It seemed like a simple thing: I had a day off work and planned to go to the slope and take some skiing or snowboarding lessons. I would spend all day there and take advantage of the clear winter weather. The snow conditions looked favorable for the day, so how could I go wrong by spending the day in the awesome outdoors? I checked out some slopes on the internet and decided to go to Liberty as that was one of the tamest and probably the emptiest one around. I didn’t want to be surrounded by people while trying to learn the basics. Lessons were available for beginners. Snowboarding or skiing. One or the other. Which one should I do? Right away I thought I should probably do snowboarding because that was the funnest and most challenging one. Everyone knows that skiing is for grannys and others who have grown too old and feeble to snowboard. At least that’s what I thought until I did some research on the matter. Skiing is faster. Snowboarding has more tricks. Skiers can go more places because they have poles to propel them across flat areas. Snowboards work better in trashy snow. Too much skiing can cause knee problems. Broken wrists are the most common snowboarding injury. Skiing is easier to learn than snowboarding. Snowboarding is easier to master than skiing. Hold it, HOLD IT! I’m already confused.
Slowly some of the facts began to form an opinion in my mind. Snowboarders were not all young, and skiers were not all old. Rivalry between the two was old-school talk. This generation of skiers and snowboarders really didn’t know what rivalry was. Even with lessons, snowboarders average a day or two on their butts before learning the basics, like getting to the bottom of the slope without falling down. Most skiers on the other hand, are able to keep from falling down after just a few basic lessons. Since I had only one ‘snow day’ in my foreseeable future, skiing earned a point here.
I learned that snowboarding did not really come from skiing. Snowboarding came from surfing and skateboarding; skiing came from –well, skiing. I’ve never had much success skateboarding or surfing. Not only was it difficult, but it wasn’t really something I wanted to master. Do abilities form opinions, or vice versa?
Rollerblading, on the other hand, is something I have always enjoyed. I loved the street hockey games I played with fellow youth. My nickname was ‘Shotgun’ because of my slap shots (they weren’t always accurate, just loud). The old factory where we played seemed to us like Colorado powder must seem to a snowboarder. After the games we always hit the streets at full speed, in the dark, squeezing through and around the traffic like mopeds in Hong Kong. I learned to be alert for grates in the street, and later subway vents in New York City. Falling was not an option, and I didn’t fall. Later, on 5th Ave. in NY, I learned to accelerate and stop as quickly as a taxi while squeezed between them on my rollerblades. Taxis taught me how to go very fast without flailing about like an octopus in attack mode. There is a knack to ‘threading’ bumpers at 20 mph. Central Park taught me endurance with its many steep hills and long trails. Narrowing space between city buses taught me fear of powers greater than I, and coolness that I could survive; and if I didn’t -well, I wouldn’t be around to worry about it. I dabbled in a few terrain parks on rollerblades, but always went back to the streets, where it seemed I could better sense the tremendous pulse of humanity around and within me.
So maybe snowboarding wouldn’t fit me as well as skiing. I would not have guessed it such a profundity. After all, I could always switch sports –or do both, for that matter. But, as I had proven in rollerblading, I need to have an unquenchable desire for improvement and fresh challenges in order to excel at a sport. There must be a definite goal. To be unsure of which method of sliding on snow I wanted could have disastrous results by keeping me uninterested in perfection of a skill. I needed a clearly defined path as the means to a goal. To ski or snowboard; two ways of sliding down a mountain on snow. But for me, it means much more than that. I will embrace skiing and I will enjoy it. I will never, ever think that skiing is the only respectable means of snow sliding. And I understand why others enjoy snowboarding. The taxis taught me that, too.