Austin Colbert: Mastering the bunny slopes
Steamboat Springs — In the roughly seven months I have lived in Steamboat Springs, one thing has become very clear to me — to truly be a local, to be part of the social scene, you need to ski or snowboard.
I wanted to learn partly because it looked like fun, but mostly, because if I didn’t, I would always be that Kansan living in Colorado who didn’t quite fit in.
Most of my friends and roommates seem to be competent skiers or snowboarders. Which means, I never spend any time with them on the mountain.
For the most part, any trip to the ski area involves me spending a whole lot of time by myself. It’s not that my friends are mean, but they are experienced on the snow where I am not, and it’s not fair for them to have to babysit me on the bunny slopes when they could be chasing fresh powder higher on the mountain.
Some day, hopefully before the snow has melted this season, I’ll be able to chase some of that fresh powder myself. However, I’m a slow and methodical learner and need to work on the basics of stopping and turning, both skills my bruised body wished I had before I attempted to play in Rabbit Ears.
This led to me to take an adult group snowboarding lesson through the ski area earlier this week. The all-day session didn’t turn me into a pro, but it has given me the confidence to once again believe that I could one day be as competent as the 10-year-olds grinding rails in Lil’ Rodeo.
The majority of the day was spent on the training slope near the base, a rinse-and-repeat process of riding the magic carpet up and learning to C-turn and J-turn my way down. In the final hour, we made a quick run on Preview, getting a brief tutorial on the mysteries of getting on and off a chairlift.
I returned to the ski area the next day, by myself and with no more lessons planned. I wanted to see if I still remembered anything from the previous day, and I spent all afternoon taking lap after lap on Preview, and eventually the lower portion of the Christie Peak Express Lift.
Yes, I still fell on occasion — I face planted once at the bottom of the run in an attempt to stop — but for the most part, was able to maneuver my way down with little difficulty. I wasn’t going very fast and spent most of the time sideslipping, but compared to where I had been only 24 hours before, I might as well have been on the U.S. Snowboard Team.
Am I ready to chase pow with everyone else? Probably not. Am I confident enough to take the gondola up and try to sideslip back down? Maybe. All I know is I’m a lot better than I was a week ago.
My desire to snowboard well has become a personal battle, one that has little to do with the sport itself. It’s about becoming part of a community, part of a culture, that lives to get up on the mountain each day. My skill sets aren’t quite there, but I believe they will be by the end of the season.
Most importantly, I know I have that same passion and drive to hit the slopes each day like everyone else. It’s just my slopes are still of the small variety.
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