The second two days of boarding were far more successful than the first two. For starters, I wore my snowboarding pants and an appropriately fitting helmet (first one was so small it gave me a headache, and the second was too big so it moved easily on my melon). We were also getting the hang of it more and felt confident enough to take the steeper section of the easy green we started working on Day Two.
Toward the end of our time on day three, I was able to slide into a toe turn at the bottom of Gopher Hill, so that was delightful. However, when we on to bigger and better on Day Four, the runs were far higher and steeper than what I was used to, so I chickened out on trying more toe turns.
This little pansy move on my part led to making my life significantly more challenging.
See, the thing about being able to turn into the mountain using your toes is that you get to rest your quads, calves, hip flexors, and the flexor tendons at the front of your shins. Taking that skill out of snowboarding forces you to keep your front facing down the mountain by lifting your toes up to influence your trajectory. On a 20‑minute run, this can get tiring.
My very first run was probably the hardest. In order to get started, I had to shimmy down to where the descent really started. Anyone who’s boarded before knows that shimmying can be really taxing on the quads, and at 10,000 feet, it’s even more exhausting.
A note about this high of altitude—it makes things harder. Much harder.
When I was struggling with ratcheting my boots into my bindings, I thought it was because the binding straps were too short and I’d have to use more brute force to get them to catch. When I was really struggling to stand up from a seated position with my knees to my chest and my feet strapped in the board, I thought it was because, now in my second trimester, I have a grapefruit-size organ taking up space in my abdomen.
But after talking to several other boarders, I’ve learned that basic actions require far more energy than what we’re used to at sea level since up here there is far less oxygen.
So this was really apparent on my first run. After depleting all of my energy stores in my left quad after the shimmy-shimmy cocoa puff to get started, I couldn’t get my board to go across the run to the left. I was stuck all the way to the right side of the mountain with my left foot forward, toes up, quads burning.
Granted, I did wall sits every time I brushed my teeth in preparation for this trip, but evidently, I should have been doing one-legged squats as well. For what seemed like forever, I was bearing down on left leg until finally I was able to start moving to the other side of the run. That was a joyous feeling to be able to relax my left quad as I started making my way back across, and from then on, I nailed the rest of the run.
It was such a beautiful view, coming down the mountain. The ridgeline across the valley was blanketed with snow and dotted with trees. The sky above was so blue from this high up. I couldn’t believe my great fortune, being able to snowboard in one of the most pristine ski destinations in the world. It was a moment to hold onto forever.
We lunched at the top of the mountain – brautwurst has never tasted so good – and we boarded until the lifts closed. As we came to the bottom of the mountain, I realized this most certainly can’t be my last time snowboarding.
Arrivederci Vail, you’ve been good to us!