This winter, I learnt to snowboard and fully embraced the sport, having fallen in love it. After buying a ski pass to the local Wintergreen Ski Resort and purchasing a moderately priced board, boots, helmet and goggles, I put my shame aside and tumbled down the slopes: “powder” is a very loose name for something that can hurt so much. Expert skiers and snowboarders went whizzing by: everyone was better than me, including children that could not have been more than two years old. My rule was to do something that terrified me every day: learning how to slow down, but only facing backward; getting on and off the lift; sliding down the slope and breaking with the front edge; turning and, finally, slaloming.
For anyone wanting to take up snowboarding with no lessons or help, I suggest the following: find your local ski shop and buy a board and boots. A pretty good beginners board is between $200 and $300 and boots will run you about $100. The shop can fit your bindings for you, so take advantage of their knowledge. You can go crazy with bindings, rocker and fancy laces, but you won’t need any of that for at least a year or more. You can rent a helmet for about $10 if you don’t want to buy one right away (a good helmet is about $150 and $200), but ALWAYS wear one. Wrist guards are also relatively cheap insurance, especially considering they are only $15 and you are going to fall a lot. Then, find a quiet place on a green slope and go at it. The first few times you just want to get a feel for everything and braking with your edge should be your first goal, so you can control speed. After that, just watch and try. YouTube is also a great resource.
Breaking the chains of my local ski resort, I ventured on the slopes of Squaw Valley in Tahoe and Breckenridge. High school was perhaps the last time I was so intimidated: if you have ever been to Squaw or Breck, you know the average level of ability. I was the mediocre jogger showing up at the Olympic Marathon, hoping no one would notice.
The love for the sport was a direct reflection of my pride and sense of achievement. Then, just as my slaloming was now smooth on greens and blues and I could enjoy a whole day on the slopes with no falling or fear, spring arrived.
I am now dealing with my first year of snowboarding withdrawals. I look at my board, still in its bag from my last trip to Colorado and it makes me very sad. Snow in the summer seems like and impossibility, but high Alpine glaciers are a year-round snowboarding mecca. Here is my top-five list of places to calm my summer blues and find some snow.
Zermatt and the Matterhorn: just as spectacular in the winter as in the summer, the Matterhorn is truly one of the most beautiful mountains in the World and one of the best places to snowboard in the summer. If you want to experience the Matterhorn but spend about half, head to Cervinia, on the Italian side of the Matterhorn, called Monte Cervino in Italian.
Whistler, British Columbia: Whistler has a great combination of summer skiing and summer sports: it’s also really easy to get to from anywhere in the USA.
Stubal Glacier, Austria: Stubal is one of the largest glaciers in Austria and it comes with plenty of accessories like 75 kilometers of groomed slopes, a terrain park and an awesome viewing platform to remind me how much more I still have to learn
Cerro Bayo, Patagonia: instead of searching for snow in the summer, you could also just search for winter in the summer and head to the southern hemisphere. Patagonia is possibly one of the most beautiful and still rugged places in the World. A far and welcome cry from zoos like Breckenridge.
Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood: this is the closest to year-round snowboarding in the USA and also a great place to fully embrace running and mountain biking. Just in case I lose my passport…