As the self-employed widowed mom of three great kids, I don’t tend to fill my life with wild adventure. But when my two youngest children suggested we go snowboarding one day, I gave the idea an immediate thumbs up.
A few hours spent swinging up and down Ontario’s Blue Mountain on a snowboard would burn hundreds of calories, I figured – probably way more than skiing – and what middle-aged woman doesn’t want to burn a few more calories?
What’s more, this could turn into something fun we could do together as my kids journey through those parent-phobic teenage years that lie just beyond the next school dance.
I’m comfortable on skis, but it didn’t occur to me that snowboarding might be easier said than done until well after the snowboard rental people had determined we were newbies par excellence. Did we know where to rendezvous for our lesson, the nice ski pro asked? He was young and cute and he looked fit and healthy, almost as if he spent his whole life outside.
It occurred to me that there just might be a nice, single 55-year-old man out there in snowboard land, one who would admire my technique and ask me out for a drink. Maybe we would swap stories about our travels and goals, and agree to go out for dinner in a nice romantic restaurant (no kids allowed). Maybe he might even like disorderly dogs and messy houses. The possibilities were intriguing.
“Lesson?” I asked. “Oh, we don’t need lessons!”
The young man looked at me with respect but said nothing. I marched my children out to the lift lines.
My daughter stared up at the mountain and pointed at a snowboarder who was gliding gracefully down the pristine flank of snow.
“Let’s try that hill, Mum,” she said.
I smiled. My 11-year-old daughter is blessed with a love of adventure that I no longer embrace. She knows there are moguls in life but that hasn’t discouraged her from living large.
“Sweetie, I don’t think we should start on a big hill,” I said soothingly. “We’ve never done this before and we’ll want to have a practice run first.”
I was worried my children might get hurt. A dozen more boarders flew by us as we made our way, a little awkwardly, over to the baby hill. We breezed up the gentle incline standing on a rubber lift mat. I patted my hat to make sure my hair wasn’t escaping in messy tendrils. People might be watching.
Snowboarders whizzed by with practised ease. I couldn’t wait to join them. It looked like so much fun!
I slid off the lift mat at the top of the hill and buckled my other foot into the snowboard. My children headed off down the hill and I watched them affectionately. They would get the hang of it.
I knew I was in trouble the second I started moving.
With my feet locked in place at such a bizarre angle I was completely incapable of balancing. Sliding oddly down the hill with my arms flailing, I progressed approximately two metres before my rear end hit the snow.
A little embarrassed, I stood up with great difficulty and tried again, this time managing to slide a good 12 centimetres before I caught an edge and flipped over. I looked around and waved gamely at my children, who were by then halfway up the hill, eager for their second run.
I wobbled to my feet. This time I swung around and started sliding backward down the hill with my bottom pointing skyward and my ski mitts clawing uselessly at the hard-packed snow. There were three-year-olds all over the bunny hill and every single one of them was in my way. What were parents thinking, bringing little children out to such a dangerous place?
I careened out of control and planted my knees in the snow just seconds before executing a perfect face plant.
“Are you okay?” my daughter asked from somewhere above me.
I grinned up at her, wincing at the pain in my knees.
“Great,” I said. “Are you having fun?”
“Sort of,” she said.
“Good!” I croaked. This snowboarding business was not nearly as enjoyable as it had looked.
My daughter zoomed off and I refocused on survival.
The next half hour was painful and awkward. There were children everywhere and every adult on the hill seemed to be glaring viciously in my direction. When I arrived at the bottom I was breathing heavily and sweating profusely.
Enough was enough. Any single male of eligible age had undoubtedly enjoyed the comedy show I had put on but was unlikely to feel safe in a bar with me (“What if she falls over again?” I could hear Mr. Right whispering in horror to his best friend). This had not been my finest moment and I was bruised, exhausted, embarrassed and finished with this idea of snowboarding as a fun way to spend time with my kids.
My children reappeared at the bottom of Bunny Mountain and I limped back to the rental shack to exchange our snowboards for proper skis.
“Thank goodness,” my daughter said. I brightened.
“Did you find it hard?” I asked with relief.
“No,” she said, squeezing my arm gently and flashing a warm and caring smile up at me. “But you did.”
Susan Crossman lives in Oakville, Ont.