London 2012 Summer Olympics reignited Great Britain’s love of sport…we were inspired to dust of those tennis rackets from the back of the shed, or even seek out their local sports clubs to try something new. Fast forward two years and we have the Winter Olympics in Sochi…there wasn’t quite the same amount of hype surrounding this (how many Facebook posts were there questioning the point of Curling?!) but there was one sport that grabbed everyone’s attention early on….
Whether you are a sports fan or not, you couldn’t fail to hear of Jenny Jones’ roaring success – a 33 year old snowboarder from Bristol, Jenny took home GB’s first medal of the 2014 Games; our first ever on snow. Now, GB has a distinct lack of snow capped mountains (or any you can hope to get down successfully at speed anyway) so you can imagine how this came as a surprise! In a refreshing change, she wasn’t a snow sports prodigy as a child, only taking up snowboarding at the age of 18.
It’s believed that snowboarding was invented in the 60’s by a gentleman who one day bound 2 skis together with a piece of rope for steering, and created the ‘snurfer’. Since then it’s become a worldwide phenomenon and developed into one of the most popular winter sports.
I first snowboarded a few years ago, completing a ‘learn to snowboard in a day’ course at Tamworth Snow Dome – an indoor centre with the bonus of being real snow, not just a dry slope. I went with my sister (who was trying to impress her husband – an avid snowboarder) but she hated it and didn’t make it past the morning! I, however, fell in love with it, and have since done the odd day here and there, and been on two snow filled holidays to the Alps (most recently just last week).
There’s always the rivalry between skiers and snowboarders. Many times I’ve heard the quote ‘Skiing is easier to learn but harder to master; snowboarding is harder to learn but easier to master’. Having only done the latter I can’t really compare both, but what I can say is that while learning, I spent a LOT of time on the floor (with teeny tiny French children whizzing past me in ski school).
You start learning your toe edge and heel edge (facing up or down the mountain, digging the long edge of the board in to create a drag. Once you get confident with this, you then start building in turns, switching from one edge to the other. It’s a slow process and can be very frustrating, but the buzz you get from doing a run at speed and managing to turn successfully is incredible.
I took my fair share of bumps through the week and am still recovering from a couple of niggling injuries, but I can’t recommend it enough. Snowboarding is a great workout…straight away my legs were burning (too long on a heel edge and your quads will be screaming at you!) and it’s great training for your core to control your body and stay stable.
The floor will become your best friend, but don’t be afraid of falling; tensing up too much will just make it worse and harder to control, and you’ll realise hitting the deck isn’t that bad after all. Every morning my body ached, I could barely make it up the stairs and wished for bed, but once you’ve done a couple of light runs to warm up you forget all that. The amazing views from the top of the mountain make it all worthwhile anyway, and if all that fails there’s always some après-ski to soothe the pain.
If you don’t want to commit to a full snow holiday, check out your nearest indoor snow centre. It’s a great way to get a taste of it, and if you go off peak (summertime) you can get great offers. Most centres will do group lessons (generally you’ll need to be a competent boarder before they let you free in recreational time) but if you can get a group of friends to go, you can get a private lesson between you which will save money and probably be a good laugh.
I warn you though…it will be addictive!