Sunday, March 08, 2009

Boarding in Glencoe

Yesterday I went on my first snowboarding trip in Scotland (not including the indoor slope) to a real mountain ski resort (well calling it a resort's a bit much, more like ski set-of-huts). I tagged along with a few people from the Glasgow University Surf Club, who had been planning a weekend surf trip down to Wales, but had to cancel that and instead decided to hit the slopes for the day as they still had a minibus to use. We went up to Glencoe for the day.

When we got there it was apparently a borderline decision as to whether they'd open the skilifts or not due to quite high winds. They did open up and stayed open all day despite conditions actually getting worse throughout the day. When we first got up the main chairlift to the bottom of the ski runs the weather and wind wasn't actually that bad. The was some light sleet, but it was quite bareable. The hardest thing to start off with was getting the hang of the Poma tow that takes you to the top of the beginner slope. It didn't take me as many attempts as my first ever go on a tow, but it was probably four attempts before I made it all the way up to the top (the main problem was keeping your weight over the centre of the board when the pull initially kicked in and gave you a big jolt - many people, me included, were falling off as soon as it started). I stayed on the lower slopes all day (a few other went to the top, but I didn't really feel up for it after hearing what the conditions were like up there), but they provided a good enough challenge for me to practice improving my boarding.

As it got later the rain got heavier and there were more and more parts of the slopes that were turning slushy. By the time we went down for lunch we were all soaking wet. Lunch gave us a little time to dry off and warm up, but when we went back up the rain and wind had again picked up and the bottom of the beginner slope was now more slushy mud than snow. However we persisted. I had to regain my ability to use the tow, which I'd somehow lost over lunch (this got quite frustrating and almost led me to calling it quits straight away - luckily I managed to get up the slope a bit and as soon as I was boarding again I realised that I wanted to stay on the slopes longer). Once I was able to use the tow properly again I had quite a lot of good runs down the beginner slope. The main thing I tried to get myself to do was bend my knees more - I'm generally quite upright and use my body and back foot to turn, which isn't that good and made turning quite an effort. So I took more of a crouched position, which gave me a lot more control and felt more natural. During this time I got thoroughly soaked through and the slopes became more and more slushy and cut up. Everything on me was wet and my gloves where full of water (and bits of ice) - this was fine when I was doing stuff and my body was producing heat, but it wasn't so nice when getting the chairlift down. It was very nice to change into dry clothes in the end.

Despite the weather's best attempts to make it a miserable day I actually had a great time and it was good fun to be on a real mountain slope for the first time in just under two years. I need to get out somewhere else soon.