Thursday, July 28, 2011

Snowboarding at Sno!Zone


That my Eat Travel Diver’s is the sound a scuba diver makes when hurtling down the slopes on a snowboard. You might even hear the “OHHH CRAP… BOOM SHHHHHH! Burrrr…ha ha ha!!!” as the same scuba diver crash lands on his butt, slides down the slope and sprays freezing cold icy snow in his face, for the millionth time. Well imagine two of said scuba divers spending an entire day doing the same…

On our bums...a regular position!
Well, It is a lot like taking a fish out of water and pushing it down a hill. The poor fish slaps about whilst twisting and turning all over the hillside…total carnage. Put two fishes into the mix and it gets messier.

In our infinite wisdom, and in an attempt to get “cooler than we already are”, Winnie and I decided to book up a series of lessons in snowboarding. The first lesson was a 3hr fast track for beginners. The second session was a 3hr fast track taking beginners to intermediate/recreational (and therefore safe) level. Having this signed off means getting slope time in various SNO!Zone locations, and the possibility of having a winter pursuit that we can develop together as we travel, and when we return to Australia…bring on the snow!

One day, this WILL be me!
So session 1 – 10am until 1pm, followed by a break before session 2 – 7pm until 10pm. What to do in a break….you’ll find out soon enough. But first, lesson 1. Before starting the lesson we were required to purchase a pair of gloves (the only thing the snow school don’t hire out for hygiene reasons…yuck sweaty gloves would suck ass!). We went to a local snow sports outlet, and since it’s summer in the UK, got some awesome 50% discounted gloves. 

Both of us chose Dakine gloves, mainly based on fit and how they looked….we wanted to look cool! Next we rocked up and hired a suit (jacket and pants) for 6.50 GBP each (not bad for hire for a whole day, compared with wetsuits and boots in scuba). Next we went over to collect our boots and boards. Being a size 10 shoe, I was given an 11, and a 150cm XL board. Winnie got her equivalent boot size and a 140cm board. After few adjustments to the high back and the actual bindings on my board I was ready. Geared up and ready to go! Oh and helmets – they should give you butt protectors too – I didn’t fall on my head, just my arse…

So Brian, our instructor, took us out onto a flat bit of snow and began our lesson with a question: “Which foot would you kick a ball with?” I answered right and was told that my Left foot would be my lead foot (normal stance)…Winnie started in Right (goofy stance) and later changed to normal… After learning basics of the equipment, and how to strap in, and walk, slide and what edges do what, Brian took us to the bottom of a training slope. Then we began to learn about using edges of the board to control us. 

 We covered:

· Toe Edge – where you face up the hill and apply pressure on the board through your toes. You do this and whilst bending your knees outwards slightly and doing a squat to control speed. He told us to keep head up and stack everything over our hips/knees/toes…which felt like I was in Bikram Yoga doing Eagle Pose and awkward pose combined… We did a straight reverse, then progressed up the hill doing each step with instructor, then alone practicing. Each time avoiding falling on your butt- yeah right!

· Heel Edge – where you face down the hill and apply press on the board through your heels. You do all of the bending and squatting, this time avoiding doing a face plant into the snow…

Next we started to learn about diagonals. We learnt about leaning, and looking where you want to go, and how to regain control of the board by returning to the heel or toe edge position we covered before. We also started using the rope drag lift…which made life hard for Winnie who, at this stage preferred to climb the hill each time…thankful of all the hill walking we’ve recently done!

After a short break we resumed the diagonals, but this time using the width of the slope to travel down, as opposed to short diagonals. This gave me more time to plan my route down the hill and gain control over my board and myself!

BY the end of the three hours, my butt had hit the deck a few times, my knees a few more times than my butt. Not realising how much cardio output you put into snowboarding, I used an app on my iphone during the break to calculate 180 minutes of snowboarding…. 180 minutes equates to burning 1897 calories!! SCORE! Plus I was drenched with sweat, my body had been working out and the break was welcomed.

Pumped from the first session and in need of some sit down time, we decided to go and watch Transformers 3 – The Dark Side of the Moon…in 3D! It was awesome, robots flying at you from all angles and explosions etc….plus the new actress Rosie Harting-Whitely was pretty easy on the eye! Plus, Winnie would like to add that Shia Labouf was too bad either, oh and the head of the army dude was nice!

After a good movie, some food and a double shot latte from Starbucks (no matter your location, you can always guarantee the quality of Starbucks Coffee) we were ready for our second lesson…

Our new instructor Martin, was very patient. He took us from where we left off in the beginners’ class and took us through the following:

Development of the Diagnonals – using lean and positioning to control the angle of the board going down the slope and controlling speed and you move the nose of the board to point down the slope. We worked on the squatting and standing tall to control speed. Standing tall reduces the pressure we apply on the board, releasing the brakes (so to speak) allowing us to accelerate or turn. Squatting down increasing the pressure on the board causing us to slow down, or regain control after accelerating or turning.

We then covered pedalling and began work on C-turns – this is when you turn with your lead leg only so that it always points where you want to travel. Pedalling on and off the toes and heels depending on your turns was hard to grasp. It wasn’t until the concept of S-turns was introduced, that I started to get it. In fact, Martin took to teaching me like his child students… “When you want to turn, you are like a ship captain driving, you hold out your leading arm and steer the ship the direction you want to go…then after the turn (which you must look where you are going all the time) you point across, almost back up the slope, to the other side and drive the ship over there…” – this I instantly got and managed to start getting the turns…. Actually turning the board where I wanted to.

Our very patient instructors made sure we were comfy on the slopes...

After practicing this for a while…we took a break and moved onto the recreational slope, learning how to use the Poma / Button lifts was easier than the rope lifts. Using half of the recreational slope we practiced everything we’d done this session, we practiced the unlinked C-turns over and over until Martin was comfortable with our skill level, then the S-Turns linking C-turns, then he took us to the top of the slope and we did the same again…until 10pm…

After the class he signed our student records, and said I was free to get slope time. Winnie had been struggling to link the turns and will need another session so she can meet the performance requirements of the recreational standard , so, I’m dead keen about going to do some more…maybe in the Milton Keynes SNO!Zone with Mr Mouldie and Kimbo? Let hope so…. The Instructor told us that most people don’t pick up half of what we did during that single day, and said we were cool after all.

Winnie is awake now, and we’re going to go out and mobilise our aching bodies…should be interesting….

(written while we were in Glasgow)

photos courtesy of SNO!zone

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