Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been a few weeks since I went snowboarding! It was an awesome experience, something I’ve always wanted to do. As a girl from the South, I hardly saw snow growing up, and the closest I ever came to snowboarding was sledding down the tiny hill in my backyard on half an inch of snow.
I kept pestering Junkyu to take me to a ski resort, because there are many in South Korea, but he knew it would be expensive and difficult if we went on our own. He’s not much of a sports guy, so he asked his friend, a regular snowboarder, to take us, and one January morning, we got a phone call from him asking if we could go the next day. We bought gloves and neck warmers, but it turned out that the temperature wasn’t low enough, so we waited a week or so before we hit the slopes.
We woke up around 4-5 am, got ready, and drove north to meet our friends, a couple who both snowboard and own their own gear. They lent Junkyu a board and some clothes, and the rest we rented when we got to the resort. It wasn’t a long drive from our house at all – maybe an hour and a half – to a place in Muju. The place was packed with people, and upon arrival I suddenly realized what I was about to do: Ride a ski lift.
I’m terrified of heights, as anyone who’s ever been around me can attest to, so I was already regretting my decision to go. We went up to the rental center to get our pants, jackets, boards, and helmets, but we didn’t have our IDs on us, so I had to wait forever while my toes froze so that Junkyu could go back to the car and get his ID (note to those renting ski/snowboard gear: Don’t forget your ID!). Once we rented all our gear and put it all on, we were finally ready to ride the ski lift.
This is when I started to panic. The line was long, but it moved fast, and next to us, there was a line for the moving walkway that took individuals up part of the mountain (mostly beginners and classes, I assumed) and I thought was what we would be riding. We didn’t, though. We got in line for the big, scary, leg-dangling ride to the top of the slope. We were scanned in and we fit perfectly on the lift as a group of four. The staff member told us when we should start walking out to stand in front of the oncoming lift, and before I knew it, I was sitting on a metal bench, clutching my snowboard to my chest with all my might.
It wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be in my mind before getting on. It was actually kind of fun to glide up the mountain with Junkyu by my side, and for some reason, looking down on the skiers and snowboarders (sometimes wiping out in the snow below us) was entertaining and exciting. Eventually, we got to the top and had to jump and run off the lift. We had to get out of the way quickly so the next group could do the same, so we headed over to the starting point.
Junkyu’s coworker decided to teach him how to go down backwards, so they got started while his wife taught me all the important things to know: How to stop, how to go, how to fall, the general physics of what was going to be happening. I nodded at her as she spoke to me mostly in Korean, while glancing at Junkyu as he slowly but surely slid down the mountain away from me.
My makeshift instructor told me that what they were doing (going backwards) was, in fact, easier than going forwards, but she told me to try if that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to take the easy way. I wanted to learn how to go down forwards, even if I fell on my face.
She taught me how to push myself up onto my board, and the first few times it was terrifying because I would start moving and I felt like I was slipping to my doom, so I purposefully flung myself back to the ground. She told me not to be afraid, and reminded me how to go down slowly and how to stop if I wanted. Junkyu and his coworker were much farther down, now, and I was tired of all the talk: I wanted action, and I wanted to beat him down the mountain.
I started to stand up on my board and glide a few inches. Every time I did, I grew less afraid, and I learned how to stop and how to slow down by trial an error. Eventually, I was able to scoot forward slowly like she taught me, and I was getting the hang of it. My confidence soared, so I kept pushing myself to go longer and longer without stopping myself. I fell on my butt many times, but I was proud of myself for picking it up so quickly. I slid down a few feet on my own a few times, and she cheered for me, saying I was doing really well. We caught up with Junkyu and her husband, and we told them they could go on ahead of us, since we were probably going to waste all their time if they stayed behind to watch us fall.
I felt comfortable enough to get up, glide down a ways, fall, and repeat. It was tiring and my abs and back were sore, not to mention my butt was completely in shock. Junkyu had only learned how to go down backwards, though, and after he saw me maneuver down long stretches, he decided he wanted to learn how to go forwards, too. However, he kept falling and I could see that he was exhausted, and he sat for long stretches in the snow without trying to get up. I was also completely tired; proud of myself, yet ready to rest my aches and pains. I was able to get down the last half of the slope in about 10 minutes, but I had to wait a while for him.
Finally, Junkyu slid down backwards a ways. He almost got to the end before he unhooked his boots from his board. He walked over to meet me and told me that halfway down he began to worry about getting injured. He didn’t want to hurt his back or wrist, because he works in hospitals performing surgery, and if anything happened to him, he wouldn’t be able to work. Both of us stripped off our gear and got back into our normal coats and shoes. We walked around for a while, grabbed some Popeye’s chicken, and met our friends back at the car.
We drove back home and ate dinner together while reliving our snowy adventure. They asked me if I would want to go again, and I told them I definitely would. Junkyu, on the other hand, said he wasn’t planning on snowboarding again for a while. I’m not sure if we will go again this winter, but I’m glad I got my feet wet (or at least really cold!) so that next time I might spend less time on my butt and more on my board.