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Living the Dream

May 21, 2010

I can’t believe that I’ve been away for over four months on this leg of my adventures, it seems to have gone so quickly and yet I have managed to pack in plenty of new, fun and amazing experiences. Working on the mountain during the Olympics meant that I got to meet a lot of interesting people from many places including Australians who’d never ice-skated before, Mexicans whom I taught to skate backwards and I got my picture taken with a Taiwanese pop-star (unfortunately only on his camera). The weather has varied from clear blue skies and sun where I definitely needed sun-block to snow-flurries where I had to keep shoveling the snow from the outdoor rink. The shifts were either earlies or lates or the odd graveyard shift and occasionally I got extra hours as a ski-lift operator when not working on the rink. Post-Olympics, I was able to stay on at the mountain solely as a ski-lift operator with full-time hours. The work day had two shifts so that I could make the most of being on the mountain before or after my shift.

Initially I commuted a lot by bicycle, which did wonders to help me to get my bearings quickly and gave some spectacular views as I travelled at sunrise for an early shift and enjoy cycling around the seawall and by English Bay on my way home. I will never forget the picture in my head of the sun rising bright and reddish-golden behind Mt. Baker of Washington State, USA, and casting its light across Burrard Inlet.

I soon gave up on the cycle-ride commute when it became clear that it was not going to be possible for me to cycle for over an hour mostly uphill, work an 8 hour shift mostly shovelling snow and then cycle an hour back home and still have some energy left to achieve my other goal which was to learn to snowboard. I did try to fit in snowboarding for a couple of hours after work for a day or two when I’d cycled to work but quickly heeded the signs of overtiredness and resorted to the bus. This became my only transport option anyhow when I managed to badly sprain my wrist on my third attempt snowboarding. You learn quickly in snowboarding that the edges are your friends and you’d better make them your friends or they will be your enemies and you will end up in trouble. I managed to lose my heel edge whilst facing uphill and fell backwards onto a very hard, icy snow surface and hurt the wrist so badly I feared I’d broken it. Thankfully, despite it being very painful, it was ok and I was determined to carry on so I strapped it up thoroughly and continued to work shovelling snow and snowboarding. It was a very quick lesson in what not to do when you fall snowboarding. So many people injure their wrists or their tailbones in their first days snowboarding.
Now, a couple of months on and my injury seems so far away in my snowboarding history that I wonder how it was even possible for it to happen. I still don’t like icy surfaces but thankfully the spring snowfall and sun brought distinctly softer landings for unwanted falls. I had also thought that the injury would entirely put me off the extreme side of snowboarding such as jumps and tricks as I find that I do really just love the feeling of carving down the mountain. However, I founds some little jumps on the side of one of the runs, had a go, landed and was hooked! I have paralleled the two types of snowboarding with the two different types of cycling that I like for different reasons: To cruise down a wide slope, carving wide turns, feeling the wind in your hair and daring yourself to let the board gather more speed by doing less turns gives a similar thrill to when you’re speeding down a hill on a smooth road on a super-light road bicycle. To tackle the black runs, tree runs and jumps is more like mountain biking; you have to keep your eyes keenly on what lies ahead and respond quickly to it by shifting your weight to turn, stay balanced, and use your limbs as suspension to cushion bumpy terrain and land jumps successfully. Snowboarding certainly suits both my need for speed and for a challenge!

The winter season and my job have finished but spring is in full swing in Vancouver city and I’m full of ideas to explore the area now that I have some more time. My snowboard will be put away and the mountain bike reinstated to primary steed. I’m looking forward to finding those trails!

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