My journey to becoming an exceptionally average snowboarder

We can't all be Shaun White, eh?

Laying upside down on my back in the snow as I slid to a stop, feeling the damp cold beginning to seep down the back of my pants, two thoughts presented themselves quite clearly and at the exact same time: why the fuck am I so ungraceful and I really need to invest in bib snow pants.

Seemingly contradictory, both those thoughts nicely sum up my snowboarding experience over four years. Why am I so terrible, and I love this so much let me check my bank account to see if I can spend $600 on snow apparel that I don’t really need.

I’m nothing if not contradictory.

snowboarding new zealand

Photo by Mark Clinton
snowboarding new zealand
Cardrona, New Zealand, my local mountain where I have a season pass

Living in a town seemingly filled with Olympians and top notch athletes, what’s a girl to do come winter who lives in her head and who’s likely the most ungraceful human in New Zealand? I mean, I fall down the stairs on the regular just walking to my car and have you read my camel story?

Grace and balance aren’t my fortes.

While snow sports might come easily to some, it’s been a long road for me, marked by mini-milestones and personal achievements that fill me with joy. I learned to ride as an adult here in Wanaka, where fear is real and things don’t bounce back like they used to.

Why mom, why didn’t you take me on snow trips as a kid?

I envy their fearlessness as they whip past me down the mountain in perfect little lines following their instructor, especially when I’m laying upside down in shame. But we all know what they say about comparing yourself to other people, let alone children.

Comparison is the thief of joy – Theodore Roosevelt

snowboarding new zealand
How I wish I looked
snowboarding new zealand
How I *actually* look

Spending time riding for the past few years at my local mountain, Cardrona, has really helped me grow and become a better rider, building me with confidence that I didn’t know I was capable of, at least with sports.

My snowboarding journey has very much been a process of building mental strength (fuck, yes you got this, Liz) and becoming more self-assured; it’s one of those sports where confidence and going for it really gets you far while hesitating holds you back.

I know what you’re thinking (wink, wink) why yes, what a perfect metaphor for life!

In fact, I’d argue that snowboarding is a great way to build character and inner strength, along with rock-hard quads and a strong core, not something I’m convinced I have.

snowboarding new zealand
Thank god for good friends who will ride with you!

snowboarding new zealand

I’m not in it for the sport or the adventure; I’m in it for those days where you feel so amazing, challenging yourself and doing something you didn’t think you were capable of. For me, that is the true joy in snowboarding and why I keep at it, even on days when I hate it.

No matter what happens (to a certain degree) you just have to get back up and do it again. And again and again. Anyone who’s learned to snowboard will tell you, you’re on your ass a lot.

My old flatmate used to remind me that if you’re not falling while snowboarding, you’re not trying hard enough.

Perhaps that was her way of trying to give me a little boost and encouraging me to get back up. Even now as I grow and improve, I still fall regularly and have to remind myself that doesn’t mean I’m the worst snowboarder to ever exist ever of all time ever, rather that I usually fall trying something new or pushing myself harder.

It also goes along well with my 2018 philosophy of working on being kinder to myself, something I think is lacking dramatically in this day and age.

Here’s my journey of snowboarding in New Zealand over the years!

snowboarding new zealand
Mt. Hutt, New Zealand
snowboarding new zealand
Cardrona, New Zealand

2014 

I learned to snowboard at Treble Cone, one of Wanaka’s two main ski resorts, besides Cardrona, during the last week of the season in 2014.

To say I threw myself off the deep end is to put it mildly. Treble Cone, or TC, is an advanced, incredible mountain, with heaps of steep terrain and epic views, but with very little beginner areas, which in and of themselves can be challenging, especially for someone like me who struggles with confidence.

My goal was to get the hang of the basics and to be able to do a run down from the chairlift by closing day, which I managed to achieve with help from an instructor and lessons. I rode the chairlift for the first time with my arms clasped behind the back holding on for dear life and it took me ages to get down, but I did it! Then I had a celebratory beer and did it again!

I was hooked.

snowboarding new zealand

snowboarding new zealand
Hello old friend!

