Scary Stories 2
Today, I give you Scary Stories 2, or The Time I Started Snowboarding By Myself In College And Some Other Stuff That Led To.
My third and final year of college, I decided I wanted to learn to snowboard. One of my all-time favorite childhood memories occurred while skiing on a family trip at the age of 12; but other than that and a few random trips before it, I had zero experience with snow sports, and what I did have had long since faded.
I knew so many people in college who loved skiing and snowboarding, though, and I desperately wanted to try the latter. I thought it looked hard and fun and cool, and — similar to my reasoning for paragliding — I decided that the only thing standing between me and snowboarder me was just, well, doing it.
We had an artificial slope on campus where I could have learned, like a reasonable person, but the surface of it was like plastic carpet, and falling looked like it would hurt. A lot. If I was going to fall, I wanted it to be on real snow.
My friends who rode were intimidatingly better than me, and I couldn’t convince any other true beginners to give it a shot. But one day, after a good snow, I scrapped together appropriate clothing from various friends and thrift stores and drove myself an hour and a half up the road to Wintergreen. I stood nervously in line, feeling equal parts super adventurous and like a total loser, bought a day pass, and signed up for a beginner group lesson in which the cashier assured me I would not be the only adult.
I’ll spare you the suspense and let you know now that by the end of my hour-long class, I was still Not Very Good At Snowboarding. But I could ride heel-side reliably enough to get down the mountain, and down I went — over and over, crashing every few feet and struggling to get myself back up before my board slid out from under my feet. At one point, I found myself sitting on the side of the slope next to a six-year-old in a pink puffy jacket, both of us furrowing our brows.
“This is hard,” she said.
“Man, you’re telling me,” I responded.
I think I also fell every time I got off the lift. My quads burned like never before as I tried to maintain a low center of gravity, and I was surprised by how full-body of an experience catching my toe side was. My face was a permanent shade of pink; not from the cold, but from self-consciousness.
But I loved it.
I was more than a little embarrassed at how bad I was; but the pride I felt in my first clean lap and the thrill when, if only for a few seconds at a time, everything would come together to just soar for a stretch? It beat out the bruises to my ego tenfold.
I went back a few more times on my own, stuffing the pockets of my grandma’s snow jacket with protein bars to eat on the lift in lieu of buying meals at the resort restaurant and eventually borrowing a friend’s board to cut back on my rental costs. I took friends from school and met new people. I got decent enough that skipping class to snowboard was my first date with a guy a few months later, and on our last lap of the night he fell and hit his head super hard, and I led him down the rest of the run and turned in all our gear and administered an amateur concussion test on him per instructions I found on Google in a dimly lit gas station down the street while we stood in line to buy Gatorade and packaged mini donuts. Just think! I wouldn’t have that story if I hadn’t gone snowboarding by myself that one time!
I haven’t snowboarded since moving back to Texas, and I guarantee you I’d be starting at square one if I strapped onto a board now.
But I’ve never regretted going and trying it and all the fun it brought, and it reminds me not to let self-consciousness dictate my decisions. I guarantee you there’s no one who shared the slope with me in 2014 who remembers my flailing beginner attempts at riding; and even if they do, they probably have their own beginner stories to share.
Go try the things you want to try, even if you’re worried you’ll be bad at them.
And also, maybe don’t go snowboarding as a first date.