I want a thrill/I want a wow

I want it all/I want it now!

I want a pop pop pop pop

I want a… Shas–ta!

So, snowboarding. Let me say, first, that I am record as appreciating snow from a distance. Emphasis on, “from a distance.” One perk of California living is the ability to view the snow-capped mountains from the beach – a juxtaposition I’ve never failed to appreciate. But growing up, skiing was for rich folks, not me. Not that I grew up poor, exactly, but the ski thing was a class above; we spent our days poolside or at the beach.

After my dad split and remarried, however, he took up skiing as part of his more posh new lifestyle. When I was 18, he and his wife took me along on a trip to Wrightwood. What I most remember is, 1.) falling down, not being able to stop nor stand up, and sliding into the lift line while shouting, “Sorry!” and, 2.) my dad crouching by the tire to attach the chains on the way home, when another truck came round the curve, lost control, and slid into him, sending him flying through the air and into a snow bank. I thought he was dead for a moment, but luckily – “luckily” being a relative term – only his thumb had been broken.

Hardly the best of memories – and I’ve never felt the urge to experience snow since. Yes, it’s pretty, but I prefer my temperatures mild and my roads unencumbered.

Nonetheless, with the tax return screaming, “Do something fun!” every time I checked my bank balance and a desire to provide a sort of all-American family adventure, the lure of a snowboarding trip proved too tempting to pass up. As happens, my minimal salary was offset somewhat by a perk: in this case, free lift tickets. We borrowed a ton of snow clothes from friends, scored a few more vital items on Craigslist, coordinated with some family friends, booked a room at a motel with a “community kitchen,” took the necessary days off, bought chains (hoping we wouldn’t need them so we could return them!) and hit the road to Mt. Shasta.Despite my semi-success at doing the trip on the cheap, this 42-hour vacation cost me a week-and-a-half’s worth of pay. Was it worth it? Given the happiness evident in the kids’ voices overheard when telling their friends about the trip, I have to say, “yes.”

The drive to Shasta featured summit-high views of the lunar eclipse, unimpeded by clouds, fog or other atmospheric killjoys. The Earth’s shadow nibbled away at the moon, then turned her normally cold glow fire red. We oohed and aahed our way through most the four-hour drive.

Thursday morning, we rose early, scored front row parking, signed up for lessons (Nick and I) and rented our gear. I’d worried about what I considered inclement weather, but everyone said the steadily falling snow made for perfect powdery conditions. Bobby spent the day circling from chair lift to run and back again. Kaylee picked up the basics from D., then made a few runs with her down the “easy” slope, accompanied partly by Chelsea, who also spent some time on the bunny run when not hanging out with a friend. (We saw at least six families we knew from Humboldt County – a regular President’s Week phenomenon I was told.) Nick paid close attention to the instructor – who was a little laid-back for my needs, but who impressed the heck out of Nick with his mad snow skills – and quickly figured out the surface lift, the J-turn, the Falling Leaf and whatever else he was directed to do. In fact, Nick progressed to the chair lift and beginner slope by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, the fact that, despite my vivid and ambitious daydreams, I am a middle-aged, overweight woman with little natural athleticism was driven home. Repeatedly.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of surfing as I swung my arms and attemped to pivot my board down the bunny slope without crashing into the other novices. But what would’ve worked on water failed to repeat on snow. And, while being in the water offers an inherent joy, I felt no such kinship with the mountain. Instead, every insecurity I’ve ever had manifested as wicked ghosts, surrounding me, laughing at my clumsy attempts to regain verticality.

“Everyone else is having fun,” I told them, reaching for the clip to free my foot.

“I knew I’d fall down a lot,” I asserted, trying to unhook the leash from my fraying boot laces.

“This is what I hoped for, damn it” I reminded them, climbing up and re-clipping into my board. “I wanted a family trip in the snow, a big adventure to remember. I got it.”

“Good,” I said to myself, shooing the ghosts away. “Now, knees bent, arms out, athletic stance – and try again.”

That sort of peptalking kept me motivated for about half the day… until the point when, once again, my board wiggled the wrong way as I clung to the tow rope handle, sending me, once again, to the ground in an embarrassing crash-and-drag extravaganza. This time, in an instinctive attempt to catch my balance, I’d clutched at the rope itself, which gave way, causing me to tumble over it in such a fashion that the upper half of my body was on one side and my legs on the other. This was the kind of kookout that made people look away, too embarrassed for me to even laugh good-naturedly. Poor Nick – although to his credit, he did not pretend that he didn’t know me, but actually called out, “Mom! Are you OK?”

The idea that knowing how to surf would make snowboarding come more naturally turned out to be sadly unfounded. Despite the “Guaranteed-to-Learn!” promise of the lessons, I opted to spare both Nick and myself by bowing out of the second round, regulating myself to spectator.

(An aside: My only real disappointment with the actual resort – if that’s the right word – was the so-called “lodge.” I’d pictured a spacious cabin with overstuffed couches and armchairs gathered around roaring fireplaces, an oak-and-brass bar in the corner, where the reassuring bartender would offer up perfect hot toddies. The sort of place one could nurse one’s wounds in relative comfort. Something classy. Instead, the “lodge” resembled the food court at the mall, a place I deliberately avoid a good 362 days out of the year, or a high school cafeteria: noisy, crowded, uncomfortable, generic and otherwise utterly lacking in appeal.)

At the end of the day, no question: Making the trip was the right thing, no matter how desperately being on the wrong board made me crave being on the right one ( i.e., a 7’6″ funboard shaped just for me, just for Humboldt’s waves, thank you very much). Everything from the drive to the company to the Swiss Holiday Lodge to the burritos we polished off for dinner was fine in the best sense of the word.

Next time, though, I’m sending the family without me. Guilt-free. Snow and I, we’re just friends. Surfing remains my true love.


5 thoughts on “I want a thrill/I want a wow”

  1. Next time maybe try cross- country skiing. It’s easier, at least on level ground. There used to be a cross- country ski place between Redding and Yreka. I forget the name of the place, but it’s probably still there.

    I still have a couple sets of skis. If they’re the right size, you’re welcome to use them. The binding on one of mine broke some years ago and I’ll have to get it fixed.

    Actually, just a part is missing. Came loose and lost it decades ago when I was fooling around with my skis in the snow behind Ridgewood Heights School. Yes, that’s the one in Cutten.

  2. We went snowboarding in Bend–nearly broke the bank but my family had so much fun it was worth it. Except for me, It took me 2 days to learn to stand up. I was so bad that on the 2nd day the instructor from the day before saw me actually standing on the board and he applauded. He was thrilled that I could actually get up.

  3. I’m glad the family trip was a success. On Amazon you can read an excerpt of a book with the ‘Search Inside’ feature. If you get a sec, check out the excerpt from Anne Lamott’s book, Thoughts on Faith – Grace Eventually. The essay is called Ski Patrol and I think it will resonate.

  4. I grew up learning how to ice skate very well. I can not roller skate.

    Like Fred, I have a pair of cross country skis, but I don’t use them. In fact, I would need to get some boots, but I won’t.

    Tried skiing at Mt. Bachelor and took lessons. It helped, but I was sore. That was over 20 years ago. Snowboarding sounds rad, but I am over-the-hill.

    I am glad it was so much fun for your family. You deserve it!


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