Absolute Beginners

Buckle up, it's time to snowboard

Buckle up, it's time to learn to snowboard

Part of me, a small part, but a part none-the-less, has always wanted to try snowboarding. Or, in truth, to try it again. A few decades ago, when the sport was new, I rented a board and went glibly up Quarter Dollar with my brother. On my first run, I was upright, oriented downhill and felt pretty confident when I caught my back edge and knocked the wind out of myself. No more snowboarding.

So it’s always been in the back of my mind to give it another go – this time with some instruction and a mature sense of self-preservation. Holding me back were fear and finances. So when I got wind of Sun Valley’s new deal-of-the-century, called SunStart, it was time to head over to Dollar, meet my fabulous instructor, Liz Wallace, and try it again.

SunStart offers beginner skiers or snowboarders full gear rental, a Dollar lift ticket and two hours of group instruction for $39. No, that is not a misprint. $39 all-in. You can try skiing if you’re a snowboarder, snowboarding if you’re a skier. If you’re 13-years or older and have always wanted to try an alpine sport, now is your chance.

My morning started at the Dollar SnowSports desk where I checked in for my lesson. Reservations for SunStart should be made 24 hours in advance whenever possible to ensure proper staffing. Lessons begin at 10:30 a.m., and you are advised to arrive at Dollar about 30 minutes earlier (probably a bit more on weekends) to fill out your paperwork and get your equipment.

Snowboarding boots -- reason alone to try the sport

Snowboarding boots -- reason alone to try the sport

Next stop was down the hall to Pete Lane’s to gear up. Like any regular renters, SunStarters first fill out a form on the store’s computers. Unlike a regular rental, however, when you take your slip to the desk to get fitted, your equipment is already paid for. That always feels good. Then a nice young man brings you boots and helps you slip into them – Cinderella style. After about one minute of wearing snowboard boots, I can honestly say, they are as comfortable as everyone says – big and warm. That should be enough to get skiers with boot issues to at least try snowboarding. I brought my own helmet and goggles and wished I had brought a roll of bubble wrap in which to encase myself when my Burton beginner board was delivered and it was go-time.

Admittedly, I was pretty nervous. I tried to put my inauspicious start to snowboarding 20 years ago out of my mind and concentrate on Liz’s gentle reintroduction to the sport. Her wide smile and infectious enthusiasm soon had me believing that snowboarding really was fun and was something I could do. As both a ski and snowboard instructor (one of the few), Liz is very credible when she says, “don’t worry.”

We began the two-hour lesson with baby steps: here is how you buckle your front foot in the binding, how you stand on the board, how you walk with it on your foot. Check, check, check. We then hiked a few feet up the bottom of Dollar and learned the always-useful equivalent of side-slipping. Check again. Next, it was on to the Magic Carpet. A few “successes” in staying upright on my board led Liz to believe we were ready for Quarter Dollar.

Quarter Dollar has never looked so steep

I didn't recall Quarter Dollar ever looking so steep

Now, one of the parts of snowboarding that worried me most, was getting off a chairlift. I have seen too many boarders wipe out before they have even started a run to assume this skill is easy to master. It turns out, it’s also not as hard as I imagined. My step-by-step coaching probably didn’t hurt, either.

By the end of my lesson, my scorecard read as follows: Three out of three successful chairlift rides. One run down the steeper side of Quarter Dollar, mostly side-slipped and “garlanded” (basically turns only to one side). Two runs down the gentler side of Quarter Dollar where I actually linked a few turns. Fifteen – my approximate number of falls (none painful).  Pretty high — my new found appreciation for snowboarding (and snowboarders).

If you are in a rut, or have always been curious about skiing or snowboarding, you couldn’t pick a more convenient and affordable time than now to get onto the snow. SunStart, offered as a part of National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, runs through January and can be reserved by calling the SnowSports School at (208) 622-2289.  The last day to reserve your SunStart lesson is January 28.

Get out there and try something new. No excuses!

Thanks to Liz and the great team at Dollar for making this one positive experience.


All smiles with Liz, who will literally hold your hand and teach you to snowboard

All smiles with Liz, who will literally hold your hand while teaching you to snowboard