Day-tripping

February 25, 2007 at 1:35 pm (Family, Sports, Travel)

Alas, the snowboarding season is almost over. Not that this would have particularly upset me last week, mind you, since (since the day Heather guilt-tripped me into starting snowboarding two years ago) I haven’t really enjoyed snowboarding. In fact, if you want a full confession (and what are blogs for, if not total and abject honesty where anyone, including one’s wife and life partner, from whom one has been withholding this information for the last two years, can see it), I’ve loathed snowboarding. It combines everything I dislike about scuba diving (namely, the large quantities of expensive equipment and the inordinate amount of time to get equipped and, at the end, unequipped) which the ability to absolutely terrify me in a way that even being underwater doesn’t and can’t. I mean, okay, I have nightmares about giant squids, but I don’t really expect them to come attack me while I dive. But when I’m standing up there, at the top of that snowboarding run, looking down, I absolutely expect that that particular run will be my last, that that is the one where I’ll fall and break my neck, or impale myself on a skier, or whatever other horrifying way to die pops into my head. And I have to force myself out onto the slope, and when I finally reach the bottom and safety, I then have to hop back onto the lift and do it again, all to keep my wife happy. So, when the rain “storm” we got last Thursday afternoon deposited 8 inches of fresh powder at Big Bear and Heather asked me to take Friday off of work/school to go snowboarding with her, I was… less than enthusiastic.

But I could tell how much she wanted to go, and there is almost nothing I love more than making my wife blissfully happy, so we piled into the car with all of our gear at 7:30 AM Friday morning and hit the road, heading for the mountains. The trip actually had a very pleasant start: Although I was driving (since Heather had worked the night before), I discovered that there is virtually no traffic going eastbound on the 10 freeway in the morning, so we flew all the way to San Bernadino (incidentally, there traffic westbound in the evening was also inordinately light, which made the drive home less horrible than it might otherwise have been). We stopped on our way up the mountain to put on our chains, and outside of a frightening interlude where the car fishtailed on some ice and I ended up plowing it into a snowbank to avoid an oncoming car, we made it to Big Bear unscathed and in a good mood (and reasonably well-rested, thanks to Heather’s 2-hour nap).

The second pleasant surprise (well, not really a surprise) was the almost complete absence of lines once we got onto the slopes. Since it was a weekday, there were relatively few people there, and we were able to rotate through the lifts very quickly, even the main lifts. In fact, on the smaller, side lift that we took a number of times, there was absolutely no line.

The third pleasant surprise (for me, anyway) was the powder. I should probably clarify at this point that I’ve never actually snowboarded on fresh powder before. Every snowboarding trip I’ve been on so far, whether to Big Bear or Mammoth, coincided with a distinct lack of power, and the corresponding presence of icy snow. Powder, as I’m sure any experienced skier or boarder will tell you, is a whole different animal. Not only did I find that I had a lot more control than I was used to, but even when I did fall (which happened, seriously, twice) , it hurt a lot less than I was accustomed to. Combined with the short lines, I was able to really practice my turns, especially the dreaded toe-side turns, and got much better at it. By the end of the day, I was even making short s-curves as I raced down the mountain, controlling my speed on some of the steeper slopes, which is something that I’ve never been able to do before. Heather was pretty happy about that, too, since it meant that I could finally keep up with her on the slopes, and she didn’t feel like I was holding her back. Let’s consider that the fourth pleasant surprise.

The fifth pleasant surprise was the price. By packing us a lunch of fruit slices and panini sandwiches and bringing a couple of waterbottles in our backpack, we didn’t need to buy food while we were up there. Since we own all of our gear, we didn’t need to rent anything (incidentally, most of my gear was bought on sale; the jacket and pants were REI closeouts, and my board was the previous year’s model when I bought it last year; by this point, I’ve gotten its cost per day snowboarding to around $10). And, since it is after the main part of the season, all-day lift tickets were only $50. Combined with the half tank of gas we burned driving, that makes the whole cost $60 per person, which is a price I can live with (as opposed to a massive Mammoth outing, which can easily pass $500 per person).

And sixth? Well, I’ll be darned if, for the first time in my life, I actually enjoyed a day snowboarding. That’s right, me, the paranoid nutcase, had a good time hurtling down hills at 20 mph. The combination of the powder and improving my turns meant that I was less worried about the falls (and that I fell less!), and therefore could spend more time appreciating the “rush,” as everyone calls it. And it is there, if you can relax enough to appreciate it. Granted, I’m still not eager about hitting the really steep slopes, but I can make it down them without falling, which isn’t a bad place to be. And, mirabile dictu, I’m even looking forward to the start of next year’s season, so that I can spend the whole winter REALLY enjoying myself. Not a bad list of accomplishments for one day, if you ask me.

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2 Comments

  1. Dee Dee said,

    Come to Michigan and try luging. That should be your next challenge. Here is the link to information about it – http://www.hotelsbycity.net/blog/usa_michigan_muskegon/2007/01/17/winter-is-back-in-west-michigan/. Oops! You might not want your wife to hear about it. She might push you to do it :-).

  2. kabababrubarta said,

    Cool Site! kabababrubarta

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