The twelve of us weren’t so crazy to go all the way to the most smogged up place on earth just to sightsee. The main event of the Beijing trip was snowboarding, even though some of us had no idea what we were getting into.
The Nanshan Ski Village was our first snowboarding spot. It’s easily accessible fromt the main city (45 minuts away) so the large crowd was no surprise. The rental area was full of angry voices, confused foreigners, the usual ‘cultural’ rudeness, and people just rushing about. There were bundled up kids with parents helping them out on ski gear, and instructors on the lookout for newbies. It was intimidating.
Throughout day one, I engaged in brakeboarding. Brakeboarding is a newly invented sport where you heel the entire way down the trail. It can also be spelled as breakboarding, because your body will feel like someone kicked you at the lower spine, butt, knees, neck, arms, wrists, and a bit of your head. By noontime of day one, I was ready to end my relationship with snowboarding because my butt was extremely sore and I could barely get a few meters down without falling. (too many times I’d even get up from my butt only to fall on my knees) By then, most of us were also too eager to devour steaming cups of noodles, barbecued lamb (which was too fatty), roasted corn, and the other snacks we bought for the trip. After feeling reenergized and with a smidgen of hope (what else was there to do there anyway), my friends Abz, Erika, and especially Jed helped me out until I started getting a hang of heel braking.
My braking skills were born on day two, after joining my friends on the “level 3” slope, where I slid on my ass for the first half of the trail. It was either do,
or die or still slide on my ass the rest of the way. For the later half (which was a bit less steep but still steeper than my previous experiences) I could brake! A happy dance ensued. After a few more runs and plenty of falls, it was clearly enough punishment for two straight days so I spent the afternoon riding up the lifts, sliding down snow mounds, watching some brave souls work their way down the death route, snow tubing, and drinking (a lousy excuse for a) coffee in a teahouse on peak of the resort.
We rested for two days, in preparation for the -20ºC weather of the mountains. It was a five hour long drive to the Wanlong ski resort, so we played games, made up silly stories, and slept on the ride over. The outside temperature was so cold, the window frosted up as we neared the resort.
We snowboarded as early as we could the first morning. Nothing prepared us for the breathtaking views of the mountains. Wanlong Ski Resort had 22 different trails, of varying skill levels. There were less people (it was a weekday), and great rentals for the shoes and board since most of the people who come bring their own gear. My cough and colds were worse by then, but I could’t pass up the chance to snowboard in such an amazing place. For the two days I used up so much tissue they were pretty much like white little snowballs in my pocket. I felt bad for the next person who’d use my rented ski jacket. At some point, there were strong gusts of wind that carried some snow. It was beautiful, but froze you up at the same time. Icicles formed on my eyelashes, while Louis’ eyebrows were dotted with ice. For dinner, we all wore bathrobes around the hotel, and brought joy to the other guests.
On the last day, we went down a trail that zigzagged. It was a test of steering control, and I’m proud to say I was able to get through the zigzag part without falling! For the next runs, my goal was mastering the toe so that on the next trip, I could learn to carve. But I sprained my leg and had to stop. The rest of the time was spent sightseeing around the slopes on cable car. I had to strategize when to expose my hand to the freezing weather to take pictures, because within three minutes they’d start to numb. BRRRRRR.
In the next few months I’ll be on the lookout for butt pads, knee pads, and a wrist guard. Snowboarding was a pain in the ass, but enjoyable. Aside from the falls, it was a small battle in itself to put the gear on. There’s an art to layering yourself so that snow won’t get inside. Bottom thermals, maybe two. Thermal top, fleece layer, down jacket (in extremely cold weather) and everything tucked inside the snowboarding pants before wearing the jacket. Then there’s putting on the tight-fitting boots. Considering all the pulling of laces straps to make sure they’re as tight as can comfortably be, it could very well be a warm up for the sport. It can take up to two people to put them on, or yank them off. The first time I took those shoes off, my walking boots felt like heaven.
The trip was a great start to the year. There was a lot of packing and repacking, packing and repacking, since we would go back and forth from our base of operations Forbidden City hotel to the ski resorts. Who would’ve thought I’d ever experience snowboarding? Sometimes, peer pressure can be a good thing. My next goals are sliding down faster (I’m a scaredy cat!), mastering the toe, and then carving.
Snowboarding also taught me several things. Some, that can be applied to life:
- Don’t be afraid to fall. When you need to fall or when you know you’re about to, don’t force it to stop (dangerous), but give in to it so that it won’t hurt.
- Mastering the brakes is important, but if you go down on brakes the whole time it’s no fun. You know how to stop, so don’t be afraid to go faster.
- You will fall, so wear padding.
- It’s better to snowboard with at least one other person. To enjoy the view with you, and to make sure you’re okay.