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Saturday, January 16, 1999 -- Canaan Valley
A Painful Lesson in Snowboarding
The following story, as told by Don Parks, is of Erik Parow's painful experience at learning how to snowboard. It took place at Timberline Resort in Canaan Valley, WV. The pictures are obviously of folks that have already learned many of the basic techniques.

Sean Bradford
13-year-old Sean Bradford gets some air time at Timberline
Erik called last week and asked if I'd be interested in doing some crosscountry skiing or maybe some snowboarding the coming weekend. Well, I'm always pretty busy with WVOutside, but I told him I could make some time to get out and enjoy a little recreational time. We decided on a skiing trip to Timberline Resort where Erik was ready to give an honest effort to learning how to get down the mountain on a snowboard. He has spent plenty of time on skis in his 29 years, but only had one previous experience on a snowboard. That experience was just a few fledgling trips down the hill before he had given up and gone back to the skis.

We got a late start, stopped for lunch in Davis on the way, and eventually arrived on the slopes early in the afternoon. Our first task was to find him a suitable board to rent. That's not difficult, unless you wear a size 14 shoe! After several frustrating stops, Erik was finally able to get suited up at the Ski Barn just outside of Timberline Resort.

Ready to conquer the world, and with our night skiing passes in hand, we headed to the lifts. It didn't take long for the triple-chair to carry us to the top of the mountain (no bunny slopes for these testosterone filled men!) I explained to Erik that learning the necessary skills was a painful experience. For most individuals, the first adventure on a snowboard is a humbling series of repeated thrashings by an apparatus that seems entirely opposed to the idea of you standing upright.

Erik had seen a number of friends master the art. He was fairly accomplished at several sports in his own right. The board he had this day seemed much better fitting than the one used for his previous attempt. We'll just say that he was competent, confident, and prepared for a few difficult lessons.

Mitch Bradford
8-year-old Mitch Bradford can't let his big brother show him up
I detailed to him my small knowledge on what was required to master this new endeavor, but I had learned with a full set of rollerblading pads not so secretly hidden under my clothes. "Be prepared for many sudden, and unexpected collisions with the hard-packed snow," I warned. "Be patient, the learning curve is steep and it can be brutal in the beginning. Use the falling leaf method after getting a feel for whether you are more comfortable facing uphill or downhill," I advised.

We exited the lift and the time was now, there was no place to go but down the hill. I made sure that Erik had himself securely fastened to the foreign device. Then I watched as he headed off the top of the mountain. It didn't take long until he was sent onto his backside. I glided up next to him with a few more words of encouragement before I was off to enjoy my time on the slopes.

It's a little hard for some to understand our strange breed of manly men. We don't often hang around babying each other with kind words of support. I knew if he was serious he'd take his punches and figure it out. If not, when we got home I'd be able to tease him in front of all our friends about how he was a Sally that couldn't learn snowboarding. Don't get me wrong, we have all been pals for a long time, but exposing each others' weaknesses is just a friendly game we like to play. In some strange way it is a bonding ritual that helps keep the egos of our twisted group in check.

A little later in the evening, after a few runs down the mountain, I caught back up with Erik. There he was, laying face down in the middle of the slopes. I did my best to sneak up on him and spray some cold ice and snow on his prone body (more male bonding.) I sat crouched down next to him to hear how he'd been doing. Mustering what pride he could, he explained that he had only made it back to the bottom of the mountain one time. In the process, he admitted being slammed to the icy ground what seemed like every ten feet. "I feel like I've just been 10 rounds with Mike Tyson," he confessed. But, even though his body was taking blow after blow, his spirit would not stay down for the count.

An unidentified boarder launches himself into the Canaan Valley twilight
By this point, Erik had resorted to what was necessary to get the job done. Ignoring all attempts to imitate the graceful swishing and swoshing of a seeming endless stream of experienced boarders, he was now resigned to the falling leaf. "I'm determined to do whatever it takes not to fall, I just can't take much more of it," he announced. So, facing up hill, he dug in with his forward edge and proceeded to slide across the slope going downhill at a modest angle. After reaching the opposite side, a slight weight shift, and he was ready to head back across in the opposite direction. Patiently he traveled back and forth, from one side to the other, slowly zigzagging his way down the mountain.

After some painful lessons, and with a grit of determination and a good deal of humility, Erik continued his pursuit of snowboard mastery for several more hours. The result of his evening's effort was stated in his words as "I am beginning to get the feel for how this could be fun!"

It will probably take another trip or two to the lift lines and several days to recover from his bumps and bruises, but Erik is well on his way to enjoying the pleasures of snowboarding. You seldom appreciate anything that comes easy, and for most of us, learning to snowboard is a tough task. As Vince Lombardi once said, "The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will." Keep your eyes open on the way down West Virginia's ski slopes, because you will see Erik out there snowboarding with the big smile that only comes from the great feeling of accomplishment.