This post chronicles my experience with snowboarding, and what happens when you have experts and beginners on the same trip when trying to master winter sports. Nothing good happens and sometimes the perfect storm ensues.
First Time on a Snowy Mountain
Harry, Fred, and I drive to a mountain after they convince me I should learn some winter sports. Harry skies double black diamonds and Fred skis normal black diamonds. I have never skied or snowboarded in my life. I grew up essentially on a beach with perfect warm weather everyday. Don’t worry, I can’t really surf either hah. I stubbornly decide to snowboard because I think it looks cooler even though Harry and Fred urge me to try skiing as it is easier. We split up and after I spend a few hours in a complimentary beginner lesson and I try out the bunny slope. We then all go and get ramen for lunch before heading back out. Harry and Fred ask me how the bunny slope was and I tell them it wasn’t bad.
I practice some more on the bunny slope once more before Harry says I should go on the green slope and we can all go together. The bunny slope has a magic carpet ride to get up, so I’d never gotten on a lift before. I proceed to drop a glove as I’m trying to get it on my hand in the lift and nearly fail to get off the lift in time. My heart drops as I nearly miss the dismount on just getting of the lift. Other than that, it goes pretty well, but the main reason is that the green slope is straight with no turns.
Harry then recommends we go to the blue slope. I say ok, as the green slope was pretty simple. We go and it is mostly a 30 minute reel of me snowboarding a bit before crashing on the turns. Harry and Fred are unsure how to help because neither snowboard and offer to carry me down with me in the middle and holding on to their shoulders. I refuse and proceed to mostly tumble down the mountain. I then tell Harry and Fred I’m sitting the next one out and that I’m going back to the bunny slopes. At around 4PM, we head home and eat delicious Hunan Chinese food, possibly because they feel bad for me sitting in the ski center and reading Reddit. I forget all about the bad things that happened that day. Silly me.
I can’t do winter sports yet this guy is skiing down the Great Wall:
Why don’t any of us learn our lesson, dammit?
A few months after this I meet FireBear, he and Harry talk about going skiing. I duck out for some reason, and Harry invites Penelope, another mutual friend of ours, to go. Penelope spends the morning on the bunny slope and learns to ski. Harry recommends they go down a gentle blue because the green is just like a longer bunny slope and Penelope says she can turn. Harry specifically asks about turning due to my misfortune last time. Guys and girls, never trust what a beginner says! We have no clue how bad it can really get. Beginners, just don’t trust the experts when they try to make you skip levels.
Penelope proceeds to fall down a bit and eventually says she’ll just walk down the mountain. FireBear offers to give her a piggyback ride down because he realizes it’ll take them more than an hour to walk all the way down and can’t leave her there because she can’t get ski. He says he has given piggyback rides on skis before for fun. Harry offers to carry all of her equipment and ski down behind. Penelope doesn’t think this is viable even though FireBear weighs 220 pounds and Penelope is super tiny and weighs all of 110 pounds. They spend 1.5 hours walking down the mountain and when Penelope gets back to the city we meet up and reminisce on how our trips were so similar. We jokingly blame Harry because he keeps advocating for harder slopes and realize we’re the only people in our friend group who don’t know how to ski.
I’m never going snowboarding again after this.
Fast forward to the second time I go snowboarding, about a year after the first event, and I decide against all advice from everyone else that I didn’t want to buy snow pants, which are waterproof and cushioned. I decide to just go with loose yoga pants with a pair of tight yoga pants under, just like the first time. It was fine the first time, it should be fine now, right? I also didn’t get a waterproof jacket. Harry had lent me his extra when we got to the mountain last time, and since nothing bad happened, I didn’t think anything of just wearing a normal winter coat. For most people, it’s fine if you don’t fall very much and get snow on you.
FireBear and I went through the bunny slope free training since it was a year later and I had forgotten all I had learned and he had never snowboarded before. FireBear suggested we go to a higher mountain after lunch. Does the story sound familiar to the previous two now? FireBear is a crazy good skier, so he managed to learn how to snowboard at a high level in something like two hours. This was my second day of snowboarding and the only reason I managed to get down the bunny slope, is again because there were no turns.
FireBear suggested we go on the beginner slope since I could do the bunny slope. Well, guess what? FireBear is from Europe, and in Europe, blue is the beginner slope. I obviously didn’t know the level of colors and agreed. In America, blue is the intermediate one. For someone who couldn’t turn very well, it might as well have been impossible. It was full of turns, which I couldn’t do at all and proceeded to fall over every 100 or so feet. It was an even worse blue than the last time I went snowboarding. I told FireBear I wanted to sit in the snow for a bit since I was tired and I’d just meet him at the bottom.
