SNOWMG!

Terrible pun.  Sorry.

If you haven’t already guessed from the wacky title, this post is about snow.  Or more specifically, strapping a board to your feet and travelling over the good stuff down a mountainside.  And Vancouver is one of the the best places on earth to be located for such activities, snow joke!

Okay I’ll stop now.

So my snowboarding career until recently has been patchy at best.  It all started in 2006 when I decided to take part in the university ski club annual trip to the French Alps.  Having never gotten around to upgrading from sledging down the Campsie Hills, my flatmate and I decided to go and have some ski lessons beforehand.  Things were coming along nicely when I began to notice a burning/tearing sensation on my Achilles tendon at the end of each lesson.  Cue seven hours a day in ski boots when we got to France, I realised that this wasn’t happening so on the advice of a friend I switched to boarding half way through the week.  So after a quick lesson, I could pretty much stand up and go down on my back edge.

Then I had a four year break, as professional athletes do on occasion.  Now in Edinburgh, one of my old uni friends had booked a cabin in Aviemore, the most popular ski and snowboard spot in the UK.  A friend and myself decided to tag along after having a dry slope lesson beforehand.  By the end of my day in Aviemore I could get up, go down on my heal edge and turn.

One year on…I randomly decided to try out one of the indoor ‘real’ snow runs, so again I went along for a lesson and a couple of hours practice session.  By the end of that I could get up, go down on my back edge, turn, and go down a little on my to edge.

Herein end of my career until…

Snowboarding in Vancouver

So if you want to start/continue/excel in your snowboarding or skiing career, Vancouver is clearly the place to be.  According to a semi-reliable source (i.e. my roommate), there are 81 mountains in British Columbia set up with lifts and runs.  Vancouver was also the location for the 2010 Winter Olympics, with events being held at the three local mountains; Cypress, Grouse and Seymour as well as the renowned Whistler Mountain a few hours north of the city.

I was lucky enough to move in with three people who were uber keen to get up to the mountains, so when the first week of decent snow came…of to Cypress Mountain we went.  Now, a day on the slopes for those of us with only public transport to rely on is not for the faint hearted.  A typical day at Cypress has us up and out of bed by 6am, on the Skytrain by 6.45am (usually after a 10 minute walk unless the buses are behaving) and on the Cypress Express by 7.15am.  Then it’s nap time until we finally get to the mountain at around 8.45am.  By the time we sort lockers and lift passes out, we’re usually in queue for the first lift by just after 9am.  Then repeat in reverse at the end of the day.

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As you can imagine, we would not be doing this every Sunday if it wasn’t totally worth it!  Having said that, my first day up there was a little disheartening as I thought I would remember more from the previous four beginners lessons!  My first bunny slope run (aka the newbie slope) had me falling over like a drunk all morning.  As the day progressed, I braved my first green run, which seemed like an exercise in self-harm by the time I made it to the bottom.  And the next day…ouch!

My next trip up I was slightly apprehensive about the impeding beating that was surely awaiting me.  Between trips, I had talked to some people about the length of board I should be renting – and it turns out that the one I had used the time before was longer than what some of the 6ft + guys ride!  Shorter board and smaller boots this time please.  To my immense surprise, I made it all the way down the bunny hill without falling over….on my edge the whole time but hey progress is progress!

I think I’ve had about five days of boarding now, and it’s a really great feeling to see yourself improve each time.  I even upgraded to a couple of blue runs on my last trip! And I bought my own board and boots as a Christmas present to myself…at $70 a time to rent it works out a better deal to just hunt for a good deal on Craigslist, especially mid-season as the injuries start to pile up.

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Catching a Moment…

One of my absolute favourite times on the mountain was when I went up in the evening just before New Year.  It was an amazingly clear day, and the view from the top at sunset was unreal – I’ve included some photos but I really don’t think they do the experience justice.  Later on I was riding down the same run with two of my friends, we stopped to have a look at the awesome view of the city at night and it was amazing reminder as to how far I’d come in the past three months.  I’d travelled across North America, saw some unbelievable places, met some amazing people, managed to establish a new life 3000 miles away from home and here I was cruising down a mountain in the snow, with my new friends, looking down at one of the world’s most incredible cities at night.  Definitely what I’d call a moment.

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Off to the mountains with you…

If you are heading to Vancouver, or you’re here already it would be insane not to up to the mountains during the ski season.  Pretty much the only other thing going on outdoors during that time is rain, so may as well give it a go.  If you are new to snowboarding (as I remember, skiing is slightly easier to pick up), it can be frustrating the first few times but just persevere and you will find yourself getting better.  You can pay for lessons but you’ll get on just as well if you have an experienced and patient friend.  At the very least you should get up there and make a few snow angels…!

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