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Snowboarding

Tuesday

Up early for the bus, I quietly sneaked out of the dorm, shoved my key under the office door, and made my way down the frosty moon-lit driveway to the bus stop. I wondered if I had missed the bus or miss-read the timetable when the bus did not appear. I observed a pickup truck pull in, I could see its rear lights as it tried to climb up a track in the hills, it got stuck in the snow and eventually the driver gave up.

Some Coyotes began to howl.

Shortly after it began to get light a lady arrived who was getting the bus AFTER the one I wanted to catch. After another half hour of waiting I'd had enough - I wanted to go snowboarding and that was all there was to it! I stuck out my thumb and hoped for the best.

I got a lift half way there by an employee of the Yosemite National Park, he dropped me off at the bridge where the old railway line ends. This was no good, the YARTS bus was no doubt going to be very late and I didn't want to hang around at yet another bus stop; I started walking along the main road into Yosemite Valley, trying to hitch a lift. By this time is was fairly light, I felt a lot like David Banner from The Incredible Hulk, walking along a deserted mountain road with a pack on my back, arm and thumb outstretched.

As luck would have it I didn't have long to walk, after about forty minutes a lime-green New Beetle pulled up and I was saved! A biologist from the park gave me a ride right to the Badger Pass bus stop, arriving there at bang-on 8.30am! Luck was with me today after all! I was so relieved to get on that bus, I smiled all the way to the top. What a sunny day it was too, it was too bright not to wear sunglasses with the brilliant white glare of the fresh snow, which had been neatly groomed on the slopes. I bought my ticket for an all-day learn-to-snowboard lesson which included equipment hire and an all-day ski-lift pass. I stashed all my belongings in a locker and set out for a days' excitement on the slopes!

There were only three of us to start with, one more was expected but didn't show. Our tutor was a seasoned snowboarder and he certainly looked the part; he wore trainers, where we wore big rigid ankle boots, and he used his own board. We started off on the shallow slope just near the chalet, it was almost flat so we couldn't go very far. We learned how to fall, how to stand on the board, turning, walking with the board on one foot; we learned about regular and goofy setups, about the edges of the board and how they were used. After a short break we moved onto the beginner slope (called the Turtle Slope), a small shallow area with a bizarre little ski lift which you had to hang on to with your hands and try to remain standing on your board as it pulled, nay, yanked you along! I failed many times to stay upright and had to let go. I eventually switched to goofy, so that I was facing the left of the board, which felt much more natural to me. I stayed on the board a lot more after that (but still fell occasionally!) We practised going straight, and turning left or right down the shallow slope. Lunch time came and one of the party had to go, it was just two of us now. I should point out that this photo of the Turtle slope (below) was taken the day before when I was out snowshoeing, when the weather turned bad; on the day I snowboarded it was bright sunshine and clear skies.

Badger Pass Turtle

After I'd had lunch I went back to the beginner slope to practice, the other learner in the group was there too and we laughed merrily as we watched each other fall time and time again, mainly on our behinds! I had a good build up of snow on my woolly jumper which wasn't covered at the bottom by my coat, and it was beginning to make me feel quite cold. My hands were getting cold too, plenty of standing around on boards and contact with snow (even with my new gloves on). The other member of the group now decided not to continue with the lessons, her boyfriend was getting bored of skiing so they left together. Now it was just him (the instructor) and me.

So now the instructor returned, and I was beckoned onto the bigger slope. It looked big, it looked steep, it looked scary! I was afraid to even stand at the top, let alone whiz down it on a snowboard which I'd only spent a few hours learning about. Fortunately the instructors knew this and started us off gently, although I was the only one from my original group left there was an afternoon session with a bigger group, they'd apparently done it on the previous day and this was their second lesson - so I was doing very well for a first-timer.

Badger Pass Bruin

This picture were taken after I finished for the day, the snow started to fall and it became very cold as the sun went down. Toward the end of the session I had to continually brush the ice off my gloves which was getting quite thick at times and quite chilly on the fingers. The ski lift was a challenge too, you had to sit on a chair very quickly as it came swinging around at the bottom, hang on and hope for the best on the way up (snowboard still attached to one foot) and sort of start snowboarding down a little slope as you left the chair - which I only managed to do once. I fell all the other times and had to get out of the way before someone landed on me from the next chair! Standing at the top was daunting at first, we did control exercises which entailed standing upright and gliding down the slope either facing down or upward, keeping the board on one edge and controlling the speed with the tilt of the feet. It was quite tiring after a few times, we moved on to zig zags which I managed to do quite successfully too. Then came the tricky part - proper snowboarding.

To snowboard, one has to keep one edge against the snow and not let the leading edge dig in at all, otherwise one will flip straight over forwards, and it will hurt. It did. Several times! I made it nearly to the bottom one time, it felt like a hundred miles per hour, and just as I was making a turn (you have to switch edges as you turn, which is the tricky part) I suddenly found myself rolling through the air and landed on my back/head/bum/chest! I was dazed for a few seconds, but sat up to show that I was OK. I checked my limbs, they were OK, my hat was nearby, but my hand had hit my chest and I could feel the bruise forming, ouch. Amazingly my sunglasses were still firmly attached to my face.

It was a lot of fun, not only the exhilarating experience of gliding down a slope on a piece of very smooth board trying not to fall, but also seeing other people doing the same (and make mistakes!) I thanked my instructor and he gave me a card confirming that I had passed my snowboarding lessons, after my last fall I was in no mood to go back up again so called it a day and went back inside. I took the pictures afterwards because I had nowhere to put my camera while I was on the slopes, and wasn't keen to entrust it to anyone else; the thought of having a camera dig into my side as I hit the ground wasn't too appealing!

I checked ahead for the stay at Merced hostel, I would get the YARTS bus straight through to the station there, and I was assured I would get a lift to the hostel no matter what time my bus arrived. Great news! And arrive late it did, it was past 11pm when the bus finally arrived at Merced station, but to my horror and dismay I discovered the station building locked with the telephones on inside. I had to find another telephone - I wandered up a couple of streets but there was nothing but houses; I eventually asked a guy who was outside an apartment complex where the nearest public phone was and he directed me to a liquor store at the end of the street. It was a long street, ten minutes of walking later I arrived at the liquor store and made the phone call, I was so glad to get an answer and be picked up.