“Listen to me, kids. To learn to snowboard, you must first learn how not to snowboard,” Tom, my instructor told us. Strapping in, he gently rode down the bunny hill, made a few seemingly uncomplicated turns, waved to a fellow instructor before turning and facing our group way at the top. He looked tiny down there. I wasn't sure he'd left us on a bunny hill. It quite possibly was a black diamond. Or a double black diamond. He was going to kill us.
“Come on down!” He called, interrupting my million-mile-per-hour-thought train.
"Yeah!" A girl whooped as she started downhill, making turns and almost crashing into an old lady before skidding to a stop by Tom. He steadied her before she sat down hard.
One by one, the group rode downhill until I was the only one left at the top.
“See you in a sec!” I taunted with fake confidence, wiggling my hips to gain momentum. Fake it 'till you make it, right? Down the hill, Tom saw me coming and yelped in alarm.
“Leslie! You’re going too fast!”
“No I’m not!” I cheered. But even though the slope was gentle, I was, in fact, picking up speed, quickly closing the gap on the rest of the group.
It was at this point when I discovered that while I knew how to start riding, I didn’t quite know how to stop. It seemed Tom's instructions were worth something, and not just white noise. If I managed to stop, I'd certainly commend the man. He knew how to get stuff done. But now, unable to stop and increasing speed surprisingly quickly, I was heading straight for the rest of the group. Seeing me coming, they all lept out of the way as I barreled toward them. Except for one kid, whose reflexes weren’t quite up to snuff. I clipped him as I shot past, knocking him into a snowdrift. He popped up, spitting snow out of his mouth, and yelled something at me. The wind whipped away his words, however, and I couldn't hear him.
Beyond the tree, the incline of the slope increased quickly - and so did my speed.
Bunny hills really needed a sign that read:
Beginners, beware. Not gentle, but rather steep. Or, I should have never strapped on my snowboard in the first place. That wouldn't have complicated things.
I slid over a bump in the run probably caused by another, more advanced, snowboarder making some fancy turns, and tumbled down. But I didn't stop. I began cannonballing downhill. In a cartoon, I would be a human-sized snowball, with arms and legs and my head poking out.
“Leslie!” yelled Tom. “Just fall down! That’ll stop you!” I heard him distantly behind me, but falling simply wasn’t my style. It would have made me look foolish and it would have been admitting defeat. Instead, I stubbornly stayed upright. And so I only made things worse, gaining more and more speed. Really, snowboarding needed to come with an instruction manual. Maybe a little infographic? Pictures would be nice.
I rounded the corner of the run and gasped, seeing that the run merged with the rest of the runs on the mountain. The intersection was flooded with people of all skill levels, from the most basic, to the most advanced. My skill level was detonation. Pure destruction. I was headed toward the busiest part of the run, the one crowded with skiers and riders, many just learning how to start and stand up. I sliced right in front of one group, forcing them to wipe out, then bowled another group over like bowling pins. I began making a noise I had never heard from myself before, a kind of uncontrollable, panicked scream:
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!” My arms were pinwheeling wildly as I tried to figure out a way to stop.
I couldn’t, though. Despite the large number of people on the slope, I seemed to be on a path to hit nearly every one of them. I cut some off, making them wreck, and careened off others, knocking them down. One skier crashed into a tree trying to avoid me, while yet another clanged into a ski-lift pole. Several others went sprawling and ended up spinning down the slope on their bellies, taking out still more skiers and riders on the way. A line of small children in a ski class toppled over like dominoes. And yet, somehow, I stayed upright throughout it all, gaining even more speed.
And then I hit the jump.
It wasn’t a huge, Olympic-sized jump. It was only a medium-sized lump of snow. But it did the trick. I launched in the air and flew several feet.
It turned out, in addition to not knowing how to stop, I also didn’t know how to land. My board bit into the ground and came to a sudden stop, but I didn’t. Instead, I sailed right out of my bindings and began tumbling down the mountain. My equipment flew off me as I went. One boot landed high in a tree. The other nearly impaled a passing snowboarder. My board ended up embedded in the ground like a fence post and a poor skier crashed into it.
Eventually, I stopped tumbling and started sliding. My arms and legs stuck out around me like I was a giant starfish. I took out a few more people this way until I finally sailed off the run into the woods. I plowed headfirst into a snowbank, hitting it so hard I wound up embedded up to my shoulders.
It took several minutes for my head to stop ringing and once I staggered out, Tom had made it to me.
“Whoa,” he gasped. “That was the most epic wipeout I have ever seen.” I blushed, looking up at the slope and the tsunami of destruction I had caused. Skiers and riders were strewn everywhere, groaning in pain or shouting after me in anger. Luckily no one had been badly hurt, but there were plenty of sprains, sprawls, and busted equipment. It looked as though a panzer tank division had come through, rather than only a teenage girl.
“So, have you learned anything?” Tom asked sternly. I considered the mess above me.
“I don’t know what I’m doing.” I admitted, and Tom led me down the run, laughing.