Monday, May 22, 2006

Snowboard Fakie

Without mountains nearby, I've gone through physical withdrawals knowing I can't snowboard. This sounds ridiculous, but at times my feet actually tingle, my eyes actually tear and my chest actually tightens. So I spend hours online looking for cheap ways to be mountain bound, yet plans have fallen through since January.

Until recently.

When I first heard of a two-week ski trip to France I backed out -- too much money and too much class time missed.

When I heard about it again, I thought harder, my feet tingled and I said yes -- but I still backed out.

The third notice sent me into a state of indecisiveness. I needed this trip, but it would set me back hundreds. For the sake of my sanity I needed this, but I would miss my grad classes. So, what did I do?

I called mom.

"Hi mom. There's this ski trip to France, which is an area I haven't ridden yet. But it's almost two weeks. But I really need to go because I might die if I don't. My feet tingle and my chest tightens ...sometimes..."

"Is it expensive?"

"Kind of."

"And you're missing class?"

"Kind of."



And I thought she would tell me to stay, save my money, go another time. I wanted to hear that moral rationale mother's are so good at. I wanted her to say this was a bad idea so I could lay it to rest.

"Why are you even second guessing this, you have to go!"

"What! Really?"

"Yes. Jeez Audrey, this is a chance of a lifetime!"

That's all I needed to hear. So I pedaled to the office, flew up the stairs, busted through the ISC (International Student Center) and practically shouted, "I MUST RIDE FRANCE!" The office response wasn't as enthusiastic as I had hoped, and a Very Tall Dutch threw me the sign up list.

"Put your name here. You're on the waiting list. Number two."

What?! No! I refuse! No really, I refused. I told the Very Tall Dutch he didn't understand, I needed to go, a waiting list wasn't good enough.

"Can you feel my absolute need here? I'm trying to give you a 'matter of life or death' vibe, right now. Can you feel it?"

He wasn't feeling it.

I said I would sit in the aisle. Very Tall Dutch said no. I said what about a bigger bus? Very Tall Dutch called around, and said no. I said what about another university, Very Tall Dutch called another university and gave the only open spot to Number One on the waiting list.

"Hey, what the hell? You wouldn't have called if I wasn't here!"

"Yeah, but she's number one," said Very Tall Dutch.

"Yeah, but I deserve it more than this punk ass," I agued.

"Yeah, but that's my girlfriend."

Oops. Crap, blocked by the girlfriend. I had spent three hours in the ISC office, trying to find all possibilities available in my favor. Nothing was working. I was afraid. Afraid of losing. Afraid of a boardless spring. Afraid of Very Tall Dutch because I called his girlfriend a punk ass, and he's a lot bigger than me.

I would have walked out, head hung low and defeated, if it weren't for Barbara. Barbara knew all about my passion for riding -- because the week before I sat beside her for an hour and drunkenly slurred about it:

"Hey hey, ask me about 'shreddin the sick pow in my steeze' and hittin the asses."

"The asses?"

"No! The PASSES!"

Anyway, Barbara came just in time and asked if I had ever taught snowboard lessons. There was one opening on the list for a snowboard instructor...

Now, I've never taken a class on snowboard instructing. I've never been certified. I've never even been good at teaching others how to snowboard. But this seemed like my only open window so... I lied.

"Yeah I've taught for years!"

"Are you certified?"

"I used to be. But it expired. Those things expire fast in Colorado"

"Where did you teach?"


"Yeah, but where?"

"Ski Cooper."

"And you wouldn't mind teaching?"

"No, I love teaching!"

"Ok, well I'll call you tonight about it."

That night the ISC offered me a spot on the trip. My expenses were fully paid for in addition to the 200 Euros I'd be given for instructing eight students how to snowboard. Victory was mine.

A few days before the trip I asked myself how the hell was I going to teach eight foreigners how to snowboard? I thought back to the days when I was a beginner, but it was too long ago. The night before I started to worry, so I called Sarah Steinwand, a great friend who taught at Crested Butte this season, for a few tips.

"Hey Sarah, give me a ten minute run down on how to be a snowboard instructor."


"Because tomorrow I'm going to France to teach eight people how to ride."


"And the only way I could go was to tell them I was an instructor."


"So now I'm going for free and they're gonna pay me, so I need to act legit."


"I know!"


"I know!"

So I printed out the notes and memorized them on the 15-hour bus ride to La Plagne, France. Myself and 100 other ISN students arrived on a Saturday afternoon. It was raining below, which meant snowing above. While the rest waited to check into the condos (we stayed right on the mountain), I put my gear on and headed up.

It was one of those days where the snowfall is heavy yet silent. No wind. Fresh lines. Empty runs. I felt relief, at peace, excited, awe struck and really flippin lucky -- overall stoked as all hell.

The next day my act as an instructor began. It would last for five days, two hours a day, with nine students: Nacho from Spain, George from Portugal and eight Dutch. None had ever been on a mountain before. Fortunately if I acted really excited all the time, hollered constantly ("Bend your knees! Heel! Toe! Awesome! Woohoo! Nice turn!") and used a lot of hand and body movement I could pass as an instructor.

And it worked. Out of the five snowboard instructors, I was the only fake. However, the only class whose students never got injured? Mine. My students progressed more than all the others because I ditched the bunny hill and took them on more challenging runs. By the fifth day, they were intermediate snowboarders who could ride powder. All of them. I was amazed. And so proud of all of us...

I told them they're all naturals.

They told me it wouldn't have been possible without my help.

...I never told them I was an imposter.

The best part? I still had time to ride the massive ski area of La Plagne. Lessons were over by noon and lifts didn't close until 6:30. I had time to ride glaciers and off-piste powder everyday in the best conditions. Snow every night, sun and blue skies each day. The areas of amazing terrain and snow seemed endless- at times I felt like I was in my own snowboard film (soundtrack includes mostly RJD2, Queen, Jackson 5 and DangerDoom). Most of the mountain is above treeline, so runs were like a free for all.

I ended every day sweat-soaked and glowing from glorious spring shredding in France. I drank wine, ate cheese and sipped beer on lawn chairs. I partied hard and rode harder. Injured free.

The time of my life.


James said...

Haha! That is an awesome story! I don't know exactly how I found it (lie - I was Googleing Sarah's name cuz I was bored and miss her) but I love it!

James said...