“Strap in, lean forward, and go fast.”
These were the instructions I received from the first two people in Vail, Colo. when I asked for advice on my first snowboarding trip. I was hoping for something a little more nuanced, but the overwhelming sentiment I gained from talking to people was that I needed to try and let everything come to me as naturally as possible. This was going to be a problem.
Sports involving hand-eye coordination have always come pretty easy to me. I played baseball at a relatively high-level growing up before injuring my elbow, which led me to playing golf in high school and getting some very small college offers. I could always hold my own playing basketball or football in pick-up games. These are the things that come naturally to me.
Things that require standing balance have always been a problem, however. I was a terrible skateboarder and retired at age 11 when I crashed so hard attempting a jump I had no business trying that I got a massive hematoma near my hip and couldn’t walk without crutches for two weeks. I suffered many various injuries as a youth on Razor scooters, motorized scooters, and mountain boards, eventually realizing the only wheeled transportation options for me were cars and bicycles.
Spending my entire life in Georgia, snow sports weren’t anything I was particularly interested in either — my one prior experience involved breaking a rib sledding in California as a kid. Having learned my limits early, being generally averse to cold weather, and not having a ton of disposable income, I always passed when friends in college would invite me to go on ski and snowboarding trips. For 26 years I avoided snow sports, but when the opportunity arose in February to go to Vail for the Burton U.S. Open with Red Bull, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
So there I was, in one of the best ski towns in the country, with no clue what I was doing. I was handed gear, a top of the line Burton board, and a lift pass and told to go knock myself out (figuratively, although the literal was a definite possibility). I didn’t have any lessons from an instructor, just the kind souls from Red Bull that would give up an afternoon on the slopes enjoying themselves to teach an idiot from Georgia how not to kill himself (and record it on video for all of you to laugh at).