After much protesting from him that he’d wait, I told him I wanted to be alone because I didn’t want someone watching me fall each time — It was super awkward and made me feel bad. He said he would turn his back and wait a few hundred feet below me and so I got mad and kept telling him to go. He finally agreed and would come back up the mountain when he was done to snowboard behind me because he saw snow patrol coming down the mountain and figured worst case they would keep me safe while he went down.
Now, I should note that it was close to closing at this time, which we didn’t know. About 5 minutes after FireBear proceeded down the mountain alone, I realized the snow blowing machines turned on. I had seen them prior, but thought Harry and FireBear were joking when they said snow came out of it. For some reason, I thought all the snow was real. Here‘s a video if you haven’t ever seen them before. I hadn’t realized all that falling down and sitting in the snow had made my clothes wet and I started to get really cold. My pants and coat were soaked.
I considered just walking down the mountain at this point as falling every hundred feet didn’t seem like a very viable option. I proceeded to try and then fell some more and sat down to weigh my options and didn’t really feel like getting back up. I just wanted to rest for a while and laid down. A few minutes after I laid down, a couple of people dressed in red descended on me. They were the ski patrol and were the ones who made sure everyone was off the mountain at closing time. They asked me if I was able to make it down the mountain. I think my response was something like this:
“Sure, eventually. I’m not very good at snowboarding. You don’t have to wait for me. Worst case, I can walk down, right?”
Not a very good response on my part. I felt bad for inconveniencing them and making them wait for me. The ski patrol told me the mountain was closing and said that I could get in the little toboggan they had and they would ski me down the mountain. Which you know, it seemed like a pretty dangerous proposition to be skiing with someone attached behind you, but I was really cold and tired and so I finally agreed and sat in the little red sled. The trip was about 5-10 minutes of him skiing non-stop so who knows how long it would’ve taken me to get down the mountain by myself. At my rate, probably more than an hour. There was a ton of snow being sprayed everywhere from the snow guns as we were going down the mountain, so I bundled up my wet winter coat and put my hood on. All the wind whizzing past me as we went down the mountain was not helping my body temperature.
FireBear was already at the bottom of the mountain, but couldn’t get back up because the lifts had closed before the ski patrol came down. He was getting pretty worried that I hadn’t shown up and had waited probably 15 minutes before he started walking up the mountain to see if he could see me. He eventually saw the people in red skiing down and flagged one of them down to ask if they had seen me as he wasn’t sure if it was me in the toboggan that had just gone by. FireBear asked him if they saw “a small Asian girl who can’t snowboard in a long blue coat” and the guy confirmed I was the last one down the mountain and matched his description. FireBear proceeded to snowboard down after them.
As we reached the bottom of the mountain, I thanked the nice guy who skied down with me in the toboggan, and walked off with FireBear. I could barely get my boots and carry my snowboard because I started shivering pretty violently at that point. FireBear took off his jacket and made me wear it as mine was very wet. I told FireBear to wait while I went to the bathroom because I had to pee and proceeded to then spend 5+ minutes trying to warm up by standing over the hand dryer and attempting to wring my clothes out.
At that point, my mind was thinking I just had to stand there for a while until I got warmer. It obviously wasn’t working, but for some reason I thought it was the best decision to keep trying. A few minutes after I entered, FireBear walked in because I wouldn’t come out. He told me the hand dryer wouldn’t work and that I needed to get the wet clothes off and dry clothes on and dragged me out. He had tracked down a coffee machine in the meantime and told me to warm my hands with the cup of hot joe he carried in.
We walked out of the ski center and FireBear flagged down a bus that was pulling out of the station so we could get on and be taken to our parking lot. As soon as we got into the car I changed into dry clothes and curled up in a ball with the heat turned on and FireBear hugging me. It took about 15 minutes for me to stop shivering completely.
On the bright side, I got a pretty funny and amusing story and got to sit in a toboggan.
Spend the money you need to spend to be safe.
Moral of the story: Don’t be too frugal and get proper gear for whatever activity it is that you’re doing. If I had waterproof gear, it probably wouldn’t have been that cold and terrible. If it wasn’t the end of the day and the ski patrol hadn’t been behind me, I don’t want to imagine how badly this could’ve turned out.
If someone in your party is experiencing the below symptoms, get help. If you are on the mountain, find an employee who can radio the ski patrol with a toboggan to get someone down if they can’t get down themselves. Once you get down, if your friend’s clothes are wet, they need to get out of the wet clothing and into dry clothing immediately. Ask someone for a heated blanket and keep an eye on them.
Retiring early and being financially independent is great, but don’t do it at the expense of your health!
*Names have been changed.
**I had to google the names of some of these things. Toboggan is such a funny word.
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