Monday, March 4, 2013

Trying Snowboarding OR: In Which Our Hero Valiantly Decides To Stay Home From Now On

People from back home always ask me the same few questions about Alaska* -- have you seen a polar bear, have you gone skiing yet, blah-I'm so original-blah. And, no. No I have not. Because Alaska is a howling wasteland of killer cold and giant monsters who can survive in that cold, which means all of the outdoors -- whether its a bear, or black ice, or just the dry freezing air itself -- wants you DEAD.


So I stay the hell indoors, like a smart person. Except for this one time...

I'd only just come up for college, so that may explain the dumb. I was seeing this guy, and he and one of my other dorm buds were into snowboarding. So they decided I must also like snowboarding, and must now go experience it to begin the lifetime love affair immediately. (They said none of these things, but I'm eloquent in my bitterness -- over what transpired next, dun dun dun.)

They put me in her car, one of those new-model VW bugs. He has long legs and she was driving, so I was in the back seat with the gear; just try to imagine my fun at the drive out to Alyeska** Ski Resort. Thankfully it was merely an hour's drive, so I didn't even have anything to complain about...from their perspective, maybe. (I'm from Hawaii, people. If it takes more than twenty minutes to get there, there's usually a boat or a plane involved.) It could've been worse, they assure me. Most resorts are way more remote. I try to think of how that should make me like their sport.

Then they strip me of some of my possessions, start shoving me into more layers, and strapping me into things. They inform me with benign magnanimity that it's fortunate for me they have enough stuff between the two of them to almost fully outfit me, otherwise it'd be crazy-expensive.

Tried again to see how to connect that dot to the "this is an awesome pastime" dot -- no luck.

So they bundle my Stay-Puft form over to the snowboard rental kiosk, and in the transaction there perfectly good money is turned into this big heavy piece of plexi-plastic bristling with angry-looking black plastic foot-traps. They pick up one of my moonbooted feet and plug it into this contraption, telling me to move it along by pushing off the ground with my other foot, "Like a skateboard." They were unmoved when I told them I'd never been on a skateboard. That should have been my first sign.

Oh, yeah -- I was immediately helpless. The big heavy boots were unbending, and I had to keep my foot at a rock-hard 90-degree angle at all times -- more like a stone sculpture of a foot than any actual pedal extremity I was accustomed to performing physical feats with. Even if push-off foot hadn't been a weird scary statue, the one strapped to the board was now a giant artificial flipper of fail I couldn't even begin to work with. I proceeded in a series of slides and falls to the end of the line for the ski lift.

Guess which one *I* am
The line should have been my second sign that these people were not my friends. It went up a twenty foot high subslope to the foot of the mountain, where the ski lift actually began. Apparently this benighted activity is so popular the lines are as long as a Disney ride's; and so to conserve space, and to mitigate the steep grade of the slope, the line zigzagged up the side of the hill with little landings at each direction change for people maneuver their gear around. This is a great idea, which is only ruined by the physical reality in which I CAN'T FREAKING STAND ON A HILL WITH A GIANT HEAVY BOARD STRAPPED TO MY FOOT. Other people can, apparently. But they're obviously wizards.

It was cute, the first time the line shuffled forward and I slid down that first bit of incline into the people behind us. We laughed, they helped me up; I apologized with rosy cheeks that were only partly due to the cold.

They weren't speaking to us at all by the time I struggled onto the first landing, gasping with effort and recovering from my seventh slide down the line on that treacherous incline, or what I like to think of as the (ha!) inc-line***...or vicious Sisyphian hellscape, whatever's easier to remember. From there it was a sort of grim effort of the tight-lipped strangers behind me to prop me up, and sort of push against me whenever the line moved -- you know, so as to keep me from knocking over the entire line like a row of bowling pins and rocketing off the edge of the last landing, back down to earth. The usual. My so-called friends offered no support or sympathy whatsoever; honestly, I think they were probably busy trying to hide how mortified they must have been. I was the quintessential total n00b, making all the wrong moves and appeared to be nothing less than a danger to myself and others. No wonder they were pretending I wasn't there nothing was wrong.

We finally got to the top of the line, and blessedly flat ground. Here was the ski lift, a giant rearing apparatus that splayed its awesome length all the way up the mountain. I looked up at it, and then learned in my usual pass/fail way that I'd found yet another thing you shouldn't do with a snowboard strapped to your foot. I picked myself up not from snow this time, but freezing water; the fricative heat of the lift, it seems, melts the snow underneath the machine. So now I was trying to sort of float/hydroplane this hateful hobble over alternating water and slush. Wooo. Dripping, exhausted, bruised, I looked up at the start of our stated objective -- a whole gorram mountain of this chicanery.

