18 02 2010

Yet again, Saturday brought another snow-filled adventure to our “If you can’t beat the snow join it” month. This time it was snowboarding.

We arrived at the Annupuri ski slopes of Niseko mid morning on Saturday, after spending a night in the hostel nearby. By the time we had all our gear checked out and fitted, we had missed the first lesson. That was ok, because Nick and Perry showed us what to do before the afternoon lesson.

We spent the better part of the morning getting ourselves up and falling on the way down to the place to buy lift tickets. I think I was the first of the newbies to get up, but I fell the most. Heather had snowboarded before so she didn’t count.

It was difficult to stay up and I hadn’t had any luck staying up for any amount of time, when it was time to head up to the top of the slope and try coming down. We purchased lift tickets and boarded the lift. Having skied before, I had a small idea of what to expect. It was (as usual, with my small fear of heights) a bit scary. When we arrived at the top, I crashed and burned coming off the lift.

When we reached the top, the guys showed us a bit more of what to do and began to follow us down. Heather took off because she knew what she was doing. And Lindsay went to the left by accident (the harder slope) so Nick went after her. Perry stuck with Ros and I as we went down the first part.

Perry commented that I was making myself fall out of fear. He was right, I would get up, freak myself out by going too fast and not really know how to slow down so I’d fall. He encouraged me to try to stay up anyways. I was doing better for a few minutes and Perry said he’d meet me at the bottom of the hill and went to see how Ros was doing.

At that point, I had more than half of the hill to finish. I was able to get myself going several times, but there was a drop on the left side and I kept drifting to that side and making myself fall because I hadn’t figured out how to steer back to the right. I spent most of that leg of the slope falling to keep from going off to the left.

During this mess of up, fall, up pattern, I caught the words of a song that was playing on the speakers, it said something like, “I can do anything.” It reminded me of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” I started reminding myself of this every time I fell. The falling continued and despite the fact that I wanted to quit several times and walk down the hill, I reminded myself of this, and after probably another half hour of falling (this time to avoid falling off the course on the right), I made it to the end.

When I arrived, I found that we were now a few minutes late for our lessons. I knew my blood sugar was low (I had a headache) and ran to the shop to grab something to eat, to tide me over through the lesson. I ended up with a snickers bar.

After that, we met our instructor and went back out. There was a large part of me, which never wanted to be near a snowboard ever again.

Our instructor led us out and had us stretch (a very good thing at that point) and practice a bit with only one foot on our boards. She kept reminding us to look up, probably about the second time she said this, it reminded me of my ski instructor saying “Look where you want to go.” And it clicked. All of a sudden, I wasn’t falling as much, I was staying up and I was able to steer a bit. It was an exciting discovery.

Our instructor wanted us to stay behind her and stick together, this was hard because it uses a lot more muscles to move slowly, than it does to move faster. After I felt that I had gotten it, I wanted to move faster.

When we finally made it back down the hill, she gave us a bit more instruction and then our lesson was over.

Heather and I headed in to return our things and take a break. Ros and Lindsay both decided to go one more time. My body hurt so much that all I wanted to do was stop and get out of the cold. In that time, I drank hot cocoa and 4 glasses of water after drinking nothing all day.

That evening, we hung out at the hostel. Dinner was amazing after being on the slopes all day. After dinner we headed to the Onsen for a nice relaxing soak in the baths there. On the way, in a bit of a giggle about Japan’s funny usage of “Let’s enjoy . . . together,” Heather announced to Perry (about the onsen), “Let’s enjoy naked together.” Luckily, despite only knowing Perry for a about a day she got a good laugh out of him.

Upon our arrival back at the Hostel, the hostel owner played his accordion for us. Nick had found out before when he stayed, that the hostel owner plays and convinced him before our arrival to play for us. He was amazing. Our new friend Andy the Australian (who was also staying at the hostel), and I spent part of the time wondering how you learn to play an instrument with so many buttons and how you would go about writing music for one. We all took a ton of photos and were quite amazed by the hostel owner.

Sunday, I woke up and my whole body was sore. It hurt to move everything. I wasn’t feeling sure about putting my body through it all again. Everyone was going again, and I decided to as well. I’m really glad I did.

The first time down the easy slope, I did well. I only fell a handful of times and most of those were due to the fact that my legs were TIRED. I felt so proud of myself.

The second time down we took the gondolas up. The gondola ride was amazing because Nick, Heather and I ended up in a gondola with a couple of much more experienced boarders who had good tips for keeping my gloves dry on the inside, which had been a problem to this point. Turns out, I had not realized I needed to do up the thing on the end of my jacket around them.

When we got to the top, we discovered that the hill was way, way steeper than the one we had been going down. Ros was able to get up first and Lindsay next. Heather and I struggled quite a bit. Heather finally got up and off she went. Nick had to coach me a lot to help me get up on the steeper hill. I couldn’t use the same way I had been on the less steep hills.  I finally figured out the better way to get up (after Nick showed me a dozen times) and made it down with lots of falls. I have to say I was very proud of myself when I made it down from there.

Both of those times, I fell in almost the exact same place near the bottom of the hill and did a face plant. Both times I was very thankful for the rented goggles and helmet.

The last time down, I made it with very few falls. At that last point when I fell, I freaked out and fell before I got to the face-plant spot, so when I ended up there, I was going much slower and managed to only fall on my knees.

When it was time to head home, I was glad to have joined in again. Though I wasn’t ready to leave my friends, I was ready to be done with snowboarding for the day. It wasn’t until Monday, when I was at my sorest, that I realized I really loved it and can’t wait for this weekend in Furano when I’ll have another chance to get out and do it again.



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