Day one, getting on board
Snowboarding was one of those things I just had to try.
So I came to France for a week’s tuition with Action Outdoors in awe inspiring Chamonix, the birthplace and spiritual home of extreme mountain sports.
Now, just six days since seeing snow for the first time I find my self on the brink of either glory or bone crunching doom.
On the precipice of my first black run I’m facing down a terrifying 200 metre drop so vertical it’s surely the quickest way to Hell. What on Earth am I doing? Am I crazy? How did I get here?
Day two, Green
Day one and everyone in the group is thinking the same thing; is this really sensible, putting yourself at the mercy of gravity on a hill covered in ice, both feet locked to a slippery plank with no brakes?
It looks so much steeper from the top, and this is just the green or ‘nursery’ run. Even the name is demeaning.
The psychological blows keep coming, along with the physical: there’s my war with the pommel tow, the multiple pile-ups I initiate at the top of the chairlift, the three-year-old ski munchkins flicking ice in my face as they fly past and my outfit is so last season.
Then the stacks: front ways, side ways, feet first, face first. Snowboarding hurts everywhere, body and soul. I and the others in the group have rarely laughed so hard though.
Day three, Blue
By day three I’m confidently leafing down the slope toe side and heel side. Swapping between the two or ‘turning’ is still problematic however, as it involves pointing the board straight down the mountain just long enough for velocity and the ensuing panic to take hold.
It’s the source of countless falls. Thankfully though I can now stop without having to use my arse or innocent strangers. I am making progress.
The group is ready for the piste proper and Bérengère, our instructor, leads us up to the blue run (cue chairlift pile-up). It takes us over an hour to descend. There are quite a few tantrums and the odd tear on the way, but by our arrival at the bottom something has clicked for all of us. We can do this. Geeze I’m sore though.
By Cameron Jenkins
Day four, Red
Day four is a revelation.
What took more than an hour yesterday takes just 20 minutes now. I’m nailing the turns and finding serious speed.
Maybe I’m still drunk from last night but I even seem to have learned how to fall so it doesn’t hurt … much.
On day five, after a quick lesson in how to ride the powder, Bérengère takes us up to the high red runs. It’s awesome. I’m really carving it up now. Then I catch an edge.
Not the kind of air you want.
Wipeout! I hit hard and slide down the hill head first, flat on my back with arms spread coming to a gradual and humiliating stop. Had I just invented the reverse crucifix? I doubt even Christ himself felt this kind of agony.
The snow Gods hath definitely forsaken thee.
Day six, Black
On the sixth day I awake to heavy thudding. Not just my head but the shelling carried out up the in mountains to blow away the avalanches after the heavy snowfall overnight.
It means powder and lots of it. My confidence and body are bruised and battered, but Michel, my new buddy insists; it’s the last day and there is one piste left to conquer.
We ditch the group and head for the black run. From the top the view across the valley to Mont Blanc and its glaciers is just stunning. A little closer to heaven and as good a place as any to die I figure. The adrenalin kicks in; this is what it’s all about.Turn, carve, turn. Too fast. Shit! Turn, carve. Fear gives in to exhilaration. The slope levels out. I did it!
Action Outdoors offer all-inclusive packages with full tuition: www.action-outdoors.co.uk.
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