I spent a couple of days this week in Rusutsu, Hokkaido, for the Brain and Mind workshop, and came back only yesterday. The workshop itself was good, just like last year, with some fun presentations and several interesting posters.
Rusutsu is a ski resort with excellent slopes and lots of snow, and many people attend in part for the opportunity to ski during off hours. I didn't ski at all last year but I was determined not to miss out this time. Now, I did a lot of skiing as a child, but I haven't actually stood on a pair of skis for twenty years. Some caution was clearly in order.
So I decided to try snowboarding, for the first time in my life.
Rusutsu snowboarders. Note: Picture from last year - I have a backlog of pictures to develop and scan, and I wanted to get this post out while fresh.
I rented equipment - board, boots, clothes, the whole kit - and signed up for a two-hour lesson. Lessons are in groups of 1-8 people, and I was lucky to be the only student in my early-afternoon time slot.
First, snowboarding is easier than it looks. I had never even touched a snowboard before; the lesson began with how to wear the boots properly. But by the end of the first hour I'd already been up the chair lift twice and could ski down an easy slope all by myself. It helps that I have skiing experience of course, but it was mostly thanks to a very good teacher. Taking lessons really is much, much better than trying to learn things all on your own. Had I tried to learn by myself I'd have gotten nowhere (except, possibly, a hospital).
The hardest part, surprisingly, was to move about on flat ground or at the top of the hill with one foot free. I kept tripping over my feet, had the board catch in the snow, flailed about and generally made a fool of myself. Finding my balance and learning to turn down the slope was actually easier.
Also, snowboarding hurts. At least, beginning snowboarding hurts. I've used muscles I've forgotten I had, and while the deep, fluffy snow in Rusutsu is soft, my backside still took a beating with the frequent falls. It was worst right at first, before I'd gotten used to the board, and I spent a lot of energy fighting against it. Once I began to understand the basics I could relax a bit. But my legs were completely exhausted by the end of the lesson (we cut it a bit short, actually, as I could barely stand up anymore) and my entire body was hurting yesterday - the next day. Sitting down for the morning seminars was painful, and getting up for the coffee break was even worse. When going to work this morning my arms and hands hurt whenever I tried to lift my bag.
But it was fun. It was, in fact, amazingly fun. More fun than I remember skiing to be and more fun than any other sport I've tried. If I hadn't been hobbling around like a rheumatic pensioner the next day I might have skipped a presentation or two and gone back to the slopes again. There's a a small ski slope in Rokko mountain north of Kobe; I'll have to see if we could go there someday. This is way too much fun not to do again.