Saturday, 14 April 2007

Heavenly creatures

My journey towards becoming a professional snowboarder has finally begun. I'm in Lake Tahoe, northern Callifornia where I've hooked up with my friend Sam who works at the Heavenly mountain resort. After just two days of riding my enitre body is in agony and covered in bruises but I am loving it.

It's been a while since I last posted, was a strange couple of weeks where I was mainly concentrating on getting over my homesickness. Had some great nights out for 1st Thursday on South Congress and seeing a band called the White Ghost Shivers. I also made some new friends who helped make Austin feel more like home. They know who they are (assuming they're reading). More on all this stuff another time. For now I'm want to tell you about what's been going on here in Tahoe.

So I flew up to Reno International airport on Tuesday and strolled off the play to find the place covered from wall-to-wall slot machines, shinning with their gaudy reds and golds promising fortunes to anyone stupid enough to plant their ass down long enough. Reno I guess is like the mini-Vegas, or maybe Blackpool, of Nevada, it has all the big neon light casinos, strip clubs and tacky shows you could hope for. Thank God I'm not hanging around there. Sam, who I've known since university comes to pick me up and it's brilliant to see him. Sam started snowboarding when we were going to Utah State University together and has pretty much been traveling round the world season to season ever since (with the exception of the broken leg years). I promised Sam years back that I'd come snowboarding with him, and I'm almost more excited to be keeping that promise than I am just to be going snowboarding at all.

In many ways I guess Lake Tahoe is exactly what you expect from a ski resort town in the North West of America. Surrounded by Pine woodland, mountains, very touristy (you can tell many of the homes are holiday homes) and with the added bonus of a huge lake. The vistas are immaculate. We are literally just across the border from Nevada, so immediately across the state line there's a collection of casinos to entertain the holiday crowds at night. Sam lives in employee housing with an interesting group of characters (Renick, Stan and Tim). They're all nice guys and don't seem to mind me hanging around their place at all.

Sam hooked me up with kit for riding and snuck me onto the mountain the first day, dodging pass scanners with all the deftness of a budget traveler. I gotta be honest, it was painful. I spent a lot of time slamming into my butt cheeks, seems I favour the right-hand cheek. I do start to get the hang of what I'm doing slowly but surely, toes and heels guys, toes and heels. It doesn't take long before I've had a couple of face plants. One of which seems to have badly bruised a rib (I hoping it's not worse) and has made it difficult to do anything - including laughing (which I do a lot as most of you know) and breathing. Being at altitude too is exascerbating this as I am constanting short of breathe. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the first day, but as anyone who knows me will testify, I'm a pretty competitive chap. I don't like failing AT ALL. And so I was getting really frustrated at my inability to quick up riding faster. That said, Sam tells me I'm doing really well for my first day. If I'm 100 per honest, I'd say I didn't enjoy the first day as much I had hoped. But this was for no reason other than the fact that after I slammed my ribs I just wanted off the mountain and it took forever. I felt somewhat defeated and vaguely ego-deflated.

Second day comes round and I start pushing really hard under Sam's excellent tutilage (oh, I also bought myself some snowboarding boots, which is very exciting and feels like a longer term commitment). See, it pays to have friends who are also snowboarding instructors, or journalists, or nurses, or restaurant managers, or sparkies. The learning curve has really started to kick in finally and I start linking turns in between wiping out. That said, every time I end up on my arse is a perfect opportunity to take in the amazing view fromt he top of Heavenly's slopes. It's stunning. From the top on a clear day you can see right across Lake Tahoe which is entirely surrounded by snow covered mountains. It's not the highlands like, but it's a fair compromise I think.

Next day I decide to take off and let my body recover as much as possible - God knows it needs it. Off I head on a meander around Tahoe with the mission of finding some new board shorts and flip flops for Coachella. This is a big step for me. I've never been a flip flop kinda guy, but I've decided that 2007 is the flip flop year for me. Already I feel like I've grown up and grown even further into my hippy personna. I am a little preoccupied by the fact that I think the pair I bought are a size too big, but so be it. Moan Moan Moan.

Tahoe is an interesting former American West frontier town and I'm keen to explore it further. I don't know too much about it's history as yet, but I shall investigate and report back. I suspect that there's a history of trading here, I think there is a big Native American past to investigate too. To be honest though, I've been way too tired since I got here to do home work. Riding all day is totally exhausting so my stories of evening debauchery is limited to, er, Sierra Nevada beer and a night at Lakeside Casino, which for anyone who knows 'Swingers' is what you could call 'old school'. Two dollars beers though - nice.

I just got through my third day on the slopes and it was by far and away my best day - add to this my new riding partner for the day, Renick, who proved to be really good mountain company with plenty of helpful tips. In fact today was awesome. I was carving out S-turns the entire way down various runs on the mountain, cruising the whole way down without falling (until the end, which seems to have added whiplash to my growing list of ailments). I managed to just about overcome most of my fears and started to get a real buzz out of what I was doing. The snow started to fall pretty heavy towards the end of the day too, which was so cool. My adrenline was pumping and my euphoria at the experience hitting a new high. I now know for sure this will not be the last time I go snowboarding. In fact I have a strong suspicion that this could become a big part of my life.

Back on the slopes tomorrow, it's snowed a lot the past day, so with a little luck we might have a bit of powder to ride tomorrow. Sweeeeet!

Oh, and finally, I booked my flights to San Francisco for the 25th July through to 31st July. Which meansI'm spending my birthday In San Fran and seeing Daft Punk in Berkeley on the night before, which is clearly awesome. Now all I need to do is find someone to come with me... Any takers?


Laura Kyle ( said...

I'm linking to your blog on mine cuz I like it, just thought I'd let you know,


Jon Mackin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon Mackin said...

what does exacerbate mean?