A Novice Learns to Snowboard

Sports writer Soraya McDonald has covered skiing and snowboarding out in Colorado, but has never hit the slopes. With the help of a personal instructor, McDonald learned the basics of balance and confidence at Maryland's Wisp Resort.Video by Liz Langton/washingtonpost.com
By Soraya Nadia McDonald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 9, 2009

It was one of the first really cold mornings in December when I started running through a list of all the things I would need.

Ski pants: check.

Ski jacket: check.

Wool sweater and socks: check.

Ego: probably best left at home.

I was preparing to drive to Western Maryland's Wisp Resort with my sister for a snowboard lesson. There, I would try a new sport and document my experience for you, dear reader.

It seemed like a good idea, complete with a photographer to capture all the triumphs and not-quite-so-graceful moments along the way: including an almost-split, something I have never (voluntarily) completed in my life.

It was about 3 p.m. when I started the lesson. After a pep talk from the instructor, I had strapped my left foot into the bindings. My right was still free because I was learning how to walk with the blue Burton LTR (Learn to Ride) board attached to one foot.

I let my feet get too far from each other, and I started to slide. It didn't help that one foot happened to be attached to an instrument whose primary purpose is to make you glide, very fast, on snow.

Luckily, my snowboard instructor for the day, Gary Moore, rushed to my aide. He grabbed me by my armpits and hoisted me up before my legs could betray me any further. I was no more at home in snowboard gear than an iguana in pinstriped pants, but I had learned an important lesson: keep feet together.

At that point, I had already learned a few things, like how to put on snowboard boots (sitting down, with someone very strong to help you pull the strings); how to walk in them (walk normally and your feet will roll a bit, but remember that each boot adds about five pounds to each foot); and how to get the boots into the snowboard bindings (strap them in while sitting in the snow, with your knees up by your chest). For a while, the snowboard is going to feel like an awkward appendage.

"The initial learning curve is much higher [than for skiing] because you're standing on one piece of equipment instead of two, probably for the first time in your life," U.S. Snowboarding Rookie Team Coach Bud Keene told me later.

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