June 22, 2009: Really Low Visibility

Whistler, Canada – I jammed my left pinkie finger today so it pains me to type this (well only on a few keys, but especially the ‘a’ which is used quite a bit). It was a boned-headed move actually – I was slipping down the hill with one foot out and when I called up to my teammate to tell her something, my downhill edge caught throwing me backwards and completely flipping me over onto my stomach. Luckily I was wearing my backpack so it protected my neck, but somehow my little pinkie got caught up somewhere. But it was a funny sight; I probably would’ve laughed had it not happened to me!

The weather report called for more rain and cloudy skies. Ugh. There’s nothing worse than snowboarding in the rain – your clothes get drenched all the way through, sticking to your body, your gloves are heavy with all the water they retain, goggles have a smattering of water spots that obstruct your view, the list goes on and on. But when we got up on the glacier today I found out that there is something worse than snowboarding in the rain: snowboarding in the rain and super dense fog.

To the rain’s defense, the horrid combo didn’t occur until the last run of the day, but the fog conditions were ten times as bad as yesterday. It was virtually a white-out, with the fog so thick and heavy that the breeze in the air wasn’t moving it an inch. After taking a very scary first warm-up run (where I rode uncomfortable fast in order to keep up with a rider that went before me lest I lose him and get completely consumed by the fog and unable to find my way out), we set a course blind, salted it (in order to harden the soft snow) and waited.

About an hour later our coach gave us the okay to run the course. I looked down at it and the conditions were only slightly better than when we decided to wait it out, with slightly translating into an additional 6 feet of visibility. It was a good exercise in looking ahead and forcing yourself to be aggressive in these conditions. But I was nervous.

My first run was pretty bad. I shook off the nerves and went aggressively out of the start gate but after the first couple of easy turns in the flats I went way-way too straight and was coming on the inside of the stubby on a majority of the gates (which would have disqualified me if in a race) on both toe- and heel-side turns. The riding itself wasn’t so terrible, it was just my line that was horribly off. Miraculously though visibility got better throughout the course and I was able to see two gates ahead of me. When I got back up to the top, my coach high-fived me and said he liked my ‘go for it’ attitude. At least I got something right.

The next few runs got better and better. I rounded out my line and was finishing the course although I was consistently late on the bottom section. The set was pretty difficult with extremely wide gates making travel across the hill an absolute necessity. I think I was sinking my hip down decently but I noticed that my toeside turn, the edge that I normally trust, was pretty shakey. I didn’t have the confidence to pressure the board and load and release it. And my body positioning wasn’t too stable. Which is probably why on my last two runs I hit the same hole on the same toeside gate and washed out.

I still really need to work on getting my hips down at the top of the turn and looking ahead, but overall it was a productive day. I got in gates and was able to correct my line. I was able to forget about the nerves and harness my aggresssion, and I tasted the desire again to really want it. I wasn’t on those new risers today but will be tomorrow and then I can see if I really like them. I’m just praying that tomorrow’s weather will be good.

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