Feels Like the First Time…

Michelle snowboard Woods Dec2013New Year’s Eve tradition – snowboard trip to Woods Valley. It’s my first time out – it’s my son’s  2nd or 3rd for the season. Usually, as soon as my eyes open on a snowboard day I am pumped and READY. But today was a bit different — I had a tinge of anxiety.

Maybe because it was a Tuesday and “technically” I should be getting some work done. Maybe it was because my husband wasn’t coming with us and I didn’t have our partner in crime on the trip. (He just turned 51 and claims he might be taking a season off because he feels old like Ricky Bobby’s father-in-law Chip from “Talladega Nights” – the one with the stanky leg…) It could have been just the stress from a 2-week-long holiday season with bazillions of details in my head. It COULD have been because the temperature wasn’t cracking double digits when we headed out of the house, there was an ice storm a couple days prior and I knew the conditions weren’t going to be stellar. Or maybe.. just maybe… it was because I was sporting my spanky new Planet Earth jacket (a birthday gift TO me FROM me) and I wasn’t confident where all my stuff was. New gear takes some getting used to. I’m a self-diagnosed freak show about my truck key – I only have one and if I lost it on the mountain I would go nuts. And I don’t go get a second set because they’re like $150 and that’s like TWO lift tickets that I’d miss out on!) I feel my pockets a thousand times a day to make sure my key is intact. It always is. But I’m a freak show. So my rising anxiety could have been any combination of these completely normal, run-of-the-mill things.

But what it really was… was straight up first day jitters. I’ve never had them. Ever. And it sucked.

The first time going up the chair lift, my all-of-a-sudden-optimistic son says to me, “Don’t worry, Mom… it totally just comes back to you. I swear.” Like I’m riding a bicycle and not flying down an icy mountain on a 10″ wide snowboard… yeah right. Of course once we’re halfway up the mountain, I see that my favorite trail is closed – it looked like small ponds of pure ice had sprouted up all over it along with a heaping pile of man-made snow that the groomer passed on by. The only cut-over open was a uber narrow tree-lined route that everyone in their brother was flying through. Ugh. Dread.

On the first “official” day out, I always insist that our family takes it easy (you should do that the 1st run anywhere, anytime actually… to get to know the trails and especially terrain parks). I’m telling my son that and trying to sound cool and calm… but I’m really just talking myself into not being a total wuss. I got off the chair lift and am still vertical (that is STILL a monumental act for me, seeing as I fell EVERY time I got off for the first 2 years of my snowboarding career). The first run was cautious and I didn’t breathe on some heel-to-toe turns, but I got to the bottom relatively gracefully and in one piece. The second run I started digging a little harder into my edges and picking up some speed. By the third run, I regained that sense of flying and freedom that is the reason I fell in love with the sport in the first place and I think some kids’s heads actually turned to watch “that OLD lady snowboarder”. Like my new jacket, kids? Oh wait – I’m going TOO FAST for you to see it! HA!

So three runs is all it took before all worries were gone and I was back in the game. The rest of the day was rockin’ (cold as hizzle… but definitely rockin’). And to cap it all off, we ran into my son’s baseball coach at the awesome indoor fire pit after our last run and after we talked about snowboarding for a bit, his wife says to my son, “Do you KNOW you have the coolest mom EVER?!?!” Yes… yes he does. And I’m so glad someone else mentioned it aside from ME! Ha!

Here’s to a great 2014 season – lots of runs to come. Have fun, be safe and stay COOL!

 

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The Kids Love to Shred

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With Valentine’s Day around the corner and having spent the last two weekends with the kids of Shred Love, I thought I’d do a post on… what else?! LOVE. During lunch today, I went around to all the kids and took a poll to see what they all loved most about snowboarding. My favorite response was “tricks and girls” – I think he was half-joking, but that’s probably a pretty legit motivator among pre-teen boys. I’ve certainly seen my share of packs of teenagers on the mountain giggling and sitting in the middle of the darn trail. I probably would have done the same back in the day, I can’t lie.

Most of the answers revolved around adrenaline, speed and feeling like they were flying. They expressed it with this adorable quasi-dreamy gaze and were all oogly eyed and breathy like they truly were in love with it. They talked about gliding down the mountain. They talked about the wind in their face as they shred their little hearts out. And then there was one who threw in a “I feel like I’m the boss!” to top it all off.

Another big response was “it’s just plain fun!!!” No matter if they are beginners or off working on their park skills, landing on their butt or landing a 180, fun permeates throughout the group. The whole day is fun – they get to get up early bursting with anticipation, take a bus ride with their friends, spend the day on a gorgeous mountain learning a new sport, have a great lunch together and a relaxing ride home trading stories of what they did on what run today. That, my friends, is a MAD fun day.

One response that made me reflect a little today was that they love snowboarding because it’s “different”. One 11 year old said that he liked to learn new things and he’s not just stuck with basketball. Sweet. Another went even deeper and said it’s different because not a lot of kids get to do it, so she felt lucky that she was able to. I was so happy to hear that. I tell my son what a privilege it is to snowboarding all the time. I think he’s one of the only ones in his grade at school who does it… it’s expensive on so many levels, it’s dangerous and it takes a lot of time, organizing and travel. Having a youngster recognize that without a lecture was delightful.

So I’ll add something to my personal “why I love snowboarding” list today. I love seeing kids experience awesomeness. I love seeing them try, accomplish, grow and in turn fall in love with something new. I love seeing people around them see that passion and see them getting better and better.

Keep introducing kids to snowboarding and help them achieve their milestones – so they can in turn spread the love onto others.

‘Lil Shredders

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I am finding great joy this season in teaching people how to snowboard, especially kids. This last weekend was a youngster-filled fun time. Both Saturday and Sunday, I hit the mountain with two crews ranging in age from nine to fifteen, celebrating January as “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.”And learn they did

My Saturday group was made up of five first timers. We went to Woods Valley, where I learned seven years ago – they have a great starter hill just outside the lodge so parents can watch, encourage, point, laugh, and stay warm by the fire pit while their kids slide and wipe out right in front of their eyes. It’s a great set up.

The day was great – there were falls, butt slides, tears, frozen fingers and frozen snot on faces. There were triumphs, “ah ha” moments,  encouragement, cheers and high fives. And when they got home, there was heating pads, Advil and a lot of sleep. Five new snowboarders joined the club that day. Bragging rights followed those kids to school that Monday (When you’re asked what you did over the weekend and you say “I went snowboarding”, that always sounds made cool). Snowboards and gear will appear on Christmas lists this year. #SnowboardingSuccess!

Day two found us at Windham to join us up with the fabulous Shred Love out of New Jersey. This is our second year helping out with the kids in the program and we love it. I met up with my mentees from last year – Jackie and Kayla. Their skills were even sharper and smoother than the last time I saw them and we aptly nicknamed Kayla “Speedy K” because that little lady can FLY down the mountain in her ‘lil gold Burton pants. Joining us was the adorable Armani who needed to work on her heel-toe turns and tackling a fear of the chairlift BOTH of which she nailed a couple runs into the day. And later in the day, Adrianna came over from the bunny hill for her first chairlift ride EVER and her first try at a trail – it was hard but she made it! Near the end of the day, we squeezed in a flying fast run with Speedy K on an Intermediate in great conditions in record time… making it back juuuust in time for their bus. Another memorable day helping kids fall further in love with their sport.

If you shred… consider reaching out to a kid or five and bring them out on the mountain with you. The fulfillment you’ll get from helping is worth a lift ticket ten times over. You’ll keep our sport growing strong, give kids a new way to stay in shape and give them a skill that can last a lifetime!

Feelings?!… Blech!

I’m not one to put my feelings out there for everyone to see and analyze . Not in anything I do. But today during a killer day of boarding at Gore Mountain – I came face-to-face with a lot of feelings that I thought I WOULD share. It made the day a combo of sheer awesomeness and making me want to smack someone. I’m sure that any boarder can relate to any one of these… uh… feelingsphoto4

Elated ::: I love the excitement of starting a snowboarding trip off and the anticipation of the drive. We had a solid 2 hour trek up back roads into the Adirondack Park to get to Gore today and when you make that last left hand turn and the peak starts peering through the trees, everyone in the truck’s adrenaline skyrockets. We made it! Let the day begin…

photoThrilled ::: We were lucky enough to have FREE passes to Gore today – a savings of about $250. We saw the Warren Miller film in November and Gore had a table there giving away free passes. I read the darn things like 20 times to make sure there were no restrictions (there’s always SOMETHING in the small print!) But they were legit… and we were pumped!

Frustrated ::: It was VERY busy on the mountain today – the weather was perfect with blue skies and temps in the mid-20s. The more people that are out, the more you need to just be aware of what’s going on around you. There’s one annoying flat area at Gore where 2 chairlifts and a couple trails all converge. People are ALL OVER that space standing around talking, strapping in because they just had to skate their way over the flat and others just literally lounging in the middle of the trail doing seemingly nothing. GET MOVING! The main reason is because it’s dangerous – you have no idea who I am coming up behind you. It very well could be my first time out and I haven’t mastering steering or stopping yet. I could run over your hand. Or  your head. GO!

Straight Angry ::: I’m very aware of how a terrain park works. I’m also very aware that the people in front of you have the right of way. There is NO need to cut me off because you’re too lazy to look backward and no need to purposefully board inches from me while I’m getting GoPro footage of my kid on the jumps from a SAFE and out of the way location. And don’t spray snow on people – because you ultimately shower the person NEXT to them, too… and that could be me. And you don’t want to spray me!!!

photo3Relaxed ::: We did have a ton of great runs today and the view at Gore is just breathtaking. When you’re cruising along, concentrating on nothing but what you’re doing without a care in the world, forgetting you have a job and responsibilities… that’s the bomb.

Awed ::: At 3,000 feet with gorgeous views and perfect snow – who wouldn’t be?

Content ::: that was because of the delicious grilled cheese sandwich that was made fresh right before my very eyes. I always joke that whatever you eat while you’re snowboarding, it’s the BEST (fill in the blank) EVER because you’re working so hard out there and get so hungry, that it barely matters what you eat – as long as you get some energy in you to keep going!

Exhausted ::: The runs at Gore are loooooong. You can go for 2.2 miles at once without slowing down.Doing 6 hours of crazy downhill leg work, a few full body lifts off the ground (falls happen!), getting up and down filming my son and his friend on the terrain park, and the thought of another 2 hour ride back home, it’s enough to wipe you out. But it’s such a good wiped out feeling!

Happiness ::: All in all… any day on the mountain is a happy day. And THAT is a feeling that I’ll share anytime.

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Aaaaaah… Saturdays.

SSS bubbleWomen play a boatload of roles throughout the week and so many times we find ourselves drowning with stress and guilt over splitting our priorities. We accomplish three things at once while others look on in awe or exhaustion… it’s just how we roll. Sometimes my head feels like it’s going to explode with all the stuff coming at me.

After starting to snowboard 7 years ago… I found that I have been able to train my brain to focus better and let go of all the piddly tasks, lists and responsibilities… at least for day. It’s probably mostly because if you don’t pay absolute attention when you’re on the mountain, you could die. (Let’s call it how it is – it’s a friggin dangerous sport.) But an even bigger reason is that snowboarding is something that defines who you are and is something that can encompass you. It can even make you feel like you have a secret alter ego – like you’re this chick who dashes into the other room to throw on snow pants with a studded belt and a bandana and emerges a total bad ass.

As soon as that alarm goes off on Saturday mornings, I wake up happier than I do all week knowing that today… I don’t have to be the chauffeur all over town, I don’t have to answer email after email or make dinner (chicken fingers on the mountain, baby!), I don’t have to log any training miles, coach any kids and I don’t have to be anywhere for ANYone at a particular time. My family and I head to the mountain of choice for that day and that is all we do. That’s all we HAVE to do.

I suppose this feeling of freedom can apply to any activity or hobby… mine just happens to be flying down a mountain with my feet strapped to a board that’s millimeters thick. The important thing for anyone who is stretched to their limits to remember is that you HAVE to find time for yourself with something you love to do to keep yourself balanced, sane, creative and healthy. It can be something as dangerously awesome as snowboarding… or it can be knitting (no offense, knitters… but where’s the EXHILARATION???). Pick your poison, but be sure to enjoy it regularly and not feel one once of guilt… because Monday morning you’ll trade your boots for heels and your board for a briefcase and be right back at it. Thank goodness for Saturdays. And even more thanks for snowboarding.

The Snow Queen

LisaI have to bow down to today’s stellar beginner snowboarder – 29-year old Lisa Sinnott. She accomplished in 6 hours what it took me 3 years to nail down… so I’ve got this mad emotional mix of jealousy, excitement and pride going! She was awesome.

I can’t accentuate enough how HARD snowboarding is to learn when you’re almost 30. Snowboarding uses muscles you never knew you had. Falling on packed snow shudders your whole body. You’re not as nimble as the little whippersnappers that blaze by you with their 3′ 6″ low center of gravity (damn them!). And to top it off… we have WORRIES – like “holy crap if I fall and break my wrist I can’t work then I’ll lose my job and be living in a box under that chair lift”. THAT kind of worry… so we tend to want to take it a little easier than your typical teenager who may think a broken arm is a “cool” way to get someone to carry their books and get out of chores.

Lisa, who just moved to Utica from Shanghai, China (after growing up in Germany) was a serious bad ass on the hill today. Falling leaf? Mastered by 11:00am. Toe side? Killin’ it by 11:30. Toe to heel turns nailed by noon and heel to toe turns were looking pretty sweet by the end of the day. Her husband Barry and I took turns bestowing our oodles of knowledge (!) on her – but ultimately her natural sense of balance and athleticism progressed her very quickly. (Did I mention she practiced Jiu Jitsu while in China? Yeah… that obviously helps!)

Once she made it all the way down the run without falling once (a very popular celebratory milestone!) she did a little fist pump in the air and I think she started to love her new sport. So now we have a brand new snowboarder in the crew and another lady on the snow, which in all of my travels I can assure you is a rarity. If there’s any ladies out there who would like some pointers on their first time out from someone their age who understands, I’d love to help out. Or maybe Lisa, “The Snow Queen” can share some of her own pointers! We’re betting she’ll be hitting jumps by mid-January, so be ready to keep up!

 

 

Why I Love to Board

photoThe season has started quite early this year with an epic CNY dump of 18″ right after Christmas and more coming down each day… so the slopes are overflowing with happy boarders sporting their newly unwrapped gear. My son Deondre has been out 3 times already and the whole family is going out tomorrow together. I thought I would capitalize on his pumped-up-ed-ness and have him write a guest blog. (He’s been off school all week, so I’m secretly disguising it as a writing assignment to keep his brain sharp. #ParentingWin!) but it’s also important to reflect on why you love doing what you do and to stop and appreciate it. So I’m passing the laptop over to D. Enjoy!

Hello my name is Deondre. I started to snowboard when I was 5 years old – this is my 7th season out! My stepdad Brett taught me how to snowboard.

I love snowboarding because I get to go to all different towns and meet new friends.I like to hang out with my friends on the the mountain,and learn new tricks from them.I get to get out of the house and stay on the mountain for the whole day sometimes or half a day. I like looking at videos on YouTube to study the different terrain parks before we go to a new place. I also like how I get to spend time with family – my mom and stepdad snowboard, too. You also get a lot of exercise from snowboarding – you work out your leg muscles a lot!

On December 30, 2012 I did my first 360 of the season at Big Val in Utica NY.

My goals for this season are to get a 360 grab and to go to Killington again. This year we have a lot of snow so far. We usually don’t go out for the first time until my birthday in early January, but it’s more fun to get out earlier!

 

Location, Location, Location!

I have heard my share of people bitching about living in Utica, NY (or Central NY as a whole for that matter). On any given day, you might catch me being a little negative about it myself, but as we’re getting ready to dive into snowboard season, I wanted to share something awesome about it – LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

DSC_3303This summer, my adventurous family of three did a West Coast trip through Oregon, Washington and Northern California. Along the way, one of our favorite sites was the majestic peak of Mt. Hood jutting up into the July sky. Snow in July – that was enough to make it one of the coolest things we saw on the trip. (Although the gum wall in Seattle was pretty sweet, too) From that point, my son kept telling us how much he wanted to move out to Portland so he could go to Mt. Hood all the time. ALL them time??… that got me thinking.

We usually go boarding about 10 times per season and we don’t hit the same resort more than twice per season. We like trying new spots, being adventurous, taking road trips and rating spots by everything from their terrain parks to the quality of their chicken tenders.  (You know, the important stuff.)

Would I like to head out and start a sassy new life in Portland, Oregon with it’s quaint, convenient food carts, Voo Doo Doughnut and that school bus that serves grilled cheese? Heck yeah. But to go to one mountain over and over day in and day out? Nah… boring! Enter one of the greatest benefits of our fine city of Utica – proximity to the East Coast’s best ski and snowboarding resorts.

We can reach resorts in as short a drive as 30 minutes at our local Woods Valley or within a quick 4-5 hours we can be at the all-terrain park Mountain Creek in Northern NJ, Killington and Mt. Snow in Vermont, Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts or Camelback and Jack Frost in Pennsylvania. 3-1/2 hours takes us out to Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid – the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Two hours gets us to Bristol out by Rochester with a great 2-mile long run or Windham down in the Catskills. Seemingly infinite possibilities of snowy goodness are a short drive away for us. New York state alone has over 50 ski areas – more than any other state (who knew?!)

Next time you’re feeling a little down about living in Central NY and Portland, Oregon is looking sexier and sexier… think about how close you are to that crisp feeling of freedom being on top of a mountain with your snowboard, your family and no worries. In more ways than one, it’s all right around the corner. Get ready for a great season!

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No snow? Who cares?!

This has been a less than awesome winter on the snow tip. Up here in Central New York we’ve had a wimpy 23 inches this season. The all-time season low is 46 or so inches – so it’s on par to be the suckiest winter EVER.

If you’re a snowboarder who looks forward to falling flakes and great days out hittin’ the mountain (and if you’ve invested big time in gear and possibly even a season pass!) you want to get OUT! During this season, we have just taken the stance that we’re going to enjoy ourselves – not matter what the snow conditions are (or aren’t). Having a great attitude and enjoying yourself no matter the circumstance will definitely help you get much more out of your season.

We’ve been out six times so far and I have to hand it to the resorts that are really kickin’ butt – they’re making snow around the clock and providing a great time despite Mother Nature’s stubornness. Yeah, the snow’s a little slow and slushy… yeah, you really have to watch for ice and powder is practically non-existent… but who cares?! You’re still out loving your sport, getting exercise, traveling to new places and chowing on chicken fingers in the lodge – all while not totally freezing your butt off and not sitting at home sulking. To us, it’s been a GREAT season.

Shout out to Bristol, Labrador, Woods Valley, Windham, Gore and Snow Ridge … and we still have about five weeks left. We’re planning a trip down to Jersey to hit up Mountain Creek (I grew up a couple towns over!) and we’re thinking about trying to squeeze in a big trip to Vermont before we’re out of time. Why not?

Hope your season is rockin, too – it’s not too late to get out!!!

Showin’ the Love with Shred Love

Kayla and Jackie at the top of the mountain!

Right when I met 8-year old Kayla, sportin’ her mini metallic gold Burton ski pants, I knew it was going to be a great day!

My son Deondre, his friend Giovanni and I went down to Windham to catch up with Shred Love, a stellar non-profit based in Bayonne, New Jersey, and to help mentor some kids on the mountain. The organization “teaches inner city youth life lessons and values through snowboarding”. They provide everything necessary to give the participants a full learn-to-ride experience: lift tickets, gear, lessons, equipment, transportation, a continental breakfast, and lunch.

Shred Love was founded and is run by the fabulous Elizabeth “Liz” Royster. Liz was exposed to skiing as a part of her 8th grade field trip back in 1991. She didn’t get back on the mountain until 2008 By day, she is a Senior Quality Assurance Test Analyst at a financial firm, mom of three kids… and on the weekends, she’s out tearing up the mountains with Shred Love. It is through Shred Love that she hopes to empower and encourage others to take part and ownership in the development of today’s youth. You can read more about Liz, Mel, Geneva and the crew here.

I got teamed up for the day with Jackie and Kayla – young ladies who are not only great snowboarders, but lovely and pleasant as well. Jackie is very aware and helpful –she watched over Kayla, made sure the chair lift operator slowed it down for them and was seen on many ocassions making sure that other skiers and boarders were ok when they fell. And Kayla, with her uber cuteness and politeness, impressed two middle-aged skiers by giving them a big “thanks!” after they complimented her on a great toe-side turn – they admittedly/jokingly “didn’t know that snowboarders could even be polite”. She showed them!

The Three Amigos - Deondre, Jadon and Giovanni

Deondre and Giovanni got to hang with 12 year old Jadon, who was just dying to hit the park with some kids at his level. It was a match made in heaven! The two traveling with me didn’t stop talking about it our whole 2-hour trip home to the north and I heard later on that Jadon was talking about it for the 2 hours home to the south. It was tremendous to see a connection that 3 boys who live in 2 different states made in half a day… they “talked shop”, showcased their skills on the terrain park, ate lunch together and I think said goodbye and hugged like 3 or 4 times, not wanted to leave one another. My favorite thing that I heard Jadon say that day about snowboarding was, “I love it. I just gotta DO it!”

Shred Love had it’s largest group ever that day – kids of all ages and backgrounds that took the trek up from Jersey on the bus to enjoy a beautiful day out in the snow, either learning how to board for the first time ever or honing their skills. As I looked at somewhere close to 30 kids piling off the bus and pulling snowboards and bags galore from the storage area under the bus, I automatically thought of all the planning, liability, coordination, scheduling, phone calls and emails, and just straight LOVE that gets put into the organization. And yet Liz, (who looks so young she darn near blends right in with everyone!), was calm, collected and just doing her thing. The kids knew the drill, flew through the rental area seamlessly, got their gear and passes in order, hit the mountain and were timely for lunch and meeting at the end of the day. You could tell they felt comfortable and confident that they knew what to do – like they were at home.

Shred Love founder Liz, me and Mel after a day of shredding!

The amount of lifeskills packed into that day were amazing to me – teamwork, time management, gratitude, respect for authority, following rules, looking out for one another, trust, goal setting, making new friends… the list goes on and on.

I was so impressed and really can’t say enough about everyone involved. I hope we get to shred a lot more with Shred Love in the coming years and continue the great friendships that were made on one AWESOME day on the mountain!!! Stay tuned for more… we’ll be catching up with them again down at Windham in late February!