Colbert: Learning to (love) snowboard(ing)
November 27, 2015
Steamboat Springs — I hate snowboarding.
Don't get me wrong — I also love it. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the loneliness of being a beginner in a sport where the incompetent are often left in the dust — or in this case, the powder — the icy crystals a cold reminder of one's inadequacy.
The moral of that story, which centered on my first couple of times snowboarding on Rabbit Ears Pass before Steamboat Ski Area opened, was that, regardless of skill level, snowboarding in general was an accepting and friendly sport. It is fun and brings people together.
Those feelings weren't with me Friday, my first day — ever — of snowboarding on the mountain. As I sat in the snow just up from the Christie Peak Express chairlift and watched young children fly by me on skis and snowboards, I felt deflated. It's rarely true, but when attempting to learn a new sport, there is often that feeling of thinking you are the worst. Like Friday, sitting on that run, I was pretty sure I was the worst snowboarder in the history of Steamboat Springs.
I doubt I am the first person to have struggled learning the basics of snowboarding. Strapping myself into my bindings is still a struggle, and standing up on my board once strapped in is nearly impossible at times. Forget turning and stopping — belly flopping into a pile of snow seems easier.
I didn't spend a lot of time on my board Friday, mostly due to my late arrival that afternoon at the ski area. I did find my way up the gondola once — there was no way I was going to snowboard down, however — where I had a brief encounter with a young woman on the ride to the top. Before she knew of my snowboarding innocence, she, obviously a veteran on a board, freely offered encouraging words for beginners.
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Not knowing of my complete lack of skill, there was no way for her to understand the importance of those few words. Like all beginners, I continue to be filled with fear, doubt, pain (mostly physical) and a complete lack of understanding about snowboarding. Coming from Kansas, the mountain sports are a world away from where I grew up, and adjusting to my new life in Colorado has come with its ups and downs.
But when talented snowboarders and skiers — like this woman, or my roommates, or the numerous others I have met over the past few weeks — are willing to stand up and offer advice, or encouragement, or a simple, “Don't worry, it will get easier,” it means a lot. There are moments when you want to give up, when you are absolutely certain you will never get any better and you are wasting your time. There are moments, particularly after a long afternoon of trying and failing on repeat, when your body is sore and bruised and you are struggling to find a reason to come back the next day.
Sometimes, all it takes to get motivated again is a few kind words from a person who at least looks like they know what they are doing. No, we don't need Shaun White to come give us a pat on the back (although that would be cool); beginners just need a few comforting words from those same people who often fly by us on the mountain as we tumble face first into the snow.
Snowboarding isn't easy, and there are times when I hate it. Learning to snowboard can be discouraging and physically painful. So why do I continue to try? Because, for whatever reason, I also love it. Because people like that young woman in the gondola say it will get better. Because people like her think it's fun.
Some day, I hope to be like her. I want to be that savvy veteran snowboarder, riding up the gondola with this terrified newbie, telling them about my first days on the mountain, telling him or her how I understand the struggles, and that it's OK to be a little bit nervous. And most importantly, telling them not to worry, because snowboarding is only about having fun.
I may occasionally hate snowboarding, but it never lasts. It can be a struggle, but it's a struggle worth battling through, knowing what is on the other side.
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