I saw someone get dragged up the hill on their belly, too stubborn to let the rope go. It was only 1-200 metres of hill after all — the baby slope — once back at the top, some of the other guys were getting the hang of it fast, and bunny hoping to the start point before clipping in and heading down the slope. 3/5 would get over-confident, lose balance, and take a dive into the snow.
There were a couple of big tumbles, but everyone always laughed it off, got up, brushed off the snow, and continued. It must have been hilarious for the locals, and parents watching their 5 year olds out-Ski us.
Ski-Lift Dave earns his name
While i was waiting for my turn, we discussed strategy and war wounds, as I noticed Dave take yet another dive on the Ski-Lift. Was this his 5th time today? But he never gave up, unlike some of the girls — who would walk their board up the hill — and he kept going back to that T-Bar for another attempt. Usually ending up on his belly being dragged up the slope laughing.
This time he took a dive and headed straight for the fence. Whats this? hes got tangled in the fence, and he still hasnt let go of the rope. the fence is wrapped around his legs and board, and he’s still hanging on for dear life.
Now he’s being pulled up the slope on his back, with the fence being pulled up the slope with him “let go of the bloody rope dave, you’re destroying the fence” …and then the Ski-Lift stops, the staff has seen his epic blunder, they are running towards him… probably to give him a beating for being a stupid tourist.
Soon he is untangled, unclipped, they are repairing the fence, and all the other boarders and skiiers are left holding onto their ropes at different points on the slope, unable to go anywhere until the lift starts, unable to let go because they are beginners and will fall and make a mess like Dave.
Dave’s walking up the hill now, board under his arm, to the laughter (and cheers) of our tour bus crowd. We applaud his handy-work. No one has captured it for YouTube, so there will be no evidence, but I managed to get these few pictures to immortalize the story on the interwebz.
And thats the story of how Ski-Lift Dave was born: the Snowboarder who never gave up, even when he destroyed a fence and brought the Ski-Lift to a halt for 15 minutes. He spent the next 10 minutes saying sorry to every boarder and skier who got off the lift; and the next 5 days retelling the story to everyone on tour.
Bucket List item #35 crossed off
I never did get the hang of the front start, or Snowboarding. But I wasn’t the only one on tour. I had a bloody great day though; out on the mountain, in the zero degree temperature, and sunshine. My butt, and knees were purple with bruises from the number of times I wiped out.
One time I was sure I was going to break something (bones). I had built up a lot of speed, and was heading towards a couple of skiers paused in the middle of the hill. I tried to turn around them, but panicked and lost balance and took a dive face-first into the snow. I almost put my hands out to stop me, but gut instinct told me to use my forearms. Luckily. Lots of breaks happen from putting wrists down wrong in the snow. I would have known this if I’d been given any instruction from the coaches. I hit the snow with great force. 95kgs at speed. “Ooof!” I winded myself. A few seconds passed then you could hear my laughter echoing across the slope — a sign not to call the ski-do ambulance. Laughter means everything is ok.
On the slopes that day the ambulance was called at least once; not for anyone on our tour, thank God. We just had bruised backsides, sprained wrists, and bruised egos.
How did you spend Christmas Day?
Where is it?