What's the easiest way to be shamed by your friends? Switch snow sport disciplines.
We're all familiar with the myth around snowboarding being harder to learn than skiing. But, what about converting from skiing to snowboarding? This is what I set out to uncover this past Friday at Arapahoe Basin. With the help of my very patient instructor and a couple hours riding greens, I learned how to snowboard.
I started skiing at the impressionable age of three. Even after enduring the infamous ski-tip-security-bungee for the first couple years of ski school, I remain loyal to my sport. However, learning how to snowboard offered me an entire new perspective on how to slide down a mountain.
First of all, one slight advantage of switching from skiing to snowboarding are the boots. There's nothing like slipping into a plush pair of snowboard boots. The association of comfort and athletics has always seemed a bit sacrilegious to me, but after this weekend I'm willing to give that opinion up.
Learning to snowboard is much easier if you go in with the understanding that you will fall…a lot. Falling is no fun for anyone, but especially for adults. Your instructor won't pick you up, but they will offer you advice on how to use your board to stand up.
The lesson begins with my instructor, Tyler, teaching me how to pull my board around while having one foot strapped in. This skill, according to my instructor, is essential for getting around on the flat. The task is nothing less than awkward, but I manage not to fall in front of my audience tailgating from the parking lot just a few yards away.
Next, we take the magic carpet to the top of the 50-foot vertical slope engineered for beginners. This is where I learn how my binding works and how to strap my feet in. Tyler coaches me through standing up pulling against my board with one hand for leverage, while propping my body off the ground with the other.
A few times up the magic carpet and I'm ready for my first lift. We kick our boards over to the Molly Hogan lift and suddenly anxiety rushes over me. As we funnel into the lift line where children wearing their floral ski school vests waddle up to the rotating chairs, I carefully move around them.
Tyler instructs me on how to make C-turns and, with a couple biffs and tips on how to leaning into my front knee dictates the turn, my C-turns turn to S-turns. I'm making flawless turns down the bunny hill and as soon as my confidence sets in, I'm making my way up the Black Mountain Express.
"It takes about three full days to be confident on a board," says Tyler. "On the third day you're able to control your speed through turns. That's when you're no longer a beginner."
Being a beginner at anything is tough, but being an adult beginner forces you to reevaluate your expertise, as well as relearn how to be a good student. Learning to snowboard was a reality check on my ego. While I don't anticipate trading in my skis for a board, I am thrilled to expand my repertoire of snow sport knowledge.
Intrigued in learning how to ski or snowboard yourself?
January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard month across America, and several Colorado Ski Country USA ski areas are offering special promotions and programs for both child and adult beginners. Even those who are seasoned skiers and snowboarders can take advantage of these promotions to hone their skill and get tips from a professional on how to perfect their form.
Arapahoe Basin is honoring discounted lessons prices throughout January and February. An adult half-day lesson (2.5 hours) starts at $125, which includes a half-day lesson, a full-day all-mountain lift ticket and a sport ski or snowboard rental (including a helmet).