Board Stupid?I HAVE just received the beating of my life. I can barely move my arms, my legs are dead and an enormous purple bruise is flowering on my behind. To make things worse, I know I’m in for another pummeling next week. My affair with snowboarding has begun. To be honest, it actually started about a year ago when I first ???took to the slopes’ at Borovets, though that is a misleading phrase that conjures up images of majestically carving down the mountainside. In reality, I spent most of my time writhing helplessly, and decidedly unmajestically, in the snow. It was only a marginally less painful experience than my first ever encounter with ???winter sports’. Coming from the south of England, where even the merest hint of a snowflake plunges everything into chaos, there weren’t many snow-covered mountains around for me to hone my skills while I was growing up, so my first ever encounter took place on a dry ski slope. I was still picking nylon fibres out of various parts of my anatomy weeks later. Not a great start to my skiing/snowboarding career. So, when I came to Bulgaria it seemed the perfect chance to finally get acquainted with these elusive sports in their proper setting, on snow, the way they’re supposed to be done. What with Vitosha right on Sofia’s doorstep and Borovets and Bansko only a couple of hours’ drive south it was too good an opportunity to miss. So, one fine day last winter, when the snow was lying thick on the ground, we set off with some Bulgarian friends to Borovets. The drive was beautiful, turning off the ringroad at Pancherevo, the road snaked through the snow-covered hills next to Lake Iskar. The last leg was quite steep, but of course our Bulgarian friends were accustomed to this and already had snow tyres on the car. On arrival in Borovets our friends took us to one of the many shops to hire snowboards and boots, and then disappeared to ski down the red and black routes at the top of the mountain, leaving us to head for the baby slope at the bottom. Dressed in salopettes, padded jacket, hat, scarf, gloves and snowboarding boots, it was difficult to move, let alone contemplate standing on a snowboard. As it was our first attempt, we decided to hire an instructor to show us the ropes. He recommended we didn’t bother with lift passes as it was our first day. This meant that our first lesson was how to walk up the slope, with one foot attached to the board dragging behind you; a guaranteed recipe for painful ankles. What followed was the aforementioned helpless writhing in the snow, at least on my part - my companion of course took to it with relative ease, which only served to infuriate me all the more. Our instructor was patient, showing us how to turn left and right. But turning wasn’t so much the problem as stopping, which always seemed to end up with me lying either on my front or my back in a useless heap. On one occasion, I did manage to stand up for more than a couple of seconds, and was just beginning almost to enjoy it, when looming up ahead of me was what looked scarily like a road. Surely not? A road cross-cutting the beginners’ slope? But yes, albeit a small one. You have been warned. I decided maybe this snowboarding lark wasn’t all it was cut out to be and headed for the bar instead, of which Borovets thankfully has many. So, it was with not a little trepidation that I found myself a year later yet again heading for Borovets. This time with an English friend, a skier who we had convinced to give snowboarding a try, much to the horror and disgust of our other skiing friends. This time we took the ???gondola’ lift up the right hand side of the mountain. It was a bright, sunny day and the gondola afforded a stunning view out across Lake Iskar and over to Vitosha. Looking down, we could also see the experienced skiers and snowboarders speeding down the mountainside, dodging trees and bushes. At the top I was relieved to see that the slope looked very gentle, it was only a green run, and there were no roads in sight (although the ski-doos were a force to be reckoned with in themselves). The first challenge was using the ???button’ lifts. But this actually wasn’t as difficult as anticipated and soon we had ascended the gentle slope and were ready for action. I strapped my boots onto the board, gritted my teeth, and to my surprise was able to stay upright for a good few minutes. Stopping is still a problem in that I can’t unless I basically fling myself at the ground (a move that possibility accounts for a large proportion of my huge collection of bruises), but I would almost go so far as to say I am beginning to enjoy it. Maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for me yet.
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