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Saturday, March 07, 2009
Crash and burn
This photo was taken on the beginners slope at Hoodoo as I was lying flat on my back and shortly after I heard a snap in my neck. The afternoon marked my first time on a snowboard and I never did quite figure out the whole "how to stop without falling over or crashing" thing. On this particular suicide run down those icy slopes I got going a little too fast, took a spill and felt something pop in my neck. For a brief moment I assumed that I'd never feel my belly-button again.
If there's anything I suck at, it's skiing. If there's anything I suck at more than skiing, it's snowboarding. Supposedly, the later is much easier than the former and that's true. It's incredibly easy to get up on a snowboard and launch yourself down a slope. But stopping? Much harder on a snowboard. I watched everyone around me bomb down the slope and somehow, magically, come to an elegant stop at the bottom by turning and leaning back on their boards. I tried this too and fell over every time. Maybe I should have, oh, done some reading or taken a few lessons before I went up there. Eh, whatever. I was in the mood to just toss myself into the deep end of the winter sports pool.
For those learning to snowboard for the first time much of that first day is spent on your back trying to summon up the courage to stand up again. Adding to the challenge: the temperature up at Hoodoo that day was in the high 40s and the snow was packed down and icy, making it super slick. It was incredibly easy to go from a stopped position to 88 MPH in two seconds flat.
The highlight of the afternoon, having my "fight or flight" kick in at the worst possible moment as I was getting off the lift. Without thinking, I reached out and grabbed an elderly lift operator to prevent myself from falling over, making him a reluctant participant in a crash that nearly broke his back and my ego for all time. He walked away without injury and I spent the rest of the afternoon hiking to the top of the hill to avoid both him and the lift. The other newbie I went with? No such problems.
But inner tubes? Those I can handle. You just throw yourself on a tube, point it down hill and slam into a snowbank when you feel like stopping. Of course, that gets boring after a while. Fortunately, the staff at Ski Bowl last Saturday looked the other way when a group of Jägermeister-chugging tubers decided to start constructing jumps on the resort's so-called "xtreme" tube runs.
I talked to one employee between his attempts to prevent a 30-student Bible study group from killing themselves by going down a run all at once while screaming quotes from Predator ("get to the choppa!" being one particularly random line from that 1987 celluloid classic). Supposedly, Ski Bowl once offered two truly scary slopes for inner tubes. They had to be shut down after one too many Johnny Knoxville-wannabes had to be carted down to Government Camp in ambulances.
I took a few of the jumps and, after landing hard on my shoulder, I decided to stick with the runs that wouldn't inevitably result in a Life Flight trip to OHSU. Shortly thereafter, we kicked back to watch everyone else hurt themselves. One guy managed hit a jump, fly off his tube and land on his feet. One girl wasn't so lucky and landed on her head before falling face deep in the snow. I'll be honest, there was about 10-seconds there where everyone thought she had killed herself but she got up and was back on the slopes 15 minutes later.
All things considered, maybe I should take up cross-country skiing. Nice, safe, tedious cross country skiing.....no, no, I just can't do it. I have a need. For speed.