Huck it! I am never going to ski again. To huck, in snowboarding slang, means to hurl your body down the mountain with reckless abandon, as in “huck your meat” or “huck your carcass,” and usually refers to jumps. (There was a huckfest at Snowbird a few days ago in which professional snowboarders performed death-defying acrobatics—double back flips, twisting spirals—for a $35,000 purse.) But you can also huck it down a black-diamond, or expert, run in boot-deep powder, as I did this afternoon on my board. I was having a breakthrough day.
After skiing with my mom in the morning, I had decided to take a private snowboarding lesson this afternoon. Do not underestimate the incentive to improve provided by a cute instructor. Mine was Mark, a tall, boyishly handsome guy from Salt Lake City. He pronounced my decision to take up snowboarding, when I was already a skier, as “totally rad,” a compliment that left me completely smitten. What was great about Mark is that he was basically a teen-ager who just wanted to ride. After determining that I was linking my turns, he led me straight up the mountain to the top of an intermediate run, got off the lift, and took off. I had no choice but to follow. I wanted to ask, “Are you sure I’m ready for this?” But he seemed unconcerned. His whole attitude was, we’re just two pals surfing the snow.
It was a glorious day—sunny, with a light fog in the valley that looked beautiful from on high. And for the next several hours, we shredded the mountain, tackling steeper and more difficult terrain with each run. He began to teach me different kinds of turns: how to carve (which is different from the wide, sliding S-turns we’d been making), how to make “dynamic” short turns (which are useful in the bumps or on particularly steep terrain). Things that bedeviled me before—like the flats of a cat track that are particularly hard to negotiate on a board—were now, suddenly, a piece of cake. After an hour or so, he said, “Let’s head over to Peruvian.” I was aghast. “But those are all expert runs,” I stammered. He gave me a look that said, “You’re being a wuss.” The next thing I knew, we were hucking it down Chip’s Face, an ungroomed, black-diamond run. I was stoked! It was then that I knew: I’ll never ski again.
I was sad in a way. Skiing’s been making me happy for more than 30 years, and I’m sure I’ll go back to it someday. But tonight at dinner with my mother at the Shallow Shaft, a wonderful old restaurant at Alta, the resort next door, I could talk of nothing but boarding. The history of the sport is very short. It barely existed 20 years ago, and most professional riders today didn’t learn to board until their teens or later. Now on Chickadee, the bunny slope at Snowbird, two-year-olds, as wide in their puffy parkas as they are tall, are shredding the mountain on foot-long boards. It will be interesting to see how these kids, when they grow up, change the sport. Back at the lodge I began to pack. I’m leaving tomorrow and wanted to make sure I had time enough in the morning to squeeze in a last couple of runs. Out my window, I could see the mountain, dark against a moonlit sky. The snow cats, their headlights aglow like the eyes of some prehistoric animal, were working through the night.