2015 

Back at TC for the second year in a row, I was determined to get better.

Out of this world on a powder day or when snow conditions are good, TC is on fire. I got my first real taste for powder days, but also really struggled with what felt like ups and downs with my riding.

Exploring the mountain with friends who’ve done years of back to back winters definitely forced me to step up my game to keep up, and I really felt myself getting more confident but also I had some big falls and many days of feeling like complete shit too.

2015 really was my year of learning to link turns properly and progressing to more intermediate runs.

snowboarding new zealand
Treble Cone, Wanaka

2016 

This year I also bought a season pass for Cardrona Alpine Resort, our other ski field in Wanaka that has a lot more beginner and intermediate terrain, when I realized I really need to just work on building my confidence.

2016 was also my first year riding overseas, and incorporating snowboarding on some of my travels. I discovered that winter was my new favorite travel season and I loved picking out places I could go to to ride. I did a few days riding on a trip to Alberta, Canada at Sunshine and Lake Louise, and also managed to squeeze in a day riding in Switzerland a few months later on a truly epic powder day!

Ok ok, now I know what all the fuss is about!

snowboarding new zealand
At Sunshine in Alberta, Canada
snowboarding new zealand
Cardrona, New Zealand

2017 

I was so hooked by the following northern hemisphere winter, that I booked my own holiday to Whistler in BC, Canada for a week to snowboard after New Years. And to eat more poutine.

Holy crap, guys, it didn’t disappoint!

I had the most incredible powder day where I was the first on the mountain and had fresh tracks, my first time really riding deep powder compared to what I was used to in New Zealand. It took a bit to get used to, but I was quickly flying and screaming like a big kid with pure joy.

Just thinking back on that day fills me with such euphoria and happiness. Now, I really get it.

However, I dropped the ball on winter 2017 in New Zealand after I fell off a horse and tore my rotator cuff. Fail. So I only ended up riding a bit here and there towards the end of the season back at Cardrona.

snowboarding new zealand
Whistler, BC Canada
snowboarding new zealand
Cardrona, NZ

2018 

2018 is my year guys!

This time I was ready for winter in New Zealand, and making sure I would be here for most of the winter, with my season pass at Cardrona. Since I hadn’t ridden properly for over a year, I was worried about my first day back on the snow, which ended up being early since we had so much snow Cardies opened for a little cheeky preview weeks ahead of schedule.

Turns out, it’s just like riding a bike and I hadn’t forgotten anything. Now it was just a question of getting my legs strong and my confidence back.

snowboarding new zealand

Photo by Mark Clinton

snowboarding new zealand

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen that I have been going up to ride heaps at Cardrona, both with friends and alone (holla at me if you want to go up together!) Every day I go I feel better, more stronger and more confident; I even did my first proper black runs last week with friends!

I’m hooked now, and working hard on going faster and feeling confident; I’m trying to go off-piste more and not be afraid of steeper areas. Oh, and I finally bought bib pants and I’m going heli-skiing this week for the first time HOLY SHIT! I’m so excited for no more snow down the back of my pants and to really go backcountry for the first time!!

And be sure to say hi if you find yourself up at Cardrona this winter!

Do you ski or snowboard? What was your journey like? Share!

snowboarding new zealand

Photo by Mark Clinton

snowboarding new zealand

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8 Comments on “My journey to becoming an exceptionally average snowboarder

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  1. I don’t know, on the photos you look way too pro! Except the upside down one 😀 I’m just like you, having snowboarded just 5 years, little by little… Only in 2017 was I able finally go down a mountain without having to drink a shot first. My survival instincts are way too strong and I had to numb them somehow! I used to enjoy it a lot, but not just the riding, also all the sitting around, sipping hot drinks, people watching… Just this past winter I went only once and somehow didn’t feel like being on the slope all day. Not sure what’s changed. Let’s see how the upcoming winter does for me!

  2. Haha you nailed it with the bib snowboarding pants; I swear at least once per season I find myself wishing those were more of a thing! Loved reading your story, I can’t wait for winter in Cali so I can keep pushing to be better too!

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