But this winter something odd happened, something I never thought would happen--I became a snowboarder.
I don't mean that I have gone snowboarding this winter. I did that a few times when I was in my early to mid-twenties. After a night of too much drinking and not enough sleeping, my friends would drag me to the mountain and then ditch me or wait impatiently while I tried to get my act together. I never really developed the skills, even when I stopped constantly falling, and I can't really remember enjoying the activity. Not really. It was especially gruesome when "fresh powder" was the prize and the day began before the sunrise.
But now I am a snowboarder, and I too crave fresh powder. I finally understand the appeal, the need to get first tracks. I actually look forward to boarding, and I have found myself boarding in conditions I never thought I would venture out in: below freezing temperatures, winds of 20 to 30 miles per hours, falling snow, even rain. I no longer panic at the thought of exiting the chair lift (though I still fall sometimes), and I find myself smiling at the simple thought of boarding down the mountain. Sometimes I don't even want to take a break!
It helps that I have been re-learning on a small mountain. The mountains of Maine can hardly be called mountains compared to out West. But, Hermon Mountain is a small, local mountain. It has one chairlift and the same faces, obscured by goggles and wind-burn, appear again and again. It has night skiing, which I have come to love far more than day skiing. Again, to my surprise. Since my husband is volunteer ski patrol, my season pass means I can board whenever I want. And since I don't have to pay, I don't have to worry about getting the most for my money (which was always added pressure).
When I took up snowboarding this season I couldn't remember how long it had been since I had been on a snowboard--twelve to fifteen years! There was still a learning curve, though not the same painful curve of the first time learning how to balance, stand up, fall down, crash, get up, keep the heel edge, risk a toe turn, fall down, get up, and finally point the board down the hill. After many falls, after over-thinking, after icy conditions, the first snow day and real powder of the season gave me the confidence I needed.
But it also gave me more than just confidence. I finally understood the allure of the sport. I did not control my board; it simply took me down the mountain and I swear there were moments when I must have been flying. It sounds cliché, but it is true. Boarding in fresh powder is beyond any other experience and it cannot be explained, only lived. I finally pointed down the hill and went faster than I ever thought I would want to go. And it keeps getting better.
I even ventured off of my small local mountain, visiting Big Rock in Mars Hill and actually feeling the burn of sustained boarding down a run that takes longer than a minute to get back to the chair lift. As the pictures here attest, I somehow also agreed to snowshoe up Big Squaw mountain and snowboard down it. Fun in retrospect, this day (and others since) reminded me that confidence can be broken and must be relearned. It also taught me that my adorable fun dog is really, really annoying once the snowboards are strapped on and we are trying to get down the mountain. (That's another story there.)
Now, I look forward to snow days (and lament the end of snow days as the weather gets "nice"), which has also helped me to remember the importance of self-care. Those papers will still be there to be graded. My inbox will continue to fill. But this winter I have learned a new skill and found a new love. I have found a lost part of myself, and I have rekindled a love that is as permanent, challenging, and ever-changing as a mountain.