The Hippo


Mar 21, 2018








Kaitlin Joseph falls on the bunny hill at Pats Peak.

Snowboard extraordinaire?
First-time adventures on a slippery slope


 I was face down in the snow. I’d long since forgotten how many times I’d fallen. I tried to think back to what Travis had told me that morning. What did he tell me? It made sense when he was there, but now my mind was a jumble of snowboarding jargon. 

I picked myself up and looked down the rest of the bunny hill at Pats Peak. It seemed endless. 
That morning, I had started on the beginner’s hill with Travis Wampler, my instructor. I was going to learn how to snowboard. To be honest, I actually thought I might be pretty good at it. Being a competitive runner throughout high school and college, I thought I’d have the athleticism and muscle to pull it off. 
While Travis was finishing up a lesson with a boy half my age, Joe Valley, the snowboard manager at Pats Peak, was whisking me through the lodge, handing me boots, a helmet and, eventually, a snowboard. Joe led me to the beginner’s hill and helped me get acquainted with the snowboard, naming its parts  and spouting off technical information that he might as well have been saying in Portuguese. 
Then I was handed off to Travis, who wasted no time strapping one foot in the bindings. After determining I was “goofy” (a snowboarding term for riders who ride with their right foot forward — not a judgment on my character), Travis locked my right foot into place.
I spent some time learning to side step with the awkward board attached to my leg before learning how the board moves down the slope. I learned which way to bend the board to turn and discovered that it takes a great deal of muscle in order to move the board in the direction you want to go. 
While I was nervous about trying to put everything together, I felt like I understood what he told me. Then Travis moved me from flat ground to the middle of the hill so he could guide me into making some turns. 
If you’re wondering what I thought at this point, it’s this: “When I fall, I’m probably going to snap my leg since it’s attached to this board and I’ll need to be rushed to the hospital as soon as possible. I don’t want to go to the hospital. Should I really do this?”
Turns out, I was just fine, since Travis had my back at every turn. I didn’t break any bones. As we progressed to the top of the hill, my fear subsided a little. It seemed I could sort of make the turns, though I couldn’t quite figure out how to stop. 
An hour was over in lightning time, and according to Travis I was now a Level 3 snowboarder. With that designation, I semi-confidently headed to the bunny hill for the rest of the afternoon. 
Without Travis, I wouldn’t have known where to begin. He’s been an instructor at Pat’s Peak for the last 10 years. 
“The first goal is to the show them the board, then the bindings, make sure the boots are tight — that’s a huge thing here — and figuring out which foot is dominant,” Wampler said of the beginning stages of a lesson. 
Wampler then runs through how to glide back and forth on one foot, how to do J turns, heel-side turns and toe-side turns and how to stop. 
Lessons are taught in stages from Level 1 all the way to Level 9. 
“The hardest thing is getting over the fear of riding,” Wampler said. “I think the good thing about instructors is that you get pushed.”
Snowboarding isn’t easy; I’ve got the bumps and bruises to prove it. But I’m sort of hooked.
“There’s nothing like being in the middle of the woods with snowy trees over you and not a single track in front of you,” Wampler said. “That’s the beauty of snow sports; you get the freedom to choose. It can take you anywhere, all over the world, as a job or as a hobby.”
There’s no way I’m the next Shaun White, but  I’ll keep trying and hopefully improving. For now, it’s just me and the bunny hill.  
As seen in the January 23, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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