mattbell: (Default)
 Some friends and I are doing a last-minute roadtrip to Sugar Bowl Friday and Saturday this week.  It's all snowy and waiting for us!

Our car is full but others are welcome to join up with us at the resort.  

If you're local to the bay area and want to go sometime (or want to learn), let me know.  I want to build up a snow posse.  :-)

If you're wondering why snowboarding is so fascinating to me, read this.

On a separate note, I think the "lowering the cost of failure" approach I used to learning snowboarding, in which I wore lots of padding so that I would be less afraid to fall and would suffer less pain upon falling, is applicable to other parts of life as well.  Yesterday I bought some upper body armor that covers my back, shoulders, chest, and elbows.  This should further lower the cost of failure and ensure that I get to spend more time playing on the mountain and less time sore and miserable.  
mattbell: (Default)
It begins with a large maker/hacker community transforming a simple toy (the snurfer) into a wide variety of uses.  Then engineers start re-engineering the toy from the ground up to meet the needs of the early adopters.  The entrenched interests with access to all the resources (ski resorts) do not want to accommodate the new technology, but by working with third-rate suppliers (small ski resorts) the snowboarders are able to prove their financial worth and grow their user base.  Word spreads, snowboarding becomes "cool", and it starts showing up and getting hyped in pop culture.  The entrenched powers realize they cannot ignore the profit potential of snowboarding any longer, so they begin to accommodate the new technology as late adopters.  Ultimately it becomes accepted in even the most conservative areas (eg the Olympics).  Now snowboarding is a big, entrenched business and is dominated by two or three large suppliers.  

mattbell: (Default)
 I'm imagining a little skill tree of snowboarding skills that I'm gradually filling out.

At this point, I can go down most blue runs with relative ease, I can handle powder at a basic level of competence, and I can deal with slightly uneven terrain.  Sugar Bowl has four levels of classes.  Level three is a bit too easy, and four is probably still a stretch. 

What should I level up on?

- Handling bumpier terrain?  I can handle runs that are black-diamond levels of steep, but the moguls tend to throw me. 
- Handling large-scale bumps and making little jumps?  Sugar Bowl has an area called "the river", which has lots of banked turns and large but smooth terrain features.
- Becoming less scared of areas with trees? 
- Carving turns properly?
- Getting more flexible in my motion in general?  Riding goofy, helicoptering etc.


I'm looking at helmets.  There's a helmet that looks and fits great but is $140.  There's a $70 one that's not quite as good but is as good as anything I would get at Sugar Bowl.  I'm thinking that safety equipment is like sushi -- it's not worth spending money on the cheap stuff. 


Feb. 5th, 2010 07:37 pm
mattbell: (Default)
I originally wrote this during my last snow trip, but a broad power outage prevented me from uploading it.


Powder is this mythologized, fetishized special type of snow that skiers and snowboarders covet. Its rarity makes it special as it usually can only be found at absurdly early hours in the morning shortly after a massive snowstorm. The snowstorm of course makes it very hard to get to the powder without a big ordeal... and the powder is quickly ruined by the first few early bird skiers who touch it.

Apparently everything I know about snowboarding is wrong when facing powder. My first attempt ended up with me marooned in a large and nearly flat patch of fresh snow, unable to get moving again because the powder snow´s density was so low that my legs and snowboard sank in several feet every time I tried to stand up.

Realizing my mistake, I found a much steeper area full of powder. It´s a miracle it was still intact around 11am. The area is normally a practice area for ski slalom teams that is off limits to the general public. However, today it was unused and the other people at the resort seemed to be avoiding it out of habit.

Powder is weird stuff – if you are going slow you will sink into it, but if you are going fast you float over it and leave a beautiful wake around you. In that sense it´s like water. Well, it *is* water, but a strange sort of water that is extremely soft and extremely low density. I managed to get decently good at keeping the front end of my board up so that I could go straight down the powder slope without falling, but I found turning difficult as the front-board-up posture makes the board more difficult to control.

I´m guessing that if I knew how to surf, powder boarding would be more natural. The aspects of balance that come up seem like they would be similar.

