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The only sports Iím remotely good at involve balance as opposed to strength or speed. As a smaller kid, I was always good on the trampoline or water skiing, although many a big guy was dumbfounded that a guy my size tackled him in sandlot football. I never lacked for nerve or perseverance. Alas, Iím not a kid anymore at 54, 5í9Ē and 170 pounds.

Lift tickets, boot, board and helmet rentals for two totaled $128.00. They didnít have our sizes of boots, so we went a half size larger and they were still difficult to put on. You may break a bone snowboarding, but it wonít be an ankle.

Fortunately a young whippersnapper who identified himself as an instructor saw us struggling to get our boots ratcheted to our boards and offered some friendly pointers. After that, it was all down hill, literally. You had to snowboard down a hill to get to the lift to take you up the bigger hill. Unfortunately, there was a giant steel ski lift post at the bottom and the padding around it looked fairly useless. I figured what the hell, maybe Iíll learn to steer on the way down. Amazingly, I did and avoided the post. Which reminds me, what did the fir tree say to Sonny Bono? ďI got you babe.Ē Sorry, I couldnít resist.

The lift rules require the snowboard be strapped to one foot at all times. So you walk/slide with this board on one foot through the line until itís your turn to jump in front of a bench until the bench hits you in the butt and you take off. It isnít as easy as it sounds, and exiting is even trickier. You jump off a little hill and fall on your face, every time. That is, if you are me. If you are ten, it isnít a problem at all.

At the top of the hill, we seek advice on which of several choices downward would be the best for beginners like us. ďTry the Quicksilver, itís not too bad.Ē Weíre told. And so we do. It looks incredibly intimidating, especially the first drastic drop, but hey, Iím in now. I scooch to the edge and then over we go. Imagine a Lamborghini in which the second your butt hits the seat, the car accelerates to 200 M.P.H. Unlike a video game, if you donít control your speed and balance perfectly and immediately regardless of your skill level, a very painful body slam can be a consequence. Mine is immediate but relatively painless. Righting myself on the hill with my feet welded to a snowboard is much more difficult than I ever imagined and again, the second youíre upright, wicked Mr. Gravity pulls you down the hill at a suicidal rate. I manage a slowing zig and a zag or two before biting the snow again. Gradually, I spend more time shushing and less time picking myself up. It is incredibly exhilarating when itís happening, heightened by the consequences of failure. Mercifully, the bottom of the hill arrives and Iím able to perform the beginner butt-stop quite gracefully. The look in my nephewís eyes says it all: ďWe must do this again.Ē And we do.

About the fourth trip down Quicksilver, Iím finally getting the hang of this. Mikey, my nephew, just points the board down the hill and flies maniacally but gracefully. Iíve found that in addition to zigging and zagging, one can slow the board by keeping it perpendicular to the hill. Iím getting so thirsty I can hear Samuel Adamís Boston Lager calling my name from the tavern at the bottom of the hill. We agree to one more downhill, then a break. We decide to take a different hill down this time and as Iím searching for it, I discover the sign for Quicksilver that had been partially obscured by snow. I had taught myself to snowboard on an intermediate, not a beginner, hill. That explains a lot.

The fireplace in the lodge is warm even though the logs are fake and fueled by gas. Mr. Adams does not disappoint; Jared is drinking water. My relaxation is in direct inverse proportion to his anxiety to get back to the slopes. He wants to try the ropes that pull you up the hill instead of the lift this time. I finish my beer and his water and weíre back at it.

The rope seems to be crawling until you grab it. I made it about ten feet until I wiped out. Unfortunately, when you wipe out here, youíre in the way of the people being towed behind you. I flop like a gaffed fish on a boat deck trying to get out of the way with moderate success. Mikey lets go of the rope to wait, circling like a mother bird waiting for her chick to fly. I finally right myself, make it to the top, turn around and snowboard right back into a teenage girl clinging to the rope on her way up. I apologize profusely, staking my newbie claim. She seems unhurt and sympathetic as the rope hauls her away. Again, I flop out of the way, completely breathless. Mikey circles. I lay in the snow panting. The manacle of snowboard seems a thousand miles away, the ratchet releases impossible to reach. This after one beer?

We decide to take the lift back up; Iím going down Quicksilver one last time. After my obligatory face plant exiting the lift, Iím psyched. I can do this. Apparently Mr. Adams has had a conspiratorial conversation with Mr. Gravity on how to finally humiliate me into quitting before serious injury. I start down the hill uneventfully, but not for long. That dump wasnít so bad now was it? I begin again. I can do this. About my fourth zag down the hill, it may have been a zig, I canít recall, the board flies from under me and I get slammed. My head hits the ground and Iím hoping I donít pass out. O.K., I get it now, game over. My head clears enough to notice a five-year-old on skis shushing past me like so much roadkill. I imagine the ski lifters, directly above me, laughing and pointing at the sorry old guy, his spirit broken and his ears ringing. The snowboard and ratchet releases are a thousand miles away again, but after their agonizing release, Iím walking down this hill as long as I draw breath. Halfway down I decide to ride the snowboard on my butt. This may be against the rules and grounds for suspension from the park, but at this point I donít care if I ever return anyway. Itís actually kind of fun until I start hauliní ass again and in reverse. This is not good, because those dang barely-padded steel ski lift columns are planted intermittently and permanently and with no rear-view mirrors on my board, I canít see them. However, I can see the fence; it beckons welcomingly and I oblige. Thud.

The lodge is barely visible, but I must trudge back. Iíve got to discuss Mr. Adamsí betrayal with another of his associates. Iím sure weíll work it out, we always do. Mikey will go back to the towrope where I can see him from the lodge. He tires in another forty-five minutes. We return our gear and head for the car with the knowledge that tomorrowís aches and pains wonít countenance our smug demeanor today.


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