On the run: powder day gone bad
Last weekend was my long-awaited “D-day” – I was going to spend three days in a snowboarding clinic and once and for all decide whether to ditch my dear friends (nice, long skis) for the traversing, grabs and air that come with life on one board.
Just in time for the weekend, the basin received the first real dump of the season and I headed out to the mountains for one glorious day of skiing before resigning myself to the woes of being a lowly beginner snowboarder.
I thought this would be a day of sweet exhaustion, relying on my years of downhill experience to carry me through what would surely be a workout. The first runs of the morning were just as I dreamed they would be, and ecstatic yells could be heard across the mountain as snow lovers cruised down wide-open fields of fluffy white heaven.
Then it happened. I leaned forward just slightly as my roommate and I pointed downhill. There was falling, sharp pain, and lots and lots of snow.
That was the last run for me and I knew it right away. Humbly asking my partner in crime to hunt down the ski patrol, I accepted the fact that I would never be able to say again, “at least I have never been carried down the mountain in a sled like that guy.”
Amazingly, the pain in my knee subsided enough that I could regain some of my pride and lift my body and my belongings into the sled, laughing at the ridiculous nature of my predicament. I thought it was all over and prepared to be delivered to the clinic to lick my wounds.
Of course I happened to pick one of the worst parts of the mountain to fall on and realized that directly below me was a patroller’s nightmare. A few turns into my “rescue,” my safety guide fell, lost both of his skis, and proceeded to careen down the mountain at what seemed like Mach 20. I, of course, helplessly strapped to the sled, flipped over and was dragged down the hill with my head buried in the foot and a half of new powder the entire trip.
By the time we stopped, I had lost many of my belongings as well as any feeling in my face, hands – you get the picture. While I laughed with the patroller at the time about how bizarre the entire experience was and what a good show we put on for a few lucky spectators, I think I was actually in shock.
I arrived at the bottom of the hill resembling the abominable snowwoman with snow in every orifice imaginable. That was really just the beginning of the comedy of errors that awaited me in the clinic that afternoon, as I watched as skiers and snowboarders shuffled in with random ailments and stories of misadventure.
Ironically, Jan. 13-19 is Ski Safety Week and I must say I left the mountain that day swearing that if I were ever in the same situation, I would just suck it up and ski down the hill on my own – I think it might be safer.
While my experience makes a great anecdote and has given all of my friends and family a significant amount of amusement on my account, my days on patrol sleds are no more.
I suppose it is a sign that I am just never meant to learn to love snowboarding, or perhaps it means that I should pitch my long boards forever in favor of the snowboard.
Either way, I guess I have the next month or so to ponder that question as I sit around in a knee brace cursing the fact that it will probably snow every day until I heal.
With that glorious day of future good health in mind, I have purposely left the name of the mountain and patroller anonymous until I have negotiated my free lifetime ski pass with my lawyer (just kidding).
Lara Mullin is the Sierra Sun sports writer.
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