I was never fond of much snow as I was from Ireland. The country rarely sees any snow. Snow days occur on average about 10-15 times per year and only reach depths of 1-2 centimeters, with an increased likelihood of snow the more north and inland you travel. However, living here in MA, I tried to take a bit of an interest in winter sports from a neighbor, Mike Howell, who is also my best friend. He always told me, “You’ve got to do something during the winter.” He then introduced me to snowshoeing, snowmobiling, skiing, and snowboarding.
ABOUT THE GAME
Between the sports skiing and snowboarding, the techniques needed for skiing are, by far, the more accessible option, and its foundations may be learned in a day or two. The front-facing position of skiing provides you with a great view and a lot of control over how you use your legs. Balance is also relatively simple to master, with the ski poles serving as both a counterbalance and a propeller.
On the other hand, new snowboarders must learn to use their equipment in a completely different way. The feet are permanently linked to the board in snowboarding, preventing any mobility. Snowboarders must master the fundamentals of balance on the edges of their feet, toes, and heel to turn the board. They must also learn to navigate by automatically using their shoulders. When you turn your shoulders, you turn your hips, which twist your body and board. Although it may seem self-evident, snowboarding necessitates the rider to remain on their side.
This body stance drastically reduces your peripheral vision, leaving you with little foreknowledge of what lies ahead. These factors take some getting accustomed to, and there will be a lot of falling in the beginning. Don’t be startled or wounded if a passing skier calls out “butt-dragger” as they descend. As you might imagine, the term refers to a novice who has fallen and is sliding down the slope on their behind. They were formerly butt-draggers as well.
Whatever the choice, skiing or snowboarding, my friend and neighbor Mike was always there to teach the foundations of the sport, encourage confidence, and provide guidance on how to best tackle severe technical problems.
BREAK THE ICE
One spring while I was still getting a hang of the techniques, we went to Tuckerman Ravine. Tuckerman Ravine is a glacial cirque on the southeast face of Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The motivation for seeing the skiers with such skill and climbing techniques came to me. Many players seemed like they were born wearing a pair of skis and knew the terrain and sport like the back of their hands. And now I knew it was my turn. I had to break it and fly through the ice where there was no turning back.
I strengthened my game by investing in better equipment, lessons, and practice. Since then, there has been no stopping me. I even took avalanche and outdoor emergency care lessons and became a Wachusett Mountain ski patroller.
IT WAS ICELAND NEXT
Iceland was on my radar for a few years, and the opportunity came along to have guided instruction and further my avalanche education. Most tourists to Iceland will begin their journey in Reykjavik, the capital city. I traveled to Reykjavik first for one night and then took a flight to Akureyri to ski the Troll Peninsula. All skiing was in the backcountry and was accessed by foot. We would apply skins to our skies and traverse into valleys. Skins are strips that attach to the bottom of skis to help while climbing backcountry slopes. They are removed for skiing downhill. They are attached to the skis via a loop on the ski tip, a hook on the tail, and adhesive on the base of the skin. We then transitioned to crampons and ice axes on steeper terrain.
Moving ahead deeper into Iceland, I also skied areas called Dalvik, Siglufjordur, and Olafsfjordur. The terrain we skied were bowls, couloirs, and drainages – all of which were so picturesque. I never had imagined I would be there at that point. I felt wanderlust. We saw some avalanches in the distance, but with our knowledge and guidance, we skied and traversed safe aspects of the terrain. I had never felt this fantastic towards nature and snow. It drove me towards it. Iceland provides skiers and snowboarders with entirely new terrain to explore. As a result, riders who hit the slopes here have virtually infinite possibilities to hone their abilities and get a firsthand look at the country’s natural beauty.
In addition, the people of Iceland were so genuinely friendly, helpful, and interested in what tourists were doing. They are also so strong-willed and ambitious. Before leaving, I was told about the good handmade sweaters there. I purchased one handmade Icelandic sweater from a maker in the village I stayed in. My wife loves it.