‘Falling Leaf’ – Learning to snowboard


This article was written before the start of winter 2013. It details my start in snowboarding, and will eventually be followed by more posts, describing my progression. The trip described hereafter took place between 2007 and 2012.

Through some universal coincidence, Australian Winter Uni Games was somehow the same week as Sam’s and my now fairly annual pilgrimage to his grandfathers flat and sunny spring time slush shredding at Thredbo. Through even more of a coincidence, Craig (who runs the UNSW Sports Assoc.) somehow learnt I snowboarded and asked me to join the UNSW team in competing. Me snowboard racing. Ha! I turned down his suggestion at least once before I decided it couldn’t hurt to enter a race. I mean they were offering me a letter getting me out of classes all week. A week I had already planned to take off uni.

I learnt to snowboard in a fairly roundabout fashion. First off, I don’t ski for a very simple reason. When I was in year 11 at school and the school was taking us for a trip. My then girlfriend proclaimed that she was gong snowboarding. So, I guess I was too. I didn’t think about it at all at the time. Had I been single, i’d probably have skied. And had I started skiing, i’d probably be rocking a pair of Black Crows skis with NTN’s right now. Heaven forbid the thought of skiing, or worse telemarking. Thanks Christ I was dating that girl, who had some sense it seems (despite her decision to date me).

My first trip to the snow  at about age 10 had led to a huge snowball fight, a stolen wallet and tears. So i wasn’t expecting much from this trip.

I rode for three days of squalid blizzard and wind that trip. The kind of blizzard where it doesn’t really snow much, but you can’t see you’r friend 6 inches away and it doesn’t really rain either. My one fond memory of that trip is trying to traverse the cat track to the top of Sundowner at Thredbo and getting blown over in the wind. Other than a very sore ass, a wind burnt nose and a new found ability to falling leaf down blue runs, the trip left me vaguely happier about the whole snow thing.

Year 11. Those really were simpler times.

Sum total of Resort days: 3

Flash forward some 3 years and I finally decided to make it back to the snow. I had two days to kill in Jindabyne before a paddling trip, so went spent a day at Thredbo. It rained. A lot. Like more than 100 mm.  I could still falling leaf. I could kind of link a turn or two. Blair was unimpressed by the rain, having ridden in japan that summer. We spent the Sunday in Jindy’s cafes and book stores. (Amusing Sam had also been there that weekend, shredding puddles in dishwashing gloves and Gore-Tex.) I promised myself snowboarding would not overtake my climbing or paddling, and would be ‘just for fun’. The idea of that now seems hilarious.

Sum total of Resort days: 4

By the very next year my ascent to the lofty heights of alpinism had already begun. Non-wanky translation; I’d started climbing and had a mountaineering trip planed for that November. With all this steep snow climbing in the horizon, I figured i’d better get down to the snow during the winter, break in my mountaineering boots and learn how to self arrest, dig a t -slot and generally stab my way up ice and snow.

How do I put these one?
How do I put these one?

Sam’s grandfathers beautifully setup flat made the ideal base, and after leaving Sydney at 1 am (There’s another story there) and arriving at the village at 8, I promptly climbed into bed. Sam woke me at 11 to get me out onto the slopes for a half day lift pass. he has slept in the back of the van all night and was cheery as he always is after some solo ski laps.  I remember our conversation went something like this;

Sam: You look wrecked, are you sure you don’t just wanna sleep all day?

Me: I think I need the practice.

Sam: Ok, I know just the run!

Sam did have just the run in mind. We promptly took the chairlift up to eagles nest and dropped into an early season, not yet opened bluffs. Ice led to mank soft snow, led to grass and it took a fair while to boot pack out on the horrible soft snow.

Over the next few days, an education in why snowshoes suck and how to pack a 38 kg pack ensued. I’ve learnt the snowshoe lesson, but still make the heavy pack mistake somehow. In the end, we bailed from an attempt to get to Blue Lake to climb because of a nasty storm that rolled in. We did manage to produce a somehow 30 minute film that even I can’t sit through the whole event of.

Up Next: ‘Linking Turns’- Developing backcountry skills…

Sam goes heavy...
Sam goes heavy…
While Wills goes light.
While Wills goes light.

Sum total of Resort days: 5

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