By no means would I consider myself an expert snowboarder, but I like to think I know a thing or two having started with downhill skiing at age three. I’ve experienced the mountains before in Austria, Whistler and Japan but it wasn’t until my recent trip to Banff that I learned some real lessons about snowboarding.
We started our mornings early as we prepared to catch our favourite 7:40am bus (you can never be too early to the ski hill when the lifts close at 4pm and you want to avoid the rush heading home!). And on day one we headed to Sunshine Village for somewhat sentimental reasons as this is where my Dad learned to ski and let’s be honest, he’s the reason any of us ever decided to take up this crazy sport. Up the gondola we went, a beautiful 20 minute ride, followed by both wardrobe and mental preparation to get up the mountain. I was overly concerned about being too cold but little did I know that would be the least of my worries that day.
After a few great runs and finding my rhythm, I found myself at the bottom of the lift feeling nauseous, dizzy, faint. I put my head down, took a deep breath while having a conversation with myself: a reminder that it’s all in my head. In other words, suck it up and carry on. But when I lifted my head up and saw stars, I knew something was up. Next thing I knew my Dad was talking to the liftie asking for ski patrol to come pick me up.
Lesson one (and you probably knew this one): never ski alone.
At this point I was laying in the snow in fear of falling if I stood up and was thankful when the snow mobile arrived.
Lesson two: fashion first, safety second.
Before I knew it I had company on my snow mobile ride - a snowboarder showed up bleeding from his face and all I could think the whole way down was too hold on tight, lean forward and pray that he didn’t bleed on my white snowboarding jacket!! Luckily my jacket was still clean when I was safely laying down in the infirmary and it was time to take my vitals.
Lesson three: do not wear nail polish when participating in high risk activities.
It doesn’t allow for a read of your “sats” (the percentage of hemoglobin sites occupied by oxygen for the science nerds like me out there). So off came the socks and boots while I was hooked up to oxygen and after all was said and done my symptoms came down to one thing: altitude sickness.
Lesson four: be prepared.
I now know to drink more water, eat more food, and to take a couple of IBuprofen which I learned can act as mild blood thinner to help at high altitude. After a good lunch and lots of liquids, I felt like myself again.
Lesson five: persevere.
It would have been easy to give in, pack it up and call it a day. But I hadn’t come all this way to sit in the chalet. I was back to playing that mental game with myself to get going and sure enough it paid off - the afternoon continued to provide sunshine, clear blue skies and an inspirational view you can’t get anywhere else.
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