We rounded the corner and there it was. This great formidable beast was ready to offer up a challenge that had long been waiting for me. I had been avoiding this moment for the longest time - this was confrontation at its best. It was time to hit the slopes... for my very first time. Granted, I wanted this moment to come and longed for the chance to add another sport to my ever growing list, however I've never really had the courage to actually try it. Get ready Titus Mountain!
The "Gaper" on the mountain
According to the urban dictionary, "A gaper is a skier or snowboarder who is completely clueless. Usually distinguished by their brightly colored clothing and a gaper gap, the gap between goggles and a helmet/hat." Upon arrival, my girlfriend, Tat, quickly assured me that I was the epitome of a "gaper."
- Rain pants for snow pants - check
- Neon pink jacket - check
- Too many layers on underneath - check
- Gap between goggles and helmet - check
- Smiles from ear to ear yet fear stricken at the same time - check.
If that doesn't scream gaper then my whole ordeal renting out the snowboard gear would. I grabbed my boots from the guy behind counter and headed over to the bench. I got both of them on and then sat there waiting for Tat to get her lift ticket.
My boots seemed to fit, they were nice and snug, but I didn't realize how stiff they would be. That made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Looking around, a few skiers next to me were putting on their boots. I watched them put theirs on to make sure that I had done it right. Realizing I had, I figured I was all set to go. When Tat finally wandered over, I was taken aback as I noticed her expression. Her face was full of utter shock, bewilderment, and embarrassment for me. She exploded into laughter, and I soon learned the reason: This "gaper" wasn't going anywhere on a snowboard -- at least not with ski boots on.
The magic carpet
I feel like an awe-stricken five year old discovering a new world made entirely out of legos for the first time, only I'm discovering everybody's winter playground. I'm sure the overwhelming excitement to get on the board was plastered all over my face. Heading out to the bunny hill, I have to ride what's called the Magic Carpet to the top of it. Twenty-four years old and I'm learning how to walk... with a snowboard strapped to my feet.
It is not as easy as it looks, and that magic carpet looks pretty far away when you're awkwardly trying to scurry on over to it. Once on it and finally able to take a moment for myself, Tat suddenly spews out a bunch of words. Something about: hop on your board real quick and ride off of the magic carpet!
What!? I didn't think my first test out riding would involve getting off the magic carpet with only one boot strapped in, and heading down the sloped off-ramp. I wasn't ready but I sure had to be. Luckily I didn't take a tumble.
There's only one way down the slope
In the back of my mind, I fully expected to ride down the mountain and right through the front door of the lodge (and, hey, a nice hot chocolate did sound good). As I looked next to me I noticed this tiny little kid who looked to be about five years old. She too had a snowboard strapped to her feet. The way she held herself, it seemed like the snowboard was just an extension of her body and she was ready to tackle this hill with her eyes closed. If she could do this, then I sure didn't have any excuses - other than it was a bit farther of a fall for me than her.
At first I could only go down facing one direction, and turning involved quite a bit of falling. Once my board was positioned in the direction to ride toe-edge I was able to ride for a bit before switching back over on my heels. After a few runs I was able to start traversing the bunny hill. I ended up learning how to ride a lot quicker than I had anticipated. I think my previous skateboarding experience, along with balancing in hockey, helped to get me riding the board. After about five runs on the bunny hill my legs were already feeling sore, and my abs were ridiculously tired from laughing so much at my attempts to ride the snow.
My first lift!
Moving on, it was time for the scary lift, and I only mean that I had graduated to the lift that takes you up the rest of the bunny hill. I was only nervous for it because I didn't have the whole one-foot strapped in and scurry around thing down yet. Not to mention having a fast moving chairlift heading for you whether you're ready or not. And did I mention I'm afraid of heights?
I had Tat go on the chair ahead of me so that I could watch what she did. I probably made this more complicated by overthinking it a lot more than I had to. Up the rest of the bunny hill we went. Let's just say I was quite the mess, and quite the show for anyone who happened to be watching me. Right before the top I had misjudged the timing to lift the bar out and before I knew it I was out of the gate and speeding down the little slope at the end of the lift with only one foot strapped in. To my surprise and Tat's hysterical laugh, I actually didn't fall over headfirst off of the lift.
I didn't get the memo.
After about an hour of the bunny hill I felt that I could master the mountain and hit the slopes. I wanted to take the easy trails first. I figured the green Long Way Home trail would be a good place to start. It was also Tat's first time at Titus, and we both missed the memo in regards to Long Way Home. As it turns out, it is not the most snowboard-friendly trail on the slope, and they really do mean the long way home.
Speed is a snowboarder's friend and without any poles on this trail, it turned out to be too flat and slow to get moving at all. I believe the bunny slope was steeper than this. After unwillingly drifting to the edge of the trail and into the trees about five times over, I had to unstrap one of my boots and scurry down to a steeper section of the trail. I created quite the scene and was laughing hysterically at how pathetic I must have looked.
At first I didn't realize that this was a typical occurrence for snowboarders on this one trail. I thought that I was just a terrible snowboarder and had left the bunny hill far too soon. As it turns out, it's just not the preferred trail to ride on. Once I hit the steeper stuff I started to do a lot better and felt like a real snowboarder.
This great formidable beast had proven to be quite the challenge so far, but by the end of the day I took the last lift up to the very top of Titus. I knew I'd only survive one run before heading back to the lodge.
My legs were exhausted, but I was packed full of adrenaline for this final run. I headed right for the green trail. The majority of it seemed steeper than any of the other green trails I had tried so far. After a couple falls and a few breaks to give my legs a rest, I made it down the mountain in one piece.
The lodge at Titus was pretty cool. It was huge, jam packed with happy people, and there were lots of TVs. We ended the day catching up with a bit of the hockey game as we refueled with some poutine and pizza. Before we got up to head home, a band was setting up, getting ready to play for the night.
That's a wrap.
Overall, I'd say I did pretty well for my first time on a snowboard. I wanted to stay longer and enjoy some night skiing, but my body was ready to lounge out on the couch. I didn't even have the energy to join the bunch of kids who were taking a break from skiing to happily plunge down the tubing hill.
I'll have to save those adventures for next time. Yes, next time! I can guarantee this won't be the last time I'm on this mountain. I might be looking to buy a new board soon. That's right, another sport added to the list, and a whole new world to throw my money at. I can't wait!
Ready to ride and slide in our neck of the woods this winter? Titus has some great ski-and-stay packages available right now!