Snowboarding in the French AlpsTuesday, February 24, 2015
When my husband said we were spending the holidays in the French Alps, I was thrilled and hesitant at the same time. I had a few things working against me. Of course, I was still a little traumatised from my last snowboarding experience, plus I had just given birth 4 months ago and didn’t feel like I was in the best shape.
There were also a few things working for me. My husband is an excellent snowboarder and he was willing to teach me. Second, we could stay for a few weeks so I had more time to learn. By the time we had our first snowfall for the winter season, I was ready.
I got geared up and the sight of fresh, pure snow got me very excited. The first lesson I learned was that you didn’t need to always pay just to get to a decent slope to start training. My husband brought me to some spots in the mountains where I could practice going downhill with no one to bother me. Of course these were not steep slopes and I had a lot of fun learning.
Then he took me to more difficult slopes and I really had to work on my balance. Snowboarding can be a very intimidating feat for those who are just starting out. I mean, you have to literally throw yourself off a mountain with just a flimsy board, hoping the ice would somehow soften your fall. And you have to do that over and over again.
But days later, I started to improve. I started to really have fun snowboarding and became less frustrated. I even managed to high five an 8 year old that I kept seeing at the slopes. I still fell on my butt many times but I was faster in getting up. And the best part was, after our holiday, I was still excited about the next snowboarding trip!
If you have the budget and plan to snowboard for years to come, I suggest you buy yourself some good gear. It doesn’t have to be branded, ask the sales person at your sporting goods store to get you the in house brand just to get started. And make sure they give you the right size. Helmets and maybe knee pads are a must. If you’re not sure you’re going to be snowboarding again after the first attempt, renting your gear is the best option. Just make sure you get them in the right size. You can rent a helmet, mask (for the glare), jacket, pants, boots and snowboard. But buy your own thermal inner wear and socks for hygiene. Or you may want to borrow your gear first from someone who wears the same size.
Get a good instructor
If you want to learn fast and safely, get some recommendations for a good snowboarding instructor. Getting someone to teach you on a one on one basis may be pricey but you’ll probably be zipping in no time. Or you can join a group or a class and maybe even make a new friend or 2. If you happen to get someone who is not too encouraging or competent at teaching, just switch. You probably have only a few days to learn so it’s best to find someone who can help you.
All of us want to be good at snowboarding as fast as possible. But safety should be the first thing to consider. Make sure you always wear your helmet. If you have bad knees, get some knee pads. I sure wish someone invented butt pads for this sort of thing. Also don’t try to venture off track on your own especially if you’re not with someone who is familiar with the place. And if you hurt yourself, or don’t feel well, stop right away.
Prepare to Sweat
One thing they don’t mention to you when you’re snowboarding for the first time is how much you’re going to sweat. And I mean that in the literal sense. Because you’re going to walk or hike up much more than going downhill, you will have to exert more effort. So yes, hopefully you will take my advice about the thermals and socks.
When I first learned to snowboard, I was very frustrated. I put so much pressure on myself to learn in just a matter of hours. And whenever I fell, I felt defeated. A lot of people told me they learned how to snowboard in less than a week. So I felt I had to do the same.
It’s important to remember to keep up with your own pace. If you have the luxury of time, give yourself some gaps when you’re not just snowboarding. Try it for a few days, pause, then try again. That way, your body can adapt and the transition isn’t too abrupt.
And snowboarding doesn’t have to be your sport. It’s great you even managed to put on the boots in the first place. If your first try wasn’t such a big success like mine, that’s okay. You can always try again next season. As long as you keep an open mind and a beginner’s spirit.
Lois has traveled extensively and has lived in Asia, the United States and Europe in various stages of her life. She recently got married and gave birth to a baby girl. She is currently based in Europe hoping to find a home base for her family. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters.