I’ve wanted to go snowboarding for as long as I can remember. I’ve only been skiing once when I was about 16, at Killington in Vermont for a school ski trip. It was bloody amazing and I loved it, but for some reason I have never been again, even though I’ve wanted too. Natalie has skied before, on some dry slopes in Scotland, probably around the same time. I imagine we were both a bit more fearless back then. I also didn’t have 10 years worth of beer drinking and general laziness trying to hamper my efforts. So naturally we had no idea whether our bodies would just give up within minutes of strapping a board to our feet, or if we might actually have some fun.
We booked our lessons with Grouse Mountain back in November, partly because they had a 20% off early booking deal, but also because I was so excited that I wanted to book the moment they became available. We chose Grouse Mountain because it’s the easiest for us to get to (you can just get on a bus there, with one change in North Vancouver) as we don’t have a car. I’ve read that Cypress is actually the better of the three North shore mountains for skiing/snowboarding, but the added cost and effort of transport, and the fact that we’re just beginners, meant that Grouse was the obvious choice. In total, we paid $300 each for 4 lessons, spread over four Saturdays, including lift tickets and rentals. The lift tickets and rentals are good for the day, which means after the lessons we can stay on the mountain for as long as we want.
I ended up buying my own board and boots, so we got a refund on my rentals. I paid a grand total of $80 (£44) for my board and bindings, and although they’re a little old, they’re in pretty good condition and have worked perfectly so far. I picked up some Burton snowboard boots for $100, and so far they’ve also been ok, although I’ve had some issues with my toes going numb, but I think that was mainly down to me being a bit keen when tightening the laces, and my bindings!
Our first lesson was booked for Saturday 11th January, so we (mostly me) spent pretty much the whole of November and December reading everything we possibly could about snowboarding, snowboards, boots, helmets, goggles, jackets, every bloody thing I could. When I decide to do something like this, I like to research it. Sometimes I actually find researching stuff more fun than actually doing it, like when I buy a new phone or TV, I like scouring forums for user reviews and stuff. Pretty sad, but hey ho! Fortunately, by the time the 11th came around, both Natalie and I were completely geared up, head to toe, thanks to some bargain finds in Sport Chek (which is like a less pikey version of Sports Direct back home), and also some awesome Christmas presents from family.
As our lessons were due to start at 9.30am, and we were told we needed to be up the top of the mountain by 8.30am to sort out rentals, we decided to get an early night on the Friday. Unfortunately I woke up at 3am because I was so excited and then couldn’t sleep until our alarms went off at 6am, which is when we got up. I felt really nervous for some reason, I always panic about stuff like this, not the snowboarding itself, but making sure we got the bus on time, worrying about whether we’ve got the wrong date, that my cheap snowboard might snap in half, all sorts. I was a bit of a state by the time we made it to the mountain at around 8am, but once we had our passes, Natalie had her rental gear, and we had a chance to chill out before the lesson, I was feeling much better.
We are in a group with 7 other people, which I thought was an ok size, but after our second lesson last week I’m beginning to think that 7 is too many, as the gap between the people who have picked things up faster, and those who haven’t, has become a bit tricky for our instructor to manage. I feel like the lessons are going at quite a slow pace now, and some other bloke clearly agrees with me as he pretty much ended up doing his own thing halfway through our second lesson. We started out with some basic skating on flat surfaces (one foot in your bindings, the other foot is used to push yourself around). This is much harder than I thought it would be, but we eventually got the hang of it. We then learned how to slide on our toe edge, and our heel edge, then how to control these slides so you can move left and right. By the end of the first lesson I felt very comfortable with all of this, so I actually tried doing some turns, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. After some lunch and a couple more hours on our own practicing what we had learned, we called it a day at around 4pm and headed home.
We were both a bit sore for a few days after our first lesson, Natalie probably more so than me as she had fallen awkwardly on her wrist/arm. By the time the next lesson a week later had come around we were both really excited to get going again. The weather for our second lesson was so much better than our last, so much so that we could actually see more than 20ft in front of us, which was a bonus. As we rode the SkyRide up the mountain we left the low clouds and fog in the city and was welcomed by bright blue skies and sunshine. The view was absolutely incredible. There was a sea of cloud as far as the eye could see, and only the tops of one or two buildings in Vancouver could be seen poking through. Mount Baker in distant Washington state looked bigger than I’ve ever seen it, even though we were further away from it than normal. It was amazing, and it made our second day so much more enjoyable.
Before our lesson started I surprised Natalie with a very important question. It all happened very quickly, but I did manage to ask a random bloke to hold my GoPro for me while I did it, so we got a great video of the moment and some good photos too. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
Unfortunately the ring was too big, so we’ve posted it back off to Blue Nile to be resized, which means Natalie will be without it for a couple of weeks. We both can’t wait to get it back so we can properly feel engaged 🙂
Back to snowboarding! We finally moved the lessons onto the main green run on the mountain, which is called The Cut. It’s a fairly long run which has a mixture of steep and flat sections, so it’s good to practice on. Once the instructor had shown me how to actually turn (instead of me just guessing how to do it like I did the week before), I found it relatively easy to pick up. I was linking turns all the way down the run and only had a few falls – well, quite a few, but for the most part I felt I was doing really well. There is one other girl in our group who is struggling quite a lot, so this is where I felt the lesson started going incredibly slowly. A couple of others have picked up turning quite well too, so I think they feel the same. It’s a shame for the girl who is struggling, hopefully she doesn’t feel too bad about it. It’s always going to happen with a big group of people though.
Natalie has nailed her heel edge slide, and we just need to spend some time practicing her toe edge slide next week before we get her turning. I can’t wait until we both feel confident with our snowboarding so that we can explore the rest of the mountain together. It will take a few more attempts I’m sure, but we’ll both get there eventually.
One thing I definitely need to stop doing is looking behind me. The rules of the mountain is that it’s your responsibility to stay out of the way of people in front of you, so why I feel the need to keep checking behind me I don’t know. In doing so, I ended up having a pretty spectacular fall, which I managed to catch on video, and also got some pretty funny photos!
After snowboarding we headed home and chilled out for a while before going out for a celebratory dinner at Tap & Barrel, over the water from where we live, near Science World. Tom and Sarah, if you’re reading this, this is where we had that terrible waitress that we didn’t tip. Fortunately the service was much better this time, and we even got two free glasses of champagne as we told them we had just got engaged. We noticed after leaving that the bill was incredibly cheap, and it turns out they also didn’t charge us for one of my beers and a glass of wine. So it came to a grand total of $37, bargain!
I feel like I’ve written loads, and I still haven’t mentioned San Francisco yet, so I’ll get to that now. Before we head home in the middle of March we wanted to have one final trip somewhere. We’d considered the road trip to Calgary, which looks like it’ll never happen unfortunately, but we ended up deciding to go somewhere a little warmer, and chose San Francisco. We’ve both wanted to visit the city for so long, and we’re really excited that it’s all finally booked. We’ll be getting a bus down to Bellingham on Sunday 2nd March, staying near the airport for one night, and then getting on our incredibly cheap flight ($49.99 each way, plus taxes) to San Francisco with Allegiant Air. We’re staying in San Francisco for a total of 5 nights, and we’re particularly looking forward to our final night there as Natalie’s brothers, Mark and David, are putting us up in a fancy hotel as an engagement present. We can’t wait, thank you both!
I will also finally get to drive a Mustang, as we’ve hired one for a day so that we can take a drive out to Yosemite National Park, another place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. It’ll mean lots of driving on that day, but we’ll have a Mustang, so it’s all good!
That’s pretty much all I have to say for now. We’ve got some exciting weeks to look forward to as we try and pack as much in before we leave for home. I’m off to a Canucks game with work this week, then we have snowboarding again on Saturday, and we’re hoping to go up to Grouse again one night next week for some night time snowboarding. It’s all very exciting!