Accidental acrobatics and other outdoor sports
By Tanya Mitchell
Having lived in Maine all of my life, I have a special appreciation for the kinds of activities my home state has to offer during the winter months – especially since more often than not, it’s cold up here.
So logic would dictate that I, like many of my contemporaries, continue to enjoy the outdoors come sub-zero temperatures and less-than-desirable driving conditions (otherwise, it would be a very boring winter, I think).
Sledding is easily one of my favorite winter pass times, for several reasons:
The ride’s all downhill, and it’s so much fun that the hike back up the hill to do it again is so worth the effort; *
It involves little or no skill; *
It’s fast and unpredictable, and; *
You get to sit down.
Being a working mom, I find that last reason to be particularly kick-ass in recent years.
As much as I love sledding, I, like most human beings, moved away from what I know one season and opted to try something new – snowboarding.
About five years ago, a bunch of friends were planning a trip to the Conway, NH region to spend the day snowboarding, and they invited me to come with.
“I’ve never been,” I remember uttering cautiously. And being 23, not to mention a bit dumb, I added “But screw it, how hard can it be?”
So before I knew it, I was decked out in what felt like at least 50 pounds of extra layers of clothing and gear and was preparing to take on another first, a ride on a ski lift.
I was chatting with my buds, and found it easy to get comfortable as we ascended up the mountainside. The ground was blindingly white, but still spectacular in the early afternoon sun. There was little wind, which made the sun a more effective warming agent. Overall, one could say you couldn’t ask for a better day.
So it’s no wonder that I made the mistake of allowing the conditions to lull me into a false sense of security – but rest assured, it didn’t last long.
Fast-forward to the top of the mountain, when the fellow beside me was explaining to me how I was to make a smooth transition from the chair to the snowy terrain. Of course I had one foot secured to the board and one foot free, because that’s the way it’s done, I was told. But I figured, yet again, “how hard can it be.”
As I rose from the seat, in what seemed to be no longer than a half a second, I rested much of my weight on the board as it flew right out from under me (and remember it’s still secured to one of my feet; at that point I was convinced “that’s the way it’s done” just to make us newbies look especially stupid to spectators).
As if the ridiculous scene was not enough, I continuously attempted to get up, and could not achieve any real balance with which to make a graceful exit. It was so pathetic the guy had to stop the lift and allow my friends to drag me off like a dead horse.
But me being me, I refused to be considered “done” so early in the day. No way, now I was really determined to figure this out, and that mixed with humiliation and a little bit of mad usually makes for a successful attempt at learning something difficult.
The key word there is “usually.”
After getting a minor amount of instruction on maintaining balance, turning and stopping, I felt a little more comfortable. Before I knew it, I was cruising down the bunny slope for at least a matter of yards before I tried stopping and landed face-first in some particularly rough snow. This happened on two occasions before I figured out it was much easier to take a kind of sideways angle when I felt myself lurching forward, effectively allowing the side of my butt to take the brunt of the impact. It still hurt like hell after taking a few diggers, but hey, I took what I could get.
I kept this activity up as the hours wore on until I was finally able to travel at a good clip, and while I still sucked at stopping, I decided I would avoid stopping altogether by working on steering the thing. After a while, I was able to achieve some fancy little hops and jumps before falling on my ass. I gained a little more perspective as I was cruising down the hillside and came across a fellow on his way down the hill in a stretcher with his leg in a splint – I mean, as bad as I was at this, at least I’m not in that guy’s shoes-er, skis.
But the end was nearer for me than I thought. At that point, I could see the lodge at the bottom of the hill, and after nearly three hours of sliding, cartwheeling and flailing down the bunny slope, I felt a giant sense of accomplishment. I also felt a whole bunch of body parts beginning to swell and stiffen from an afternoon of kicking the crap out of myself, but I had made it to the end. In just a few moments I could cruise down this steep portion of the mountain and will have slayed the figurative dragon that was this mountainside.
I was traveling at a pretty good clip as I approached the quickly ascending slope, and all was well until I heard the telltale sound of trouble – the sudden crushing sound of the snow turning to a sheet of very unfriendly ice. As hard as I tried to maintain control, I lost it, causing me to take the final 50-foot ride of the day on my tailbone.
I immediately saw a circle of heads surrounding me, all of whom were expressing concern for my welfare as I struggled to get the wind back enough to talk. I finally squeezed out a whispering “ouch.”
My friends assisted me with getting up, and by that time I had enough breath in my lungs to declare to the group that I was now “done.”
From there, it was off to the lodge to heal up, dry off and drink many beers.
Though I learned a lot about myself through the experience, particularly how many times the human body can bounce upon hard impact (at one point I counted four), I opted to stick with my beloved sledding.
That’s not to say there are never occasions that sledding doesn’t cause injury (ever been flung into the trees from the ole Thunder Tube? That sucks), but those occasions are few and far-between.
Maybe I’d be a good candidate for snowshoeing. After all, I would hope I could handle walking.
Screw it, how hard can it be?
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