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Snowater is right past Snowline

This weekend members of the usual gang rented a condo in Glacier, a half hour’s drive from Mount Baker, which I last visited to build snow caves back in the Boy Scouts. This time I came to snowboard, which I hadn’t done since my very first time over three years ago. It was actually my first and second times, which made the lift tickets I bought Saturday and Sunday my third and fourth times.

I was more than a little worried that I would spend the whole time sliding slowly down slopes on my ass while my compatriots (Adam, Kelly, Marc, Marta, Chris, and Will, all experienced boarders or skiers) carved circles around me. In fact, on more than one occasion I began a sentence with “when archaeologists find my frozen corpse a thousand years from now…” Fortunately for everyone involved, snowboarding is just like riding a bike: even if you can’t remember or describe exactly what you’re supposed to do, it doesn’t matter, because your body remembers for you. Amazingly, once I got myself pointed downhill I found I was starting right where I had left off three years ago, with all the basics down and my clumsy stance slowly melting into nonchalance.

Despite everything I remembered, Saturday was still the most physically difficult day in some months. I could mostly keep up, but by the end of the day my co-riders were getting fairly annoyed with my inability to handle black-diamond runs, the frequency with which I would get stuck in powder and have to plow forward on hands and knees, and the way I kept dropping from exhaustion. They couldn’t possibly have been more put out than I was, though — every muscle in my legs and back were regularly seizing up in protest. After I staggered into the lunch hall an hour behind schedule and told everyone to go ahead without me, I sat by myself and drank hot cocoa for around an hour until I felt I could reasonably and safely strap myself back onto that piece of fiberglass and hurl it and myself down a mountainside.

Saturday I had a breakthrough in my understanding of the mechanics of the sport and things got a lot better. I discovered how to ride an edge rather than using it to slow down; I learned that toe side is much easier because I have toes; I got the hang of turning the board around changing direction. Yet all of these discoveries paled in comparison to one simple, counterintuitive fact: snowboarding is much easier if you go fast. Braking takes a lot of energy, which wears you out a lot faster. For me, at least, it took a lot of practice before I was confident enough to build that much speed. With this basic level of aptitude came an order of magnitude increase in enjoyment. By the middle of the morning, I was laughing with sublime joy as I shredded downhill. Before I just kind of liked snowboarding, and after I’m not sure I want to live without it.

Between days we spent our time hanging out at the condo and playing creative drinking games. Adam and Kelly made delicious meals and desserts for everyone to gorge on. Chris brought out his Cindi Lauper CDs, but didn’t insist on listening to them. Marta insisted on wrestling every person there, just like in college, and gave me a now-festering rug burn for my cooperation. I entertained by insulting everyone in continually surprising ways, also just like in college.

Confusingly, the condo complex, called the Snowater, was located right next door to another called the Snowline, and Adam and I first drove into the wrong one and somehow blundered past all security measures, including a gate with a card-key reader, before realizing we were in the wrong place. Ours was a little further down the road, perched on the banks of the Nooksack, and it had a hot tub and pool where we soaked our aching muscles. We all felt compelled to pay a visit to a building called the “Adult Center,” which was pretty tame given the name, just a bunch of pulp novels from the 90s and a card table. It was generally very pretty and sort of antiseptic, as condo complexes tend to be.

As far as I’m aware, everyone enjoyed themselves almost too much, although we’re all nursing gimped muscles all over our bodies. I woke to an inch of fresh snow this morning which, combined with my panging calf muscles, obliged me to take baby steps all down the way down the steep, slick hill to the office lest I slip and become an object of ridicule for the area’s teeming homeless. I really, really wished I was on a snowboard.

Posted in Musings.


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