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Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Time Event
Snowboarding last weekend
Last weekend owens888 and I went up to Tahoe for snow sports; snowboarding, to be specific. Melinda's schoolmate Leah organizes a trip to Tahoe each year for her lab friends, and this is the second year that we've gone along (Melinda went along two years ago as well; I just wasn't around then). Leah arranges to rent a cabin in South Lake Tahoe, there's about 15 people who head up, and we ski or board at Kirkwood. Overall it's a pretty fun time.

We had no trouble with driving: the roads were bare and dry, although the lows did dip to about 30F. Friday night when we arrived the wind from the south was pretty stiff: maybe 40mph gusts. Even with the redwood trees everywhere the cabin we were all staying in creaked quite a bit through the night. I woke up once or twice but didn't fret much. And, the drive itself isn't so bad. We took US-50 from Sacramento basically directly to South Lake Tahoe and that worked just fine. The worst part of the drive overall is that it's just *boring*. It's about 3.5 hours long and there's just not a lot to see along the way. Oh well. Leah and Zack rode with Melinda and me on the way up so we had fun chatting, at least until the passengers nodded off to sleep. 8) We got in to the cabin around 11:30p.

By Saturday morning the wind had dropped to an occasional light breeze, the sky was clear, and the sun was out. It was still only about 35F outside but in the sun it wasn't too bad. My only cold-weather protection was thermal pants, ski pants, thermal shirt, grey fleece vest, and light jacket (rain- and wind- proof). Oh, and, gloves + liners and a hat. This all proved to be more than enough layers, and I even ditched the glove liners and fleece vest by mid-day, and traded hats with Melinda for something less warming by early afternoon. In the sun I was doing just fine. In the shade and by evening it was getting a bit brisk, but the lifts close at 4p so the timing worked out just fine.

Melinda and I spent Saturday snowboarding. We both have boarded before: together, last year, and separately the previous year. Neither of us is especially good so we signed up for a lesson. The beginner lesson had 30 - 40 people but the level 2 - 6 lesson, which we were in, had only 5. So, not so bad.

We had just missed getting the 10:30a lesson so we got our equipment and warmed up on our own on the mountain. Er, hill, in fact; we're still on the easy Green run. We practiced some skating at the base (one foot strapped in while the other pushes you along), then took the lift to the top of the run to make a few practice runs. Oy, it's been a while since I've boarded! I remembered some things, like how you want to put pressure on your toes or heels in order to turn one way or the other, and that you want to look where you're going. Other actions sort of came naturally, but I ended up falling a few times. No big deal; I planned that I would fall a lot during the day, because I'd rather fall but learn more than be cautious and stay on my feet. And, so, yes, I did fall, and quite a bit. Fortunately, I didn't injure myself in any way that asprin couldn't help fix; my wrists are intact. But the snow was sorta icy and I fell very often on my knees (toe side, facing the hill, I would lean too far toward the hill and end up heading toward a fall, face first; my knees would be the first point of contact). Even days later I still have some big bruises on my knees and they sorta hurt statically. Ow.

The lesson was a mixed bag. It started a little late, just after 1:30, and Melinda and I were joined by three other students: Mason, a 13-year-old kid, Emma, and Steven. The instructor, Kyle, has been boarding for many years and made everything look very easy. We took a trial run on the hill to let Kyle calibrate where we each were at, then took a few more runs. The goal for the day was to learn how to make S-curves. An S-curve starts with the board facing across the mountain, pointed down hill just a bit. You start to go across the run and gain speed. Shift your weight a bit and your board is pointing straight down the run. Keep going with the weight-shifting and now you're pointing 180 degrees opposite the direction you were doing earlier. Shift your weight back the other way and make a second C to complete an S. If you can link these Cs together to form Ss you can just head down the hill all day long without falling. Sounds great! Well, I managed to figure out how to make one C at a time but didn't have great luck linking them together. If I slowed down much I would start to wobble then *flop* I'd be over on my knees or rear and sitting in the snow. And, ow, I did get tired of falling on my knees in the snow. Or, oh!, my favorite way to fall: the leading edge of the board catches in the snow while I'm facing into the mountain. I fall backwards on my back and hit my head on the icy snow. Yeah, that just gets more fun each time.

Melinda and I both made some improvements in the class, and although Melinda still isn't comfortable with going down on her toes (ie, facing toward the hill as you slide down the run) she made it through each run with fewer falls than I ever did. During the lesson we also went down two other green runs than we've done before, including "graduation", which we considered an accomplishment. Before hitting the slopes we'd planned that we'd tackle at least one blue run before the day was done, but as the class didn't end until 3:30 and the runs shut down at 4p, we postponed that next leap for another year.

We were back at the cabin by around 5:30 (it's a 45 minute drive from South Lake Tahoe to Kirkwood) where we munched on ravioli, lasagna, M&Ms, and other snack and real food that Leah brought for the trip. There was a hot tub at the cabin but we didn't partake. We were just as happy just sitting inside where it was warm, and watching some Harry Potter on the TV.

Sunday morning we packed everything up and stuffed in back into the car. Most of the people who came on the trip went back to Kirkwood for a second day of skiing and snowboarding, but Melinda and I had planned to be out only for one day, so we headed home early. We brought back with us a few extra people (Kris, Peter, and Peter's girlfriend Patti) who also weren't going to be out on the slopes, so the timing worked well. We were back in San Francisco by around 1p, having made good time the entire way home. [In fact, a little too good of time: I slowed down *just* in the nick of time, as I past a CHP motorcycle cop who was on the left shoulder radar gunning cars. Eep!]

Melinda and I had a good time, and I'm looking forward to going again. I'd even look forward to snowboarding more than once in the season, although I need knee pads or something to go more than one day in a row. Or, I need more practice so I stay on my feet longer.

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