Monday, January 20, 2014

Snowboarding - Take Two at Gunstock Mountain

Gunstock Mountain Resort

There’s something about snowboarding that has always appealed to me, even long before I became a hiker. My family never skied or snowboarded, so I was never introduced to it like many of my friends. However, when I was in college, I decided I was going to try it. I took lessons with Jill (then my girlfriend) at Ski Bradford in Haverhill, MA. This was ten years ago, so bear with me on what I recollect. I recall the lesson went by pretty quickly and the guy (a teenage kid) teaching us wasn’t too passionate about helping. But we made it through the lesson and I started planning out my first trip to a “real” mountain!

I recruited my buddy Alex, who you’ve met in three hiking trip reports on this site; Moosilauke, Doubleheads and Mount Crawford. We headed up to Loon and I can remember being very excited to snowboard and get past the learning curve. Little did I know, I wasn't going to be able to play around for an hour during a quick lesson and then just “be a snowboarder”! After I got my rentals, I put them on and realized immediately that my foot seemed to float a lot in them. I dismissed it and figured it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. I ended up fighting to keep my feet down on the board the whole day, which added to the challenge. Alex brought me up to the first slope, which wasn’t a very a high one. I spent some time trying to redo what I had learned at my lesson, but the more I fell, the more tired I got and the harder it seemed to get back up. After getting down from the first hill, Alex brought me to the summit of the mountain. This is where the pain really started. I remember thinking, “wow, we’re really high up…I should be able to get snowboarding down by the time we’re at the bottom”. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Every time I fell down, it seemed to take so much effort to get up. I remember being exhausted. And my wrists and tailbone hurt so badly that I thought the next fall would be my breaking point. I finally did make my way to the bottom, but it took a couple of hours. I remember Alex asking if I wanted to do it again but I couldn’t. So, we hit the Woodstock Inn Brewery for a few beers and called it a day. I didn’t return to the slopes again until this year!

My buddy Rob learning to make a toe side turn
My buddy Rob and I decided to take lessons at Gunstock Mountain Resort this past week. I can’t explain to you how great these lessons were compared to the lesson I took at Bradford 10 years prior. My instructor, also named Rob, had been snowboarding for 20 years and really took the time and patience to help us with our questions. The first thing he did was helped me tighten my boots properly so that my feet stayed flat. The lessons started off learning how to glide downhill and veer toe side and then heal side. From there, we went up to a sluice and learned how to connect toe side turning to heal side turning. I’m sure this all sounds pretty easy, but it was difficult! I liked the fact that Gunstock had a conveyor belt lift called the “magic carpet” so we didn’t have to struggle with rope or tee handle tows. After we made progress connecting turns, we learned how to traverse down a steeper banking, one way and then another. Once the instructor thought we made progress there, he brought us up to the Peepsight slope. For me, riding the lift is one of the most intimidating parts. Well, I guess not riding it, but getting on and off from it. I was able to successfully go down the trail and only fell a couple times! I was able to switch from toe side to heal side and check speed in between using what I had learned traversing. I really feel I need to go one more time to get more comfortable and call myself a “real snowboarder”! I’ll keep you all posted on my progress!



  1. That's awesome, Karl! My son snowboards, and honestly, it took him a 2 or 3 lessons before he really felt like he knew what he was doing and got the hang of the whole thing. It is not as easy as it looks or as skiing. My daughter didn't make it to lesson #2 and went right back to skiing! Hope you continue to enjoy the sport, looks like you had a beautiful day, too!

  2. The full rundown of snowboarding equipment available is a long list, but there are a few basics every snowboarder should have: warm cloths and a snowboard leash, to prevent runaway boards.