BY JASMINE DHALIWAL
I crashed stomach first into the ice-packed snow, my arms barely breaking my fall. Landing on the outside of my right arm, I flipped onto my back, sliding head first down the hill. The back of my helmet collided with the snow hard enough that my goggles flew off, leaving the strong pain of whiplash. As I skidded to try and stop, my heavy rental snowboard flipped over my head and slammed onto the ice in an awkward fashion. Once again, I found myself on my stomach. After I finally slowed to a stop, I gathered whatever strength I had left to roll onto my back. I lay like a snow-angel, arms spread, and for a full minute, I gazed into the bright blue sky as my body quickly ached from the fall. When I slowly pushed myself up into a sitting position, I saw a young snowboarding class sitting to my right. They were supposed to be listening to their snowboarding instructor, but instead they all narrowed their eyes onto me—obviously judging my fall.
As a thirteen-year-old girl learning to snowboard for her first time, it was a challenge. I struggled to make it down the bunny hill without crashing into the snow, and the worst part? Watching all my friends with five or more years of snowboarding experience whipping down the black diamonds as if they were easy green runs, while I struggled to even do up my bindings and stand up. I envied them. I wanted their skill. I wanted their talents without the painful learning experience.
Beside me, my seven-year-old sister slowly, but steadily, rode by me and glided all the way down the bunny hill in one piece, convincing me that the younger you start the better chance you have at being good.
That day, I told myself to never return to the painful sport—or so I thought.
A few days after my trip, as I sat in bed with an ice pack on my neck and my bruised body covered in Icy-Hot gel, I dreamed of the fresh mountain air filling my lungs. For some insane reason, I missed that flying sensation I felt for the three seconds I managed to stay standing up on my snowboard before falling. Surprising myself and my family, I asked if I could go back and try again.
The second time I improved slightly, even making it down the bunny hill without falling. Even though I doubted myself after every bone-bruising crash, I kept pushing myself back up to finish my difficult runs down the small hill, feeling more determined than ever to become a great snowboarder.
The following season, I convinced my dad to purchase me my own snowboard. It was my way of forcing myself not to quit the sport before I scared myself out forever. By the end of my short second season, I graduated from the bunny hill and went onto the easiest green run the mountain had to offer, riding down in the beginner pendulum style. I even mastered the technique of getting on and off the ski lift in only a few tries.
Even though I continued to make considerable progress, as I sat on the slow-moving chairlift, I watched snowboarders of my age and younger easily carve down the slopes. But as watched them, I observed only a handful of older snowboarders, and only a small percent of them were girls. But all the snowboarders older than me were fantastic and talented. I wished to be like them, to be one of them, to be the girl who outshines them all, but a part of my mind thought I would never make it to that skilled level since I started so late. Run after run, I put myself down even more.
Oddly enough, I forced myself to return to the mountains, craving that feeling of the wind brushing over my face and the overall feeling of temporary freedom.
Two years later, I stood at the top of the blue run in front of my two friends, acting as the teacher. Carving down the hill at speeds that would make my mother faint was as easy as breathing. I acted as a teacher to many of my friends and to my younger siblings, as I so desperately wished to share the incredible feeling of snowboarding with everyone.
At the same time, I was snowboarding like a daredevil, craving the adrenalin rush that came from high speeds and challenging runs. I hit as many black runs as my body allowed, floating on top of the fluffy powder that always sprayed my face and seeped into my clothes. I felt like I was on top of the world, and even though I still suffered body-jerking falls, I learned to laugh them off and get back up.
Looking for even more challenges at the end of the season, I faced the terrain park entrance for my first time and stared at all the complicated jumps and rails it had to offer. I dove in without taking any introductory lessons. Choosing safer-looking jumps, I tested them out. Of course, I fell and failed on the majority of my jumps. In no time at all, that haunting mental obstacle returned as I sat on the faster ski lift that overlooked the park. This time, it was rare to see even girls enter the difficult park. Again, I convinced myself I would never be able to do tricks because of my “old” age, and even because of my gender. I convinced myself that I didn’t belong.
On the last trip of my season, I carved towards a jump that I landed twice before. However, on my third try, I recognized I was going way to fast and stopped in fear dangerously late. I flew off the jump, my polka-dot board over my head. I had enough time to open eyes and stare at the people on the chairlift and see their gaping mouths. Shortly after, my back slammed onto the icy snow, and I skidded down the base of the jump—my jacket pulling up and my bare skin scratching against the ice.
Winded and in numbing pain, I desperately wanted to lay there and stare at that blue sky. But knowing more riders followed behind, I forced myself up and slowly carved into the ski lift line, blood dripping down my back.
A painful back injury haunted my body for six months.
Call me crazy. Call me mad. But over the off season, all I dreamed about was returning to the mountains to practice in the park. Once again, I convinced my parents to buy another snowboard. This time, one flexible enough to use in the park. It was my way of forcing myself to continue to learn the sport I loved so much.
Now seventeen, I glared down the park entrance. With the fresh mountain air filling my lungs and the beautiful snow floating down from the sky, I knew I was home. Just like learning how to stand-up on a snowboard, I accepted the fact that learning how to do jumps and rails was going to be a challenge. For once, I didn’t care how old I was or that I was a girl shredding into a man’s sport. All that mattered was learning more about the sport I fell in love with.
Now, I plan on becoming a “Park Master.” My goal? To be landing large tricks off of jumps and rails—with the approval from my mother of course.
Jasmine Dhaliwal is a 17-year-old writer from British-Columbia and a snowboarding enthusiast.