How to enjoy snow in February
I’ve been thinking about my first Snowboarding trip this evening. The pic above shows the top of the Blue Run at Zell am See, Austria. As usual, we’d stayed out until the last minute and now had to hurriedly get back down the mountain.
This was my first ever Snowboarding trip, with Zell am See still one of my favourite Ski Resorts. So how do you go from staring wistfully at Burton Boards in a Milton Keynes Shopping Centre, to carving up the mountain? Here is my story…
I was very lucky to be invited on a trip to Zell am Zee with some new friends. They knew I fancied trying learning to snowboard one day so asked me along when someone else dropped out. I stuttered that “I couldn’t Snowboard, so not to worry – thanks anyway”. I hadn’t bargained on their response “you’d better learn then hadn’t you!”. So off I went to “SnoZone” in Milton Keynes. The clues in the name.
Now hears the thing. Definitely, take lessons – and make sure you’re reasonably fit and generally active. I found a world of difference between Snowboarding inside a shopping centre, and an actual mountain in Austria. No surprise right? The mountain is easier. Get your basic techniques down at an indoor slope. When you first start, just standing up on the board can get suddenly very taxing. If you have gear with vents and adjustable bits and pieces you’ll thank yourself when you can regulate your temperature. Just because there is snow everywhere doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be cold all the time. Once you get up on the mountain, of course, it can get very cold – just make sure you have some options (a cheeky snood in your rucksack is a blessing).
Why the mountain is easier
There is so much more room. Much more. I joined a supplementary class on the resort, and with my shopping centre prowess on board I didn’t struggle with the class and knew what to expect. The extra room allows you to relax more and start to find your own rhythm.
Once you take the Chair Lift up to your first large slope (tricky at first, and avoid the bobble lifts unless you’ve been doing it a while). Better still, use the cable car – you will soon have an even wider open slope to play on… along with the nagging feeling that you’ve now got to get back down to the bottom.
Another rather key point is, try and watch how everyone gets off the chair lift before you get on one. Many a Snowboarder has taken out all the skiers on their chair when their board whips round and dumps everyone in a pile at the top of the lift… (cue loud Euro-Pop and lots of applause…)
At this point, I’d better mention the weather
I can forgive you for wondering when I was going to get onto this bit. My first trip was in January (2004 to be precise) and at that time of year, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be cold. No brownie points there really “thanks, Weather Watchman! where would we be without you!” – bear with me. January is so cold it’s also ICY. Again, no surprise, there is snow everywhere! But it’s not the ice hanging from the trees you need to worry about. It’s the large patch of ice covering the slope waiting for you somewhere on your journey down (more so if you go higher up). The first time you know about it is when you lift your toes up to stick the edge of the board into the powder, and instead of slowing you down, the board just makes a very loud grating noise… and you find yourself skipping unceremoniously across the ice doing the very opposite of slowing down. Having performed the above manoeuvre without a crash helmet on, I can say one thing. Buy a crash helmet. It’ll be the best €60 you ever spend.
Snow in February means soft powder
To avoid the afore mentioned ice, try going in late February or Early March (late March is perhaps a bit late in the season depending on where you go). You can look forward to beautiful snow in February that gets slightly softer in the afternoon sunshine. The powder is forgiving and fun, letting you relax and go with the flow. The faster you can allow yourself to go, the easier it will be. One more thing. Bend Zee Knees!
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