The other two looked at me, and said since the lift took two at a time, they'd go first -- so I'd have time to get ready and see how to do it. Sounds nice, doesn't it? That's why they said it. It's hard to be mean to someone who has just fallen in a puddle and is dripping pathetically at you. They made good their escape onto the chair, and vanished up into the sky. I thrashed incompetently towards the space their chair had just vanished from, and fell with a magnificent sploosh into the even deeper slush lake under the actual chair area -- which was for the best, actually, because just then a high-speed chair-shaped missile rocketed inches over my head and blasted right through My Bubble. I grinned feebly at the lift attendant as I tried to get clear of the puddle before another death chair could decapitate me. He glared stonily at me, and in no way indicated any intention of helping me to my feet.

"Whew," I said, sheepishly. "This is harder than it looks, ha ha."

"If you can't even stand up," he asked icily, "Why are you in line for the advanced slope?"


Yeah. That's right. Think about that for a minute. THE ADVANCED SLOPE.

I had nothing to say to him, because the people who had tricked me into this horrorfest had admittedly given no outward sign that they were my friends for the last twenty minutes -- I couldn't very well expect him to believe I had just gotten in line with my friends (BECAUSE THEY WEREN'T) and hadn't even known about there being different classes of slope. (Because it's a mountain -- I didn't know that came in finely-delineated grades of complexity. I thought you just survived getting down a mountain, and called it "fun".) What a putz, right?

So basically I had been seen as being deliberately obtuse this whole time, a know-nothing wannabe @$$hole posing in the advanced line. I staggered in the vague direction of the bunny slope the attendant indicated, totally crushed by this knowledge. Unfortunately, I had ascended the subslope ziggurat but had not gone up in the intended lift, so this was not actually an area designed to be flailed ineptly across.

Won't someone crash this pity-party??
I eventually just lay down and allowed myself to slide cautiously, if gracelessly, to the flat area below. I was so tired and disheartened, though, I couldn't get up; I just lay there in the snow for a while. I was looking into the resort chalet, where hundreds of happy outdoorsy types were getting burgers or cocoa. I wished with all my heart that, even if I had been tricked into coming all the way out here, I could've had the good sense to immediately dive into that warm happy place -- and refuse point-blank to allow this money-wasting demon plank to be strapped to my body. Cold, sore, tired and full of self-pity, I stared through the window until I saw someone I recognized from the college.

I am to this day profoundly grateful that it was the guy it was -- the most unselfish, cheerful and giving human I have ever taken pitiless advantage of. He's the good kind of fraternity brother, I'm talkin' seriously good, like a golden retriever had a baby with sunshine and lollipops****. I latched onto him in an exhausted sub-hysteria, and demanded that he take me home.

You know, to hour's drive away.

Away from whoever he came with and presumably wanted to spend the day with. As bad as this sounds, I honestly didn't care if he minded. I didn't even care about all my stuff in my friend's car -- I left it all behind like a fleeing refugee, even my street shoes.

An exchange was made later -- stupid expensive snowboarding gear for my precious belongings -- and the whole bailing issue was carefully avoided. And now I may go sledding, or ice skating, even though I'm still terrible at it...but the serious winter sports can just stay outside in the cold as far as I'm concerned. I will be at home, or maybe -- maybe -- at a chalet. Pitying those poor misguided people wizards on the death-planks.

*People from Alaska just ask "WHY did you MOVE???"

**Gosh, you might think, That sound an awful lot like Alaska, what a coincidence. No co-inky-dink -- this place has a magnificent history of naming bloopers that would (and does) make a linguistic anthropologist gibber.

***A line on an incline? Get it?? GET IT???

**** FB Relationship Status: "It's complicated".


  1. Haha, I'm pretty sure you just described everyone's first snowboarding experience. I know mine was a total disaster!!!

    1. Oh man, you all had the VW Bug ride and the miraculous frat brother?? We've gotta stop doing that Bug thing, it's a terrible tradition. But there's the silver lining, I suppose -- everyone should have a Donnie in their live, in case of emergency.

  2. I got lucky with my first snowboarding experience. It was when my husband and I were dating and I had skied my whole life and I had sort of just hit a plateau, so he suggested I try snowboarding. He and his brother boarded on both sides of me making sure I could feel the movement and stuff. and I'm pretty great at it now. So yeah, I love snowboarding. Also, Utah. Best snow on Earth. It's basically a sin here to NOT like snow sports.

  3. Oh my gosh, hysterical. I started skiing/snowboarding as a kid, so I don't remember if it was terrible; I just remember loving it. But I haven't been in 10 years, so things might be different now.

  4. Silly Kana. Alaska isn't for being indoors. It's for adventure! You do like the smell of adventure, don't you?

  5. what a fucking nightmare! it reminds me of my first (AND LAST) attempt to ski. some of us on not athletically inclined!!!!!! never again!!!!

  6. Actually, skiing can be a very relaxing and calm experience as well. I used to be a ski instructor in Alaska, either at Alyeska, Alpenglow, or Hillberg on base (It really was mostly just a hill). Some people just like to see the mountain and glide down swishing side to side, or even just snowplowing to turn.
    But you gotta learn the babysteps first.

    Your friends were assholes.

  7. A completely mad pastime which must have originated from some kind of yeti complex. Your ineptness should be a source of pride. I'm glad I'm not the only one who asked you why you moved.