Column: Good quick? Maybe |

Column: Good quick? Maybe

The first time I tried snowboarding was December 1997 at Alpine Meadows.

It was during a blizzard, and I didn’t do so well.

The second time: Kirkwood Mountain Resort, January 1998. Ice. Not good.

Third: Sierra-at-Tahoe, January 1999. Fourth: Heavenly Ski Resort, February 1999.

And by the last time, I was still awful. Still falling on my hands, my knees, my face and quite often my butt.

Having months and sometimes more than a year between attempts, it was like starting over every time. And although I appreciate the efforts made by friends giving me instruction, I also knew I was hurting because I never had a lesson.

So, after three winters in the area and still no skills at skiing or snowboarding, I decided this year I was going to learn to snowboard, gosh darn it!

I would go two days in a row, and I would take lessons.

I wanted to get good quick. And, well, Sierra-at-Tahoe’s “get good quick” program sounded like the way to do that.

The first day, on a place about halfway up Sierra’s beginner slope, we started our lesson with the fundamentals: stretching, learning to put one foot into the bindings and moving around a little bit. And, of course, we learned how to fall. Yes, learned. Everyone can fall, but it takes some practice to fall correctly when snowboarding so as not to get hurt – too bad.

Then it was time to walk about 20 feet up hill and glide down, one foot in the bindings and the other out. I did this OK, likely because I had been boarding at least a few times, but I did my share of falling.

Then it was time to strap both feet in and go down the lower half of the slope, first facing the hill going down at an angle, then stopping, turning around and going the other way. Turning was still out of the question.

At the bottom, we loaded onto the Easy Rider lift and went to the top. On the way down Broadway, the easiest run at Sierra, I tried to link my turns. I fell more than I turned. But I could feel myself making progress nevertheless.

After the lesson, I spent the rest of the day practicing on the beginner lifts, going down the green runs. It started to snow; the wind blew in my face as my lift chair rocked back and forth in the gusts. But, as I went down the slope over and over, I improved.

I would make it all the way down, successfully turning as I went. Then, just moving along slowly at the nearly flat base, I would catch an edge of my board. Wham! Down I went.

I practiced until my tired limbs started to betray me, until I stopped improving and actually started getting worse.

Day 2 began with a not-too-successful trip down Broadway. What happened? I said after my first run. I was getting the hang of this yesterday. But then my second and third runs were much better, and I joined in what Sierra calls its breakthrough clinic.

Four other guys, our instructor and I went up the big lift all the way to the top of the mountain. Up on top, wind gusts buffeted the lift, snow came down harder. What the heck is going on? I’m not ready for this.

That’s what I thought anyway. But Sierra’s Sugar N’ Spice is a green run that zigzags all the way down the mountain. And the group of us took it slow, snowboarding for a little while, regrouping, discussing new techniques, and then trying them.

My turns improved. I went faster. I attempted a couple ollies – or small jumps. Some of them were actually successful.

And, of course, I fell a lot.

The last run of the route was Aspen West, which my instructor said is the steepest beginner run in the Lake Tahoe area. It would be a good place for us to practice.

After the lesson, and a hot lunch, I went back out to continue honing my skills. I rotated from the easiest run, to make myself feel good, and the steep one, to give myself practice.

I could cut back and forth, kicking up waves of snow in my wake. Sometimes I fell, but many times I didn’t, gaining speed and making sharper turns without problems. My body was energized, and at the bottom of every run I felt unsatisfied, eager to get back up the mountain.

I had improved 100-fold since 30 hours earlier when I started my first lesson. And I was certainly snowboarding better than my first four attempts prior to that.

The next day my legs were tired, my muscles sore. Physically I needed a break. Mentally, however, I couldn’t wait. I was eager to get back out there and continue improving.

The program was called “get good quick.”

I don’t know about good, but I certainly got a lot better.

And I got hooked.

– Andy Bourelle is a lazy, out-of-shape newspaper reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune who says if he can snowboard anyone can.

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