The end of the snowboarding season always reminds me of the way you feel the day after Christmas as a kid. You know it’s over and even though people tell you it’ll be back next year, it doesn’t make you feel any better. I’ll get over it in a few weeks when the weather warms up and I remember all the awesome things you can do in the summer.
Getting better at my switch riding: I really pushed myself this year to get on my uncomfortable edge and make it more home-like. My muscle memory improved a lot and it’s really fascinating how much more aware I am of my movements when I’m switch. In some movements, I almost feel like I have better coordination than my regular side which makes me wonder… should I have been a goofy rider all along? I rode goofy on a skateboard before I started snowboarding, but for some reason I went regular on a board and learned that way.
More progress on my regular carving: I didn’t make tons of improvement here, but I did incorporate a frontside grab while riding my heel side, a la Ryan Knapton (below).
Finding out where my skills stand: I decided to buy a group lesson at Breck this year because I felt like I had plateaued and I needed some help breaking through. The goal was to work on my carving on bumpy black terrain.
When I go to Colorado, I start out pretty humble and work my way up from their greens to blacks until I find my edge. So when I showed up for my lesson, I made sure I described how I ride instead of what I can ride. Sure, I can show up in Colorado and get from the top of a black to the bottom, but that doesn’t mean I’m riding it well. I told the instructors that I’m confident and comfortable carving dynamically on blues, but I don’t have the control or style I want on blacks.
Initially, I was sized up for a Level 5 workshop, while everyone else talked about double black diamonds and what they “could” ride. The instructors started grouping those riders in the higher level workshop. I felt a little pang of sadness as I realized where I was being placed, but I said, “Hey, this is Colorado and everything is relative. They know best.”
The instructors took all of us to a blue run and asked us to mimic their medium-sized dynamic carves for about 50 yards. One-by-one, everyone showed their rendition. No one looked great. I went down, got low, and made my turns just the way I wanted. As we all met up on the side of the slopes, I heard the instructors switching me to the top level lesson and all those double-black-diamond-talking riders got demoted to the mid-level class. Justice!
I was so excited. All the work I’ve put toward my carving over the past years felt like it was finally validated. I’ve done something right on our humble 200-foot Michigan slopes! I’m riding near a level 7 on a scale of 10. When we asked our instructor what it takes to get to level 10, he said riding switch down double blacks. I’ll be happy if I solidly place myself in level 8 any time down the road. :)
More experience riding steeps, bumps, and glades in Colorado: We don’t get a lot of experience on these terrains in Michigan and when I go to Colorado I admit I’m probably a little more careful than I need to be in approaching this kind of riding. Early powder dumps during my trip gave me some extra cushion and forgiveness in these areas and, when it got packed down, I had the confidence to hit them again. I can’t wait to work on steep, bumpy terrain again. I can see it occupying my focus for years and years. I don’t know how much progress I can make with only one trip a year, but it’s fun to have something to shoot for. :)
More confidence taking airs: I’m not good at kickers yet, but I’ve become really comfortable riding up to drop offs at high speeds and sucking my body up to take the air as the slope falls beneath. I love it!
Taking care of my own gear: This year I started doing all my own tuning and waxing. It’s really relaxing to work on your board in between riding sessions. It makes you feel even more connected to the gear that’s keeping you safe and happy out there.
All and all, a good year, but I think I could have worked more on switch and airs instead of spending so much time on my regular riding.
Game plan for next year:
More switch riding.
Better steep, mogul carving.
Elbow drags while carving hard on my toe-side edge. Right now, I can slide my glove along the slopes without reaching much. I want to get nearly sideways with my carves and having my elbow on the ground will be proof of that.
Kickers. Something in me hates kickers. I just don’t feel stable on them and I don’t want to take a bunch wind-knocked-out-of-you falls just to figure it out. I need to come up with a way to practice these without much risk while I get my feet beneath me. The lesson in Colorado gave me more confidence since someone was watching me and could correct my mistakes right when I was making them. I’ll probably go that route or take a local lesson.
Photos of the season:
I don’t take much time or attention away from snowboarding to take pictures, but here’s a few moments I captured.
It was absolutely down pouring at A-Basin when I arrived. I’ve never been in snow falling that heavily :) By the time you got back up to the top of a run, it was refreshed with new powder for you!