It occurred to me yesterday as I peeled off my goggles and hat after my very first day of riding this season that there really isn’t much in the world that feels better than giving your head a good solid roughin up after having a thick itchy hat smashed down on it by goggles all day long. Digging your fingernails into your scalp and rib-imprinted forehead for a good couple minutes. Man, that is heaven. In fact, it felt way better than a lot of things that have given me pleasure in my off-season free time: Better than sleeping in on the weekends. Better than buying stuff (I am an American, after all, and consumerism makes me very happy). Better than drinking, eating big meals, and staring at my friends through the smoke of the same damn bar we always go to.

Anyway, yesterday was indeed my first day shredding this year. Pathetic, I know—it’s almost December. But these days I’m in no hurry—I like to wait for the exact right time. A bad first day can have dire effects on your entire season’s outlook. So patience is the key, even though I have recently started to feel like I’ve been living a lie, what with writing about snowboarding for months on end from the very non-shred location of couch or cubicle. But that “living a lie thing is a whole other can a’ worms. I’m here to talk about what it’s like to go riding for the first time in the winter, and how completely cool it is to rediscover all the simple little joys of a day on the hill—aw, ain’t that nice?

Joy number 1: The parking lot stoke-out. Caffeine-enhanced excitement mixed with expectations yet to be put in check by the um reality of variable early season conditions.

Joy number 2: The first lift ride. The weight of your board hanging off your foot. Winter smells. Tasting the cold wind that’s gone up your nose and into the back of your throat—it’s weird, but cool.

Joy number 3: Speed. The last time you went this fast standing on your own two feet was the other night when … wait, that doesn’t count—I’m not talking about that kind of speed.

Joy number 4: Stupid shred stuff. Rock jibs. Tree-well slashers. Three-foot airs. Maybe even a Tindy or two. Who cares? You’re not trying to impress anyone—and that shit is extra fun.

Joy number 5: Afterwards. The aforementioned scouring of the old hat-head with frozen fingers. Kicking off your death-trap boots and feeling the pins and needles signifying life returning to your hooves. The anticipation of warm food in your stomach.