It was on my return from Hawaii one year that my wife insisted that I go snowboarding. I wasn’t into it at all. All I was into was going traveling to a place that had nice waves and warm water. Wherever I went it had to be warm. I had no interest whatsoever in traveling to places where it was cold enough to snow, where you had to wear so many layers of clothing, gloves, scarves, and boots. Not my jol.
Old friend Grant Myrdal was working on Mount Hood Meadows, in Oregon, and he introduced me to snowboarding. One day of wipeouts, one day of getting the feel and on day three I was so hooked I knew that there was going to be a serious problem. Getting the feel of it, understanding the basic idea of screaming down powder at full speed with the trees flying past you and people all over the place is crazy – a total mind melt.
I was so hooked on the sport after being introduced to it by such a cool china like Grant, that by the time I arrived back in south Africa I had cashed in a few policies, decided to be immature about the future education of my two kids, and had booked a ticket for my wife and I to Corcheval. We were staying at 1550 – half way up the mountain, and it was amazing. We had a walk-on chalet, and there was pow from the day we arrived.
My wife had been skiing before, but didn’t have too much experience at snowboarding. She struggled, but Corcheval is a nice place and we ventured out to eat some of the local delicacies – that melted cheese meal – and drink some fine beers.
On a beautiful bluebird day my friend Paul, who works in a ski shop, took me snowboarding. Paul is an expert and I am a novice, but he took me to highest mountain I had ever seen. The only way down was black – in every direction, and I was so not interested in black slopes at that stage.
We got to the top and Paul and I went down this little run to get to the top of a big drop, somehow I lost him amongst the throng. I turned left when I should have turned right. Looking for him. I made my way down this massive hill, too steep to be fun, until I finally got to the bottom and there was no Paul to be seen.
Turns out I had traveled to the next resort – Meribel – and I was at the bottom. To get home I had to go back up the mountain.
Thing was, I had no valid ski pass for this resort, no money and no cell phone. I had had Paul, who speaks fluent French, but he had gone so MIA. I started to panic.
I barged my way onto a very crowded ski-lift, 12 people stared at me as I explained that I had no ticket to someone who didn’t understand my language. I sat down, firmly, the lift started and there was no stopping.
I eventually fell out – at the top of some other mountain, and the black slopes looked worse. The sun was starting to move and I was now quite far from happy. My wife was waiting for me half way down a gentle slope that felt like it was about 100 km of snow away, and I had to get down a slope that looked like a giant golf ball.
It was excruciatingly slow to get down. There was no way to let go, to snowboard. It was sideways and pushing snow and panicking all the way down. By the time I got to the bottom I was exhausted and needed a beer and a sleep. I still needed to catch a bus home, and I was also angry and tired and thirsty.
My wife was at home, panicking. She was about to call the helicopters to find me. I was frozen, hungry and thirsty so quickly drank a beer and had a shower. Once I had calmed down I saw the funny side. I had snowboarded all the way to the next resort, I had conquered a black slope, albeit nervously, and I had spent a full day on the slopes by myself, even though it was all by mistake.