Activity Sports - Snowboarding
Lower Slopes Drifter
David Laing attempts to master one of the fastest growing sports in the world
With global warming rendering the annual treat of speeding down a local snowy hill on a dustbin lid a thing of the past, the opportunity to go snowboarding in Scotland seems little more than a pipe (or half-pipe) dream. Xscape at Braehead seeks to make this dream a reality, and so, with the promise of ‘real’ snow, I tentatively make my first foray into one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
Donning a snowsuit and what appear to be space-boots, I am given a board (sized according to ability and height) and make my way to the slope, led by my instructor, Steven. Gasping as I turn a corner to witness the behemoth that is the 200 metre slope, Steven laughs, and promptly informs me that I’ll be learning on the more modest 50 metre slope. Somewhat disheartened I trudge towards my first lesson, buoyed only by the fact that I was walking on actual snow, created, I am told, by blowing almost freezing water through a series of ‘snow nozzles’ in the roof.
Snowboarding began in the mid 1960s in the US, when skiier Sherman Poppen braced two skis together for his daughter to play on, calling it ‘Snurfing’. ‘Boards are now made from one piece of flexible wood, with metal edges to help steer,’ explains Steven, as he helps to strap on my board before I promptly slide backwards and fall over. ‘Fear of going fast is what holds most people back,’ he adds. All very well, but my main concern is standing up. Climbing the slope to a massive height of, oh, at least two metres, I am instructed to aim downhill, and place my non-attached foot on the board. With trepidation I obey, rapidly shooting down the perilous slope and stylishly entering the white stuff face first.
Quickly regaining my upright stance, I dust myself off and begin my first full descent down the slope backwards, leaning over the board and pressing down on my toes to slow me down. Wobbly as a new born deer at first, I soon start to pick it up, and after my third attempt, and some slightly wayward steering, I have progressed sufficiently to traverse the slope and try navigating some cones, hitting only one on my first attempt. Steven is encouraging: ‘Most people don’t even make it to the cones on their first lesson.’ Winter Olympics here I come.
The sport has enjoyed unprecedented success at the Olympics, having made its debut at Nagano in 1998 with two events, and subsequently increased to three for the 2006 Torino games.
My dreams of success in Vancouver 2010 may be a little grand, but falling over on ‘real’ snow isn’t that painful, and since it’s available all year round, there’s no excuse not to at least try for that medal.
Xscape (www.xscape.co.uk) offers beginners’ lessons from £27 per hour including equipment hire.