A Snowboardin' Mama, by Valerie Stewart

Valerie Stewart - Editor, Pow Productions Snowboarding didn't exist when I was growing up. I did ski a bit; my standout memory is the family's trip to Squaw Valley U.S.A. It rained the whole time and I had to wear a garbage bag over my bitchin' new ski outfit. Then my Dad, a reluctant beginner, broke his leg on the Mountain Run. I sort of drifted away from skiing after that.

I lived a bunch away, and finally got married when I was 37. By 40 I'd metamorphosed into a mama Shred Betty. My husband, a jonesing surfer, wanted to try snowboarding the year I was pregnant. I wasn't ready for the wife at home routine, so we headed for the mountains. I skied till my 7th month, very carefully, and only fell twice. I watched my husband bash his body on the icy slopes his first day of snowboarding and decided that the sport was definitely not for me.

My husband brought an athletic friend along the next week and I watched him get trashed too. We found him sprawled on a picnic table at lunch, speechless for the first time ever (this record still holds), and I felt a renewed conviction that snowboarding was something I would never try. The guys, however, had withstood the initiation that all boarders must pass - that brutal first day - and soon became boardin' maniacs.

It started really snowing that year just as I became too pregnant to ski. My husband and his buddy hit the Sierra for the rest of the season without me. They came home so stoked every time that it was a real bummer for me. It was obvious that I was missing some killer storms, but I felt their emphasis on riding a board was a bit overstated. By the end of the season, I was secretly eager for an end to the endless talk of Catching Air, 360's & the Pow. It was all too radical for me.

The problem was, the talk didn't stop. In fact, it got worse as my 43 year old husband and his 40 year old sidekick yearned for powder throughout yet another summer of extended drought. My husband literally dreamt of snowboarding at night, and during the day a dog-eared issue of Snowboarder magazine always seemed to be clutched in his hand. As the new season approached, I realized there was only one thing I could do to stop the madness. Leaving all reason behind myself, I went out and bought a board. I figured there must be something to this shreddin' stuff for two rational adults to simply lose it.

My first season on a board just happened to coincide with the most awesome winter the Sierra had seen in about ten years. So my first day I got trashed on the sweet soft stuff, instead of on the unforgiving ice. But a thrashing is a thrashing, and I didn't like it one bit. My legs were on fire and the guys were literally carving circles around me. If I'd rented a board instead of buying one, I probably would have hung it up.

My second day was better. The body to board positioning didn't feel quite so bizarre - and oh the freedom of no poles! Watching all those geeky figures flailing down the slope with poles and skis asunder, I felt super streamlined - even when falling. Compared to a treasure hunt for skis & poles, biffing on a board was a mere inconvenience. By the end of the second day I determined that I might be a snowboarder after all. But I let the guys know that I would never be one of those crazy boarders in the trees.

On the third day I left the groomed trails behind and headed for an open bowl of untouched powder. I carved through it in perfect silence and became a snowboarder for life. One powder run and it was in my blood forever.

On the fourth day I headed for the trees. It hadn't snowed that day and it was clear that the only powder left was in the trees with those crazy kids. I let the guys know though, that I certainly would not be doing halfpipes and parks.

On the fifth day I taught my 10 year old nephew to ride. I already felt compelled to pass the secret on. My guidance was pretty basic, but he caught the fever anyway.

On the sixth day I rode the park and pipe. The powder was destroyed that day so there was really no choice. It seemed like a good day to try a few hits. It was epic actually. I had tried it all now, except Out of Bounds and of course I would never do that...

On the seventh day, no way I could rest. I was just getting in the groove. I caught Big Air and sought out The Drop. I realized that my soul would starve if I couldn't carve.

I spent the summer watching the pathetically few snowboard videos in existence. I've learned the moves in my mind, and this season I'm headed for the amateur competitions. Snowboarding has definitely changed my life. I wouldn't exactly say that I live to board, but I'd sure feel dead if I couldn't shred.

September 1993

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