Oh, and falling in powder is an incredible amount of fun... it doesn´t really hurt even if I end up flipping a couple of times. When the cost of failure is low, I´m more willing to take risks. It´s a good lesson for life in general. Off to sleep...


Update: The next day, I took a free lesson. Since it was midweek, I was in a class of three, which was great for really getting real-time feedback. Having an instructor present to provide real-tiime feedback, even though I already had some grasp of what I was supposed to do, helped tremendously. He also knew the best parts of the mountain for practicing riding in powder.
mattbell: (Default)
I went snowboarding for the 3rd time in my life over the last couple of days.  I now have a total of 6 days experience. 

- You have to dispose of a hell of a lot of potential energy when you go down the mountain.  If I weigh 90kg (snowboard and clothes included) and the run is 300m, then I have mgh = 90*9.8*300 = 264600 joules of energy that I need to dispose of as quickly as possible.  For reference, 264600 joules is enough to run one of the big 23w compact fluorescent lamps for over 3 hours.  If I fell straight down the mountain, I'd impact the ground at close to terminal velocity and get turned into a pile of mush.  Thus I need to impart that energy onto other things.  These include pushing air molecules around, kicking up snow, pushing snow down the mountain, compacting snow, and warming up myself, the snow, the board, and the air.

- Snowboarding is such a lovely activity because it combines two very different things I like a lot.  One is looking at serenely beautiful 3D terrain (natural or otherwise) from an elevated point of view.  The other is zooming around and feeling the rush.  The two states are nicely alternated -- ride the lift and peacefully take in the landscape, then zoom down it. 

- I never feel quite in control when I'm going straight down the mountain with the board flat   I feel like I'm constantly in danger of catching an unexpected edge and falling over.  I've mostly worked around this by always having a slight edge to one side or the other.  I know this likely slows me down, but it makes me feel more in control. 

- It took a little over an hour to refresh myself back to my prior skill level after 2 years of no snowboarding.  On the second day, there was still a refresh period, but it was around two minutes. 

- I'm wondering how hard to push myself to maximize my rate of learning.  I could go down the mountain at a comfortable pace and learn to maximize my amount of control by repeatedly practicing known movements.  Or, I could try to push myself beyond my comfort zone and learn to perform acceptably well under more demanding circumstances.  One potential disadvantage of the latter approach is that I'm likely to get fatigued faster from falls, and that will likely reduce my learning rate. 

- Having lots of padding totally helps my rate of learning as it reduces the penalty associated with falling.  I have wrist guards, knee guards, and a tailbone guard (ok, ok, I have ass pads). 

- How do I reduce the amount of soreness and pain I feel after snowboarding?  I imagine stretching would help, but the top few google results for snowboarding stretches were unimpressive.  I imagine there are several muscles I need to build up.  My neck, shoulders, inner thighs, knees, and ankles are all sore at the moment.  However, I don't spend enough time snowboarding to give my muscles the encouragement they need to grow.  Are there exercises I can do at home that work out similar muscles? 

- A high school PE teacher told me that heavily exercised muscle groups need a day to recover after a day of heavy use -- if you don't give them a break, then they don't have a chance to build up strength.  This of course makes fitting a lot of snowboarding into a short trip hard.  After two consecutive days snowboarding, I'd have to take it easy the third day. 

- I learned how to carve properly.  It feels really good to carve well, like I'm riding a roller coaster of my own creation.

- It seems like friction is lower at higher speeds.  If I'm moving slowly on a path with a very mild slope and the path itself is slanted, I seem to go farther by going down the slant to get up some speed and then heading down the path. 

- I feel like my reflexes are slow.  If I'm going on an edge and the snow changes from mushy to icy, I have to very quickly readjust my stance.  It seems like I often can't do it fast enough... or perhaps the problem is that I don't intuitively know what stance to switch to, and that slows me down.  It's hard to tell what the snow is going to be like just by looking at it, but I hear the change in sound as soon as I transition onto a new type of snow. 

- I need new snow pants.  My first ones are ready to self-destruct, and that's probably not pretty to watch.


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