Jen's World: Snowboard newbie? Shave your legs
To start with, I shaved my legs.
And I shaved my legs for one reason: So I wouldn't be hairy (and embarrassed) if I ended up in the ER with a broken leg.
I wasn't alone. Because when my friends — Erin and Jamie and Laura and Lisa and Christy and Brook and Tami — gathered at my house for the carpool that morning, Tami said, "I shaved my legs in case I break an ankle."
We were about to embark on a three-hour snowboard lesson at Welch Village Ski Resort — a first for all of us. So our fears were founded.
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon when we arrived at Welch. We immediately met Dawn, our lead instructor, in the SkiLink Learning Center and got fitted for our boards and boots (and, yes, helmets).
When that process was over, Dawn led our group outside, where she taught us the basics: How to strap our boots into the bindings. How to tilt back on our heels, then forward on our toes. How to walk that awkward, snowboarder walk—where one foot is strapped in to the board at an odd angle while your free foot pushes along beside it in a step, step, glide.
I managed to do it all — including the step, step, glide — without falling. Clearly, I was a born snowboarder.
Dawn then led us to a slight incline in front of the SkiLink center, and pointed toward it. "Now, we'll have you go up there," she said. "And practice coming down."
That slight incline suddenly looked like a black diamond run. Getting to the top was all step and no glide. I was already winded when Dawn told us it was time to board down, one at a time.
When my turn came, I made it all the way down the "hill" without falling. It was at the bottom, when I attempted to stop, that I faceplanted. It would be my first of roughly 75 falls that day. It is possible, probable even, that I spent more time on my butt than on my feet that afternoon.
I fell when I bent my knees too much. I fell when I didn't bend my knees enough. Once, I fell while standing still.
But that was later. Here, at the little incline in front of the SkiLink center, we practiced our turns, our stops, and staying upright. By the time I made my fifth up-and-back trip, my calves were sore, my arches were sore, and I was sweating so much that my hair was wet.
I know. I know. You're thinking: Sexy beast.
Fortunately, it was time for a break. Had I mentioned this was a Wine & Cheese lesson? Break time was the cheese portion. I guess the instructors felt it unwise to feed us wine midway through our lesson.
I wasn't ready for wine, anyway. Instead, I downed an entire bottle of water in two gulps, scarfed down some cheddar, and then it was time for the part I'd been dreading all day: The chair lift.
Ordinarily, I enjoy chair lifts. As a skier, I find the ride a welcome time to relax and enjoy the scenery. But all I could think as I step, step, glided to the lift that afternoon was, "Will I ever be able to get on that thing with my foot strapped to a board?"
Yes, it turned out, I would.
But would I be able to get off the lift without crashing and blocking the exit?
No, it turned out, I would not.
I'd only made it a few feet when I went down, sprawling across the exit path. I awkwardly crawled my way off the path, then, after falling two more times, made my way to our group. Once we'd all gathered, Dawn and our other instructors, Jamie and Anna, instructed us to make the trek down the hill in increments. One of them would stand 30 or 40 feet away, and our goal was to get to them — using the skills we'd been practicing down at the Center.
When my turn came, I was a raging success for the first four feet. And then I turned around backwards and flew 30 feet in the wrong direction. I landed, of course, on my butt. Little by little, step by step, we spent a full hour going down the hill. We fell. We ran into each other. We laughed. A lot.
By the time we got to the bottom, I landed hard for the final time.
Or, rather, not the final time.
Because I will try snowboarding again. And that's not just the post-lesson wine talking. It was adventurous, exhilarating, liberating — and, as it turns out, I never did need to shave my legs.
Note: This column will appear in the April issue of Rochester Magazine, as part of Jennifer's "My First Time" series.