The ski resort at Mt Baker, WA offers 5th graders a pass to hit the slopes for free. I took my oldest daughter up while she when she was in 5th grade, and now my middle daughter is in 5th grade. I’ve been skiing since some friends of mine convinced me to come along one winter in high school and had some great laughs at my expense. When I took my oldest daughter I taught her how to ski, but her younger sister was determined to try snowboarding. Since I couldn’t talk her into the snow sport for people of higher intelligence, I agreed, and decided I’d give it a shot myself, so yesterday we hit the slopes for a day in the snow. It was a painful day, but at least I learned a few things.
First, it is true that the bigger you are the harder you fall. Second, the older you are, the more it hurts! Third my own dad is awesome. There was a time when I must have been about 16 or 17 and I had learned to ski. I remember my dad, having little or no experience skiing, took me up to Stevens Pass to have some laughs at his expense just like my friends had at my expense a year or two earlier. I realized yesterday as I tumbled down the hill, that my dad must have been a few years older than I am currently when he did that. Realizing how much work it was, that I’m not as flexible as perhaps I once was, and that I don’t recover quite as fast as I used to, it gave me a lot of appreciation for that day Dad did cartwheels in the snow at Stevens Pass. Thanks, Dad.
Finally, I realized that I cannot call myself a snowboarder. Since neither my daughter or I had ever done this before, I signed us up for a lesson. My instructor, Eric, led us through the basics of how to strap on the board, move around with the board, and crash gracefully. Once we had that mastered, it was on to actually riding down a small hill. The first step was to just ride straight ahead and keep balance. This was no problem for me. Having skied for a while, I’m comfortable enough sliding down snow. We made in through these basic skills and then Eric took us up the rope tow to practice on a small hill.
At this point Eric, the instructor, went through the finer points on how to turn. For those of you who snowboard, this is natural. You also know about something known as “catching an edge”. This is something you want to avoid. Eric explained how in order to turn you must keep your weight forward, then place pressure on only the down hill-side of the front of the board. This turns the board down hill, and then you have to place pressure on the same side of the board in the back, which will then make the board turn fully, and you’ll and up facing 180 degrees from where you started. The process is then repeated on the opposite side of the board, which has now become the down hill-side. You do this drill alternating between toe side and heel side as the board points one way across the hill, and then the other. You must do these essential things, or it won’t work.
At the same time Eric pointed out people coming down the hill. “See that guy,” he’d say, “you don’t need to whip your upper body around like that. It works, but it just wastes energy.” He’d point out another one, “See that guy? You can point your front arm to where you’re going when you’re first starting. It’s not necessary, but it can help you keep your weight forward.” Eric could clearly point out the differences in the way different snowboarders were riding. They had different little things they would do, but all of them had to apply the same essential toe-side and heel-side pressure in the right order to move back and forth across the hill. There were these various subsets of people though, that were definitely snowboarders, who had various non-essential quirks in the way the understood snowboarding to work. It didn’t mean they weren’t snowboarders, because they clearly were as evidenced by the way they’d fly down the hill. They just did things a little bit different.
Here’s the thing though. Had you seen me walk out of the lodge with a snowboard in my hand, you might have thought to yourself, “hey, there goes a snowboarder.” You’d think I was one of those guys who would be flying down the hill gracefully any moment. You’d be wrong though. I was not able to accomplish these essential snowboarding skills, so if you see me with a snowboard in my hand, I’m just a guy holding a snowboard. Even if I should claim I’m a snowboarder, if I don’t have those essential skills it takes to get down the hill, it just isn’t true. I can even ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain to make it look convincing, but if I’m just tumbling down the hill then I’m just a guy with a board strapped to his feet. I must practice those essentials of snowboarding in order to be an actual snowboarder. Otherwise, like I was yesterday, I’m just some moron trying to pass as a snowboarder. Real snowboarders wouldn’t want you to look at me and assume I represent a typical snowboarder. They’d probably be offended.
This applies to all sorts of things. Just remember, if you don’t want to be lumped in with people who don’t think like you, don’t do the lumping to other people. Also, if you want to be associated with a particular school of skill or thought, there may very well be non-essentials that can be disagreed upon within the group, but you must practice the essentials of that group in order to count yourself in their number.
If it looks like a duck, but doesn’t quack like a duck, it’s probably just a decoy!