“Snowboarding is so easy to learn, you can become an expert in two seasons,” proclaimed my boyfriend, Phil, on the chairlift with a snowboard dangling from his left foot for the first time. I bit my tongue figuring the sport would defend itself and humble him with a few neck-whipping, brain-rattling fly-swatter falls. But I almost started to believe Phil as I watched him dismount the chair and stick the landing — something I still found challenging after three seasons of riding.
You see, Phil and I had decided to put our six-month-old relationship through some field testing by trading lessons in our preferred snow-sliding sports. I was the first victim. Unlike many of my riding buddies, I was not a skier who had seen the light. I started snowboarding my first winter in Colorado. I had never skied — unless of course you count an ill-fated trip to Big Bear, California when I was twelve.
My parents thought that our tropical upbringing in Hawaii had left us culturally deprived so they packed my brother, sister and I up in our mis-matching, out-dated borrowed ski jackets and jeans for a “white Christmas.” There was one patch of brownish-white frozen mud in front of our cabin and the conditions on the bunny hill weren’t much better. But I plowed my way down that incline with all the grace of a gangly pre-teen with a crush on her ski instructor.
I felt a keen sense of deja vu as my strapping, long-blond-haired ski instructor, Phil, barked instructions. “Drive your weight forward, don’t focus on your tips, look where you want to go!” I had to laugh at these instructions which were identical to the ones I repeated all day long as a full-time snowboard instructor. The foreign objects fixed to my feet had turned the green runs of my familiar ski area to double black diamonds as I fumbled along with my poles stabbing at the air like broken wings. I craved the simplicity and fluidity of my single board and decided that Phil could keep his damned sport.
Now it was Phil’s turn to be victim. Of all the sports we did together — trail running, rock climbing, mountain biking — he was always better, faster, stronger than I. Here was a sport in which I was clearly superior. This was proven within the first ten feet of Phil’s first run. Cocky with his perfect chairlift exit, Phil eagerly strapped his back foot into his binding and stood up. No more than ten seconds later he caught the dreaded DOWNHILL EDGE and slammed onto the hard-pack. “Expert in two seasons, huh?” I just couldn’t help myself. With his ego only slightly more bruised than his glutes, he got back up and started listening to my advice.
After two runs with me explaining, demonstrating and critiquing, Phil opted for some independent study. “I know what I need to do, I just need some time to practice it.” So I took off on my own and headed for the trees in search of powder. An hour later from the chairlift I spotted a snowboarder dressed suspiciously like Phil linking perfect “s” turns down a blue run. His upper body was somewhat stiff from intense concentration and determination, but his motion was fluid. “That’s my boyfriend — it’s his first day on a board,” I said to my chair-mate with a mixture of pride and disbelief.
Later that day we talked over beers at the lodge. Phil boasted about surviving a black diamond bump run (albeit not very gracefully). He admitted to enjoying himself but was not ready to trade in his skis. I was disappointed yet secretly relieved that snowboarding would remain my sport. And our relationship survived the field testing. Now, two years later, we are marrried.