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Falling for snowboarding

Having a son who’s a natural on the slopes doesn’t mean you will be, too

Snowboarders file down the slope at Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury; Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010.

(Concord Monitor photo/Alexander Cohn)

Snowboarders file down the slope at Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury; Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. (Concord Monitor photo/Alexander Cohn)

For years I’ve threatened my son that I’m going to snowboard with him someday, or worse – make him teach me. I am an experienced downhill skier (aka “planker”), so I figured, how hard can it be? Plus, I assumed snowboarding must be in my blood, having produced such a fine shredding specimen as my son.

It turns out that snowboarding is not genetic. It takes skill, muscle and a mountain of humility. At 47, I am not out to impress anybody, but as for the skill and the muscle, well . . .

I convinced a friend to join me for a lesson when there was a “Learn to Ski Free” program all across New Hampshire. The rental shop wasn’t busy when we went to get our gear, so we had hopes that we’d have a private lesson. A few pointers and surely we’d be hopping on a chairlift to the top of Pats Peak after an hour.

Over at the beginner slope we were joined by two men. They were obviously younger than us by many years but didn’t appear to have spent much time on snow – or on their feet, for that matter.

We spent several minutes getting acquainted with our boards and learning a few terms, all the while watching kids half our height whizzing by. We envied them their low center of gravity but were still confident. Not only were we going to master the Bunny Slope, but we’d be on a Green Circle by lunch.

Our instructor was wonderfully patient and clearly had been forced to teach adult beginners before. I was able to navigate the Magic Carpet lift as they fumbled with Buckle Your Boot into the Bindings. I was able to master Pointing Your Board Across the Mountain, while they were still mastering the concept of “goofy foot.” (otherwise known as Which Foot do You Want in Front?). It was soon apparent that our two classmates were not headed to the X Games any time soon.

However, before one can gracefully carve down a slope full of moguls, ice, and small children, one must work on Standing Up Without Falling, followed by Gliding Downhill Without Falling and Trying Not to Wet One’s Pants as One Picks Up Speed. It’s much harder than it looks. And a bit painful. And somewhat embarrassing.

Our instructor somehow managed to remain helpful as he attempted to meet all of our needs. He would graciously hold our hands as we tried to make a turn. As soon as one of us fell, he’d run to catch someone else before that someone wiped out a class of 4-year-olds. He worked up quite a sweat with all the running up and down the slope rescuing us, and by the end of the hour he was in a T-shirt. If the lesson had gone on for much longer, he probably would have been naked.

By the end of the lesson, I could stand up unassisted, turn both ways 50 percent of the time, and make it to the bottom of the beginners’ slope with only four wipeouts. Unfortunately, I got a little cocky on my last run down and thought I could actually turn within 30 feet of an obstacle. I hit the safety netting at the bottom and flipped backwards over it in front of all the parents watching their little ones master their tiny snowboards and skis. My friend was kind enough to whip out her cell phone camera before I could stand up.

We never did make it to the top, or even to the chairlift. It turns out that falling uses up a lot of energy and I needed lunch.

(Melissa Jones lives in Hopkinton.)

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