Life lesson from Snowboarding: Go Hard Then Go Easy

By Khai Johannes Mar 11, 2024
What snowboarding taught me over the years is this: the right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.
Life lesson from Snowboarding: Go Hard Then Go Easy

The first few notes of my alarm cut through the morning silence and I brace for the impact of the ensuing verses. 

Daylight. I wake up feeling like you don't play right.

It's too early for daylight, leaving the words of my favorite artist to feel like ironic salt in a brand new wound. It would be easier to pull the comforter over my head to muffle the alarm. Requiring a little more effort would be reaching my hand into the morning chill from under the comforter's warm cocoon and snoozing the Grammy award winner. I do neither of these things and instead, pull the blankets off in one swift motion. Cold air rushes to wrap itself around my exposed flesh.

My feet hit the hardwood and send up the information that my thermostat is also reporting, "it's cold in here!" they say in unison. Keeping our home at a chilly 55 degrees helps me fall asleep but it makes the mornings tough. I could free our home from the firm grasp of winter with a flick of my finger or I could begin insulating myself in my Stio base layers while pouring hot liquids into my stomach. I do neither of these things and instead, find myself taking deep breaths to steady myself before pulling the shower handle and inviting the cold water up from underground to remind me what cold really is.

Studies have shown that cold showers can provide a jolt of energy that is lasting and without an impending crash. All I knew, with my back tingling and feet numb was that the same 55 degrees that felt like an icy prison two minutes ago now felt like beachfront property in a retirement community. 


It was hard to coax myself off the couch and into loading the car the night before, but having only to slide into the driver seat with my insulated mug, I was grateful I coaxed myself to do so. Thanks to the coffee and cold showers, my eyes were as bright and wide as the headlights of my humble sedan. I could tune into my favorite sports podcast and get caught up on the Sunday of football I missed or play some tunes with a tempo that matches my caffeinated heartbeat.  I do neither of those things and instead, force my gray matter to sponge a bit more of the Japanese language as my Pimsleur app guides me through another lesson.

Not long after Pimsleur has asked me to order a cup of green tea and inquire as to when the cafe closes my headlights illuminate a lone truck in the Big Cottonwood Park and Ride. Henry, my tour buddy, already has his tailgate down and gave me a hand in combining my touring gear with his. After the slamming of doors acts as delayed echoes of the closing of the tailgate, we begin the drive upward.

We discussed our objective for the day as well as reviewed current avy conditions and possible hazards in the snowpack. As I brought our plans to a conclusion, before the condensation from my last breath evaporated, Henry asked “What torture could you see yourself enduring?” his words soaked in his New York tone.

I’ve come to expect this from Henry. He’s a professor from New York so in addition to the accent comes a level of highly educated bluntness I find refreshing. Before I knew his name, we’d covered topics like racism and PTSD from his time as a soldier. A funny thing happens when you get the hard conversations out of the way, everything else becomes easy to talk about. 


A quick buddy check of our beacons and our tour was underway. Our crampons sunk their teeth into the bulletproof snow and made our forward progress possible. We knew the snow would be hard, hence the extra gear, but we also knew it would soften once the sun rose. 

Eventually, we traded our headlamps for natural light as the sun began poking beams through the peaks and pines. Legs and lungs beseech us for a break, which we relented to do only at the top of Desolation Peak. Only as we transition from tour to ride mode does rest come. From this vantage point, we see Park City Mountain to our north and Big Cottonwood Canyon behind us. 

With elation, we ease onto the north aspect and ride our respective powderlines to the 9990 chair. For the next few hours, we shred deep lines with the mechanical aid of the chairlift. By our 4th or 5th run, we make the judgment call to return back to BCC. 

We’re not alone at the top of the peak, a pair of neon-clothed skiers are performing the checks on each other that Henry and I did at the start of our day. Pleasantries exchanged, the four of us make the descending dance downward. Cheering and fist-pumping continuously echoed in the small valley. Near the roadside, we exchange highfives with the strangers turned friends.

“Should we head back up?” one of our new friends asks the group.

It's at this point we divulge that we had parked on the BCC side. Disappointment deflates our new co-conspirators slightly at the realization that they could have done the hard part first and saved the easy piece for the finale. 

In our day-to-day lives, we are constantly faced with the option of doing the hard or easy thing first. As often as I can, I do the hard things first and it makes the easy things easier.  A cold room feels warm after a freezing shower.  In contrast when I find myself attempting the reverse, easy before hard, it feels like I’ve got a mouth coated in ice cream and I’m attempting to talk myself into eating broccoli. 

When I took myself off of the couch to load the car, I was in full “Netflix and Chill” mode. The mental effort it took for me to finally pause the show I was watching (the easy thing) and begin placing gear in the car (the not even that hard thing) felt far more demanding than it needed to be. 

Set yourself up for success, and earn first turns after.