Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cypress Skiboarding!

The 21st of Jan, 21 days into the new year and 13 days into my second term. The work has started. Papers to read, assignments to correct, projects to think about. The first term was stressful, firstly because I didn't really know how much I had to do and how I would stand, but this term I can handle better I guess, the major fight as always will be with my laziness :-).
Nothing much happened during the last 2 weeks but yesterday all of us (my roomies and friends) went to another ski station called Cypress. It was a trip organised by the Graduate Student Society (GSS) and for $90, it included transportation, skiing/snowboarding instruction and equipment. We all had registered for snow boarding. So early morning we set out to the GSS office, half way through of which I realised I hadn't taken my new pair of ski gloves. We were late as it is but I decided to go back anyway and get it and then cycle to the office to save time. So I did that and reached there before the others. It is quite cold here now and it had snowed the last couple of days. The problem with it snowing the last couple of days is the thing with snow. Snow when it snows is this white powdery stuff that is quite visible on the ground. But supposed it had snowed for the last couple of days and there is one day without snow in between and with maybe some rain, there is this thin transparent but very very slippery layer of ice on the ground especially on the tarmac roads. The entrance to the GSS office leads off the tarmac road to the right and this augmented with the fact of the road being downhill, the cycle brakes not really gripping anything meant that I took the turn to the office at quite some speed. Now I am not stupid (some people might disagree), I knew about the possibility of the aforementioned slippery ice but there is a point in cycling (most people who have cycled might have experienced this or come close to it more than once) when you know there is a very good chance of those 2 thin tyres just giving up gripping the ground and deciding to go wherever they choose to. That point is reached just a moment before you think you should have not made the turn but just kept going straight, slowed down, got off the cycle and pushed it all the way back. So I fell. In front of a queue of people waiting to board the bus, I jumped up immediately with whatever dignity I could gather and pushed the cycle to a stand where I could lock it and then to add, well not insult, but frustration anyway to injury, I found that one of my gloves was missing! Well long story short, it was practice for a lot of falling I did on Cypress.
So we went snow boarding. You attach yourself by your feet to a 5 feet board and try to 'glide' on the snow. There was this instructor who first taught us how to walk with one foot attached onto the board and the other used to push yourself slowly forward to get around when you are not actually snow boarding. Then we went up this slope and he taught us how to go horizontal (its counter intuitive but you start off with the board horizontal to the direction you want to go in - then you kind of dip (move your body) one side and then the other and zig zag along the slope. Now this is NOT as easy as it sounds. The braking is done by using the heel or toe to tilt the board up or down to dig into the snow and thus slow down. That too is not easy when you go fast. We fall. That is how we stop. You slide, zig zag for a bit, gather up speed to a limit that you believe truly that if you don't slow down or fall right now, there is great great pain in store, and then you yell and tumble (I scared a kid quite badly with a blood curdling yell and full flat out fall on my chest with my ski cap flying off and me sliding another 10 feet - but that was after). The training was pretty tiring. You climb to the top of a slope with the board which is pretty heavy and unwieldy and then slide/zigzag/tumble very very quickly down (you try to stay up as long as you can to make up for all your effort) and then repeat. We did that for 2 hours after which we did have occasional impulses to just do the training and then sit back with hot chocolate and watch the mountains dotted with skiers skilfully weaving through. But we did endure! Then next thing was the bunny hill for beginners with a ski lift. The thing about ski lifts is they never stop. They just keep going round and round and they don't stop when you get on and when you get off. That coupled with a 5 feet board locked to one of your feet does make the lift an adventure thrill ride in itself. Getting on was okay - you just wait for the chair (seats 4 - so you stand in a line) to scoop you away. The getting off is the tricky part. Experienced people just jump off and ski/snowboard away to get out of reach of the oncoming chairs. We, on the other hand, mostly ended up in a clump of hands, feet and snowboards and then do a mad scramble on the ground to get out of the way of the oncoming chairs. For the first time, there was Sharath, Pooja, me with our boards dangling off one feet and a 6 year old Chinese kid on skis. I was not greatly troubled. There is this attendant who we could yell to slow the thing down (and we did each time - not to her liking) and she would probably stop the thing if the chair did open up one of our heads. The kid seems to know what to do and so Pooja asked him what we should do. So I told her that we jump and lie face down to let the chair pass over our heads and the kid found that funny. The next couple of times Pooja asked him, he said that we jump, lie face down and barf. Funny kid. But he just glided away while we scrambled on the snow. But yes, now I can snowboard a slope with say 4 falls in between and if I am really careful maybe just 1 :-). Every movement I make now gives me quite a lot of pain, but it was worth it :-)

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