Thursday, November 09, 2006

Powder suck

Well, I made good on my promise and went snowboarding today. Actually, I take that back. I went hikeboarding today - meaning I hiked my board up a mountain, and then I hiked it back down.

Nearly two years off a board has washed my memory of the fact that I am really not very good at it. Especially when the condition of the snow is 18" of wet powder atop a base of rocks, squatty spruce bushes, and the spiny, skeletal remains of Devil's Club shoots. It's really too bad, because the day started out so well.

We started at the base of a closed-down Eaglecrest Ski Resort, with temperatures in the low 30s and huge snowflakes falling from a partly cloudy sky. We found a well-packed trail and marched up to the top of the mountain in less than an hour. Staring down at 1,400 feet of vertical, I was giddy - "I could do two more of these today," I thought. And the view from the top was great.

Unfortunately, the drop from the top was sheer and we are but novices coming off a long hiatus. It was not the time to launch into a black diamond run. So we hiked around the face and started at a spot that rollercoastered slowly downward, with several hills that involved a progressive repetition of: inching forward on my back edge; carving a single turn; shooting at an uncomfortable speed down a straight line; digging my board into one of the aforementioned spruce branches; finding my momentary thrill as I shot into the air; before tumbling face-first into two feet of loose snow that had roughly the same density as liquid lead. After the flailing, digging, swearing aftermath finally set me free from my snowman cocoon, I'd hike up the next hill and start anew.

This process basically continued for 1,400 vertical feet - except for when we reached lower elevations, the bushes actually stuck out of the snow, and I was struck through my pants more than once by painful Devil's Club spines. When I finally reached the bottom, it was nearly two hours later, closing in on sunset, and I was exhausted. Geoff fared a little better - but not much. At the base, he immediately threw his board back on the car and spent the few minutes of remaining daylight cross-country skiing.

I think it was a smart move on my part to take up snowbiking last year. All the other gear-assisted winter sports are just not my friends. Oh, I'll keep snowboarding. Just point me to the groomers.