From the Ocean to the Mountain: My First Snowboarding Experiences

Lene Baxter at Valle Nevado Ski Resort, Chile

Lene Baxter at Valle Nevado Ski Resort, Chile

How do I start?  I am living in Chile.  One and a half months ago, I was living on an island that never was never “colder” than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  Now, I don Uggs for Reefs.  My clothes are still Roxy, Billabong…except now it’s a jacket instead of a t-shirt.  So what do you do when you go from an endless summer to a place with..SEASONS..?

…And then I learned how to snowboard…

First day snowboarding

First day snowboarding

I had learned how to Ski while at West Point.  It wasn’t difficult to pick up.  In truth, it didn’t seem so much different from ice skating.  I hadn’t considered snowboarding because, at that time, I had never really been on any kind of board.  While in China, I decided to try Snowboarding for half of a day.  It was icy and I had no idea what I was doing.  The day was spent half on my face, half on my butt and left me with the feeling that I wasn’t made for the cold.

Since those times, I have spent my life on the beach teaching kiteboarding.  Chile had not even been a consideration of mine (of course, things change!).  So, when I decided to move to Santiago, trying Snowboarding seemed like a good choice for a location in the middle of its winter.

Before going up to the mountain, I had the task of setting up my board.  I have set up countless kiteboards, but there was an issue with the screws that came with my Burton Scribe Bindings.  It turns out that there was a coating on the screw that made it difficult the first time you use them.  The unfortunate thing about that is that it feels as if you are stripping out the box when you try to screw it in.  So, I went to SkiTotal, a local shop that runs buses up to the mountain, but also has a Pro shop and rental equipment.  I met Pablo, a local Chilean, who helped me out and turned out to be a great riding buddy!

My first day at Valle Nevado, a resort about 1 hour (without traffic or poor road conditions) outside of the city.  Miguel and I spent half of the day riding (me snowboarding, him skiing) before I took an hour lesson with my instructor, Daniel.  It went great!  I went from having trouble transitioning to my toe side edge to being able to actually ride!  I was happy with my progress…considering it was my second day snowboarding (and really, my first seeing as how my first day was 3 years ago for about 3 hours).

Pablo and I on the way up

Pablo and I on the way up

Since that day, I have spent 5 more days at the mountain and I can say that I am completely addicted.  This past Wednesday, we received about 50 cm of snow.  Of course, that means a snow day Thursday!  I went up with Pablo and it was great!  Up until that point, I had not ridden off the trail.  He showed me how to ride in the powder.  That first powder run felt like I was floating!  It was amazing..much more like being on the water than riding on the trails!  Unfortunately, falling in deep powder can be incredibly frustrating.  At one point, after several minutes of trying to free myself, I thought..”great, will I ever get back up?”.  This is one of the things I love about riding with guys (kiteboarding..or snowboarding now..) is that they push you to ride better…more aggressively.

Powder at Valle Nevado

Powder at Valle Nevado

I have had one more lesson with Daniel which went great as well!  I learned more technique about my transitions and how to ride down a fall line on a narrow trail (next time is carving!).

So, in 6 days I have gone from having zero experience on a snowboard to riding black trails.  During my time, I will be sharing my experience learning.  It is a great winter alternative to kiteboarding and something I simply can not get enough of (although my bank account may feel the hit…the beach is free, but lift tickets are not!).

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