Sometimes the question isn’t even asked, and the answer is assumed. I have the aura of a hardcore carver slung off the mountain after a day of slashing the slopes, simply because I have a beard, long hair, and say “dude” more than seven times a day. Add those things to the fact that I’m from Colorado and know the names of impressive ski resorts I’ve never been to, and I’m practically a minor deity of slopes.
Back in middle school, I chose to snowboard simply because it was the cool option, the slopes’ version of Nike or Apple. Skiers get down the slope; boarders get down the slope in style. And like any life pursuit, the boarding lifestyle can slowly consume an entire personality, changing your pants to poofy balloons that ride on your lower knee, your lexicon from “sir,” “ma’am,” and “excellent” to “dude,” “bro,” “tight,” and “rad,” and your social group to people who probably smoke a lot of pot.
I never got too far in the whole sport or lifestyle. To be quite frank, I’m not a very accomplished snowboarder, nor even a particularly “manly” one. I’ve only ever managed to go about once a year, just enough time in between times on the slope to still qualify as a rank grommet and go home with bruised buttocks.
People assume when I tell them I broke my wrist boarding I was doing a backflip double sowcow revert off a twenty-foot ramp when the real reason is I flopped down like an uncoordinated goat after somehow being turned around backwards down a steep slope.
I remember that day. The sky looked very grey from my spot on the ground, and my head hurt, and I had absolutely no desire to get to my feet. It had been a long day; my temperament was touchy; my butt was utterly broken. So I stayed there until my wrist generally came to make itself known with little barks and yelps, and as I negotiated my way to my feet, I quickly found that it was—for lack of a better word—screwed. Somehow, in my emotionally distraught state, I then disconnected my snowboard—not a good idea by the way—because, I don’t know, sometimes I do dumb things.
As I watched my board shoot down the slope, sliding gracefully over undulations and cusps of snow straight to a cordoned area under a chair lift, I reflected that the board without me was a far better snowboarder than with me. With wrist starting to throb, I stumbled down the hill and was yelled at when I tried to sneak under the yellow caution tape around the lift area. The attendant stopped the lift, leaving skiers and snowboarders swinging in their chairs where they stared down at me, and he retrieved my snowboard while I cradled my arm.
Eventually I found my father and explained what happened, choking back tears. While he went for the car, I sat hunkered on a snow bank beside the parking lot, hunching over my arm. I felt my stomach expand its way into my throat, and I bawled like a Republican without his tax breaks.
With snow on the peaks, that memory comes back and taps me on the shoulder. I’ve come a long way since that day, and at the same time, not very far at all. In Wanaka, the nearest resorts—Treble Cone (TC if you’re cool or like to abbreviate) and Cardrona—are open.
The whole town’s milieu has changed from German trampers and the Asian tour bus multitudes to people who can’t seem to survive without a beanie on their head and who wear baggy, slippery pants that rustle more than a plastic bag in a wind turbine. Some even go so far as to clomp all around town in their boarding boots, which seems awkward as all hell but assures any passerby that you are right off the slopes and can’t be bothered with “real shoes.”
The resorts aren’t even that large compared to places in North America and Europe, but for snowbirds (people who change hemispheres to stay with winter), the southern hemisphere doesn’t have many other places to go. This is not to take away from those singular resorts—I’m sure they make up for size in quality—but does raise question as to why it costs over one thousand dollars for a season pass to either Treble Cone or Cardrona.
Sure, I’d like to get past my painful memories by conquering my fears on the slopes. But I’m held back by poverty, clear and simple, and I’ve been relegated to playing along with people’s stories, pretending I’m the accomplished snowboarder I’m not. It’s not the ideal situation, but being something you’re not is somehow more satisfying than I would have ever thought. So if you’re asking, yeah I totally board. Even hit a triple Mcdonnal pike twist on the down low… dude.
Ben Rietema (’14) lives in Wanaka, New Zealand at the moment. Besides staring at and running in mountains, he makes a wicked hospital corner and can clean a bathroom like Gandhi (if he were a housekeeper) at his job at a local lodge. He also enjoys saying “HOUSEKEEPING” in the highest pitch voice he can muster before entering a room to service it. benrietema.wordpress.com/