- The struggle continues. But why?
Here’s a question for you.
Why would anyone drive for hours possibly in dangerous snowy and icy conditions, fly across countries and oceans, pay hundreds of dollars or even thousands, stand outside often in freezing temperatures, brave crowds, wait sometimes for half an hour in a lift line on a busy day, all while not knowing exactly if the conditions will be decent, risk life changing injury or even death, frustration and humiliation and embarrassment for beginners, just for two to four minutes (at these smaller East Coast resorts) of actual skiing/snowboarding time per run?
A Private Lesson
Flight hours. I need flight hours.
Bryce is one of the closest and more reasonably priced resorts nearby, so after obsessing, checking the weather constantly, and basically being incredibly bored and purposeless, I went for it. I signed up for a two hour lesson.
Hot tip: Or cold tip?? I’m willing to drop a few dollars on lessons for two reasons:
- You get to jump to the front of the line on chair lifts when you’re taking lessons.
- It’s not a whole lot of fun being on the slopes alone when you’re struggling.
- If things go well, I’d have someone with a lot of experience who could get gopro footage of me.
Here’s what I did not know
You know how sometimes at work you get a project and the client wants it done two weeks ago, and your cheapskate company refuses to buy an enterprise level time machine, so management says let’s just crank up the productivity, efficiency, and person-hour dials by 200% and get it done. Work twice as long and better and don’t make mistakes, everyone. Or else. Boom. Math! Success!
Well. Two hours is a long a time to attempt to snowboard particularly for a noob. You get tired, you start making mistakes, you fall, you get sore, your confidence falters. Throwing yourself at the mountain has a limited return on investment after a point.
Coming down that blue trail, I had to leaf it, then think too much, then try to commit to my next turn. Heel side was alright. Toe side, not so much for some reason. Because you pick up a fair amount of speed for just a moment when you “fall” into the turn, so the instinct is to pull my weight back toward the tail of the board. That means no edges, which means sliding out, blah blah blah.
The instructor kept telling me that I was doing everything right, for the most part, and just need to get confident and get out of my head. We went up the lift to do a real trail: Revenuer’s Run.
Then I kept getting stuck off to the side. So by the time I got to the bottom of the run, it had taken a lot out of me, which I quickly realized when we took the lift back up. I bonked, basically. My legs were violently shaking from the leafing on my heel side, and my feet were burning from the toe side leafing (and trying to work my way out of side ruts).
I know what I could work and I wish I could book a few nights so I can get on the slopes after processing, try using my shoulders to anticipate the turns, keeping my hands over the board, etc. But multi-day resort stays are a big investment and I need to rest/heal anyway.
Kids — maybe after school — were bombing down the hills on their skis whooping and shooting past us.
It was a mess, that last run. I really need to focus on the positives, though. Lot of progress. I can link turns. I just need to commit to the toe side turns and get over the fear of going more than 10 mph for a moment. Well, it’s not a fear of speed. It’s a fear of falling at speed.
I have an “armor” shirt but I didn’t wear it. Mistake. I have knee pads that I should have worn because I kept falling on my patellas during my toe side wipeouts. I have elbow pads. Even though it’s kind of embarrassing I need to suit up. I’m three Alleve deep right now.
Some day, if/when I improve I’m going to reward myself with some upgrades.
- I want flow bindings. You can step into them from the back, as opposed to the five minutes it takes me to strap in every time. Step-on bindings are tempting but — I don’t know.
- I want boots with the BOA system. It’s a dial you turn to tighten the boots instead of laces or the other kind. Right now if I batten down the hatches tight enough to remove play, my feet go numb and tingly.
- I need more colorful boots or something because when everything is black — bindings, boots, pants, straps, gloves — it makes it a lot harder to see what you’re doing. This is an accessory tip for any gearing up.
I want quick, easy, finely adjustable, and reliable.
SnowboardProCamp is my go to YouTube snowboarding channel. I watch a lot of snowboarding videos. Not the Red Bull adrenalin kind where it’s all slow motion shots of snowboarders in low orbit, cutting away before they land, over a dubstep racket. I watch snowboardprocamp where those guys explore and travel and find powder, trees, glades and do some tricks but it’s really about the flow. Like this video. I’m all about the flow.
This is something I really want to do for some reason. But I ain’t no spring chicken so I have to rest, make sure my knees aren’t too angry with me, get back in the gym, wait til the snow conditions are good, build up the momentum (and the money) and hit it again a few more times this season.
My head is bloody but unbowed.
Being outdoors is not a political act for me. It’s not an intentional political act, I should say.
There are a lot of younger, very passionate people running “black/brown people outdoors” sites, pages, Instagram accounts, and organizations that exist to improve diversity and representation in the outdoor world and travel.
Let me be clear here. You are doing amazing, important work. Keep it up. I appreciate you, even if I can’t hang with it all the time because I’m old and tired. 🤣
I hope that the balance of your efforts can be more about the joy of what you do, as opposed to confrontation and friction.
As I’ve said before, I go outdoors for connection, for peace of a sort, challenge, exercise, calm, beauty, and reconnecting with the joy and appreciation of existence that supersedes the vicissitudes of everyday life.
I do not go outdoors to dwell on social and political struggles and injustices. That’s not to say that they aren’t very real. I go to get away from the overwhelming turmoil and stress of being hyperaware and hypersensitive to everything all the time.
To me, the best way to improve representation outdoors is to go outdoors. I don’t want to talk about it, write about it (ironically), dwell on it, attend symposiums, talks, read dissertations, and such. I want to go and, ideally, I want people to come with me.
The reality, however, is that I’m often the only black or brown person out there wherever I go. Excursions, tours, hiking, biking, padding, camping, etc.
I guess that’s representing.
I’ve heard black and brown people say that all that outdoor stuff is white people s–. To which I say, “No. Noooooo, no no. White people don’t get to have/own the outdoors.”
That attitude is a big part of the problem. That’s a self-inflicted (despite and because of the historical context) loss, because we’re well aware of the political landscape, factors, and barriers to entry.
But let me tell you why I’m even bothering to write this. As I was driving to the ski resort yesterday, on the way there I passed at least two houses flying confederate flags. (This reminds me of Harpers Ferry. There are a few houses in that area, on the way to trails and tubing and whatnot, flying large confederate flags.) Just think what message that sends to black/brown people who are getting outdoors, especially newcomers who are often already uncomfortable leaving their bubble of familiarity.
On the way driving back, there was a house with a demented level of enthusiasm for Trump/Pence 2020. So much so that I could barely see the confederate flag. I’m not exaggerating here. The yard, the porch, the windows. It was like one of those insanely elaborate Halloween or Christmas displays except with political bullcrap. The kind of overt, head turning, mega-enthusiasm that makes you question a person’s mental stability, regardless of which party and politicians they support.
As soon as you step outside of urban and suburban areas, the world changes. It’s a culture shock to many. It’s not as hostile as people think it is — people just want to mind their own business and live their lives, for the most part — but it’s also not particularly welcoming for some of us, especially these days, in this particular political climate when people are acting out in bizarre ways, it does not inspire confidence.
The remedy? Go outdoors. Stay open minded and non judgmental. Learn from everyone. Don’t be afraid to be the only whatever. Be smart, be safe, be open minded, be adventurous, be prepared, trust your instincts (but not your fear) and go. Take pics and video and share and then take your people with you.