Monday, February 11, 2008

Snow Daze

In which we rekindle and old flame

This weekend I went snowboarding for the first time in more than two years. I went with old friends, Ted and Kristen and their two younguns, Olivia (6) and Kevin (4). We stayed in their family’s cabin on the western shores of glittering Lake Tahoe. It was a picture perfect weekend of clear, crystalline skies and temperate weather.

I had determined to take it easy, for a change, and rode just a half day on Saturday and most of the day Sunday, stopping frequently for little breaks and long lunches. Ted, an expert skier, decided to try his hand at snowboarding after some seven years hiatus, and giving him pointers and keeping an eye him rather forced me to cool my jets.

This worked to my advantage. Had I gone up with some of my more practiced snowboarder pals – now two years more advanced than me – this first time I might have felt compelled to keep up, leading to frustration at the least or an injury at worst, bombing down every hill at top speed and taking dangerous jumps on wombly legs.

As it was I was able to just hang back, relax and get my snow legs. It made me realize what I really enjoy most about snowboarding, and it’s quite similar to what I enjoy about cycling. Where many cyclists are in it for power and speed, seeing how hard and fast they can do a 30-mile coffee-ride, I enjoy the scenery and the feeling of gliding over the road more than the strenuous challenge. The same goes for snowboarding: the feel of the soft, cold snow as you carve gently across the mountain; the cold wind across your cheeks, the splendid sky above and the shimmering lake below. It’s not about who can do the most dangerous jump or fly fastest through the densest trees. It’s about you and the mountain and the blue winter sky above – and about sharing your experience with your good friends.

Sure, I took a few jumps and had a few spills, but I could be hurting a lot more today.

Having Olivia and Kevin with us on the mountain was a treat. Being skiers since about the age of 2 ½ or 3, they are both probably already better skiers than I am a snowboarder. Little Kevin is the mad bomber, careening down the mountain as fast as he dared (and knocking little girls out of the way) and Olivia’s quite the little jumper. They were a joy to watch. They kept it light.

In the evening we played dominoes, drank superior wines, wrestled with the kids, showed them magic tricks – I am the louche uncle “who can pull his thumb off” – and told stories of the “snow ghost.” (I consider piquing the curiosity of small children and women through the twin vehicles of awe and terror to be a personal gift.)


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