“Are you a skier, or a snowboarder?” If you’ve ever been to a mountain town or even discussed wintersports, there is a good chance you've been presented with this question. For years now, I have been referring to myself as a skier. I have always felt that skiing is an ambiguous term that encompasses both skiing and snowboarding, but in referring to myself as a skier there is the preconceived notion that I ski but do not snowboard. Well, my theme of the season seems to be switching things up, so it is only natural that I decided to give snowboarding more of an honest effort. And I’ve gotta tell ya, it has been hugely successful.
Around mid-December this year I was presented with an opportunity to get myself a new snowboard. In fact, with the exception of those Toys-R-Us snowboards many of us grew up with, this was my first snowboard ever. HUGE DEAL! Who doesn’t like getting new gear after all? So I got myself a board, bindings and some boots, and I was keen to giv’er!
When it comes to skiing, I like to think I’m of a fairly decent skill level. I’m also pretty motivated and stubborn when it comes to sports, so I wanted to get on a snowboard and instantly be good at riding it. Well, this was not necessarily the case. My first day on the new board was a little rough and it began with an unexpected mogul run about 100 yards off the chairlift. I went down a trail that I’m fairly familiar with, but I didn’t take into account the fact that it had just snowed and people had been out getting after it. Turned out the mellow groomer had a few bumps that afternoon. Fortunately, the bumps were nice and soft from the new snow, but that didn’t necessarily make turning in between them any easier. Needless to say, I ended up on the ground a couple of times. I eventually made it down the most harrowing green run of my life and decided to be a little more cautious in my terrain choices for the rest of the day. The next few runs went much better than the first and I was able to link some (what I thought were solid) turns together. Overall though, day one on the new board was most definitely a fun but very humbling experience.
After a few more days on the board, I really started to build up some confidence. I started going faster and trending towards mostly blue squared runs as much as I could to continue challenging myself. I also started snowboarding with some of my friends who mainly snowboard with the thought process that I would be pushed to work harder if I tried to keep up with them around the mountain. Following my friends definitely led to some quicker development, but not without its fair share of humbling moments. For instance, I have always thought riding a snowboard in powder looked like loads of fun. Almost like surfing (another sport I’m horrible at but want to excel in) in the way snowboarders can carve on off-camber slopes or wide open bowls. So one powder day I hesitantly left my skis at home and took out the board. Turns out riding pow is quite a bit more challenging than riding a groomer. One of our first runs I ended up making my worst snowboarding fear come true: catching my toeside edge and getting mousetrapped to the ground. Like my first bump run, fortunately, the new snow cushioned my fall but it was nonetheless a highly unpleasant experience. With the exception of this crash though, I considered it a highly successful day. I can distinctly remember one heel side turn in a wide open patch of powder that resulted in me yelling out of sheer shock and enjoyment.
As the season has gone on, I have spent a fair number of days on a snowboard. I still opt for the skis on powder and/or backcountry days, but those mellow days in between have been great for getting more comfortable on a snowboard. One of the things snowboarding does for me is it causes me to look at the terrain in a completely new way. Trails that I may not always ski on have become so much more interesting in that I have this entirely new way of approaching them. Overall, snowboarding has added this whole new appreciation for what is already my favorite of the four seasons. Not only do the winter months allow me to ski, but now I can mix things up every now and again when I need a change of pace. I guess what I’m trying to say here is this: quit hating on whichever of the two disciplines you partake in and try the opposite, even if it's just for a day or two. You’re either going to love the change and have something new and exciting in your life, or you’ll have a humbling experience and remind yourself why you love to ski or snowboard. One way or the other, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying something new.A strong point of the skiing and snowboarding scene in Utah is the accessibility of lessons. So, if you’re not trying to just wing it and see how you go, I recommend talking to the ski school at the mountain of your choice. Instructors have this otherworldly talent of being able to explain what you need to do in order to improve. As an added bonus, taking a lesson avoids getting in an argument with your partner when they’re screaming at you for not doing it right! Check out some of my fellow Ski Utahans articles on how to get yourself sorted with a lesson:
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