Loveland happy to supply early-season bruises

BY JEFF "BIFF" SWANSON
Daily Press writer
Ouch.
That would be the one word to best describe the opening ski weekend at Loveland Valley, as early-season skiers and snowboarders took to the ice, er .............. snow for a little refresher course last Saturday.
With some help from our good friends at the Ski Haus in Steamboat, who were willing to set us up with boards and boots despite their ski season not starting for another month, we were on our way.
Joining me on the trip was Tom "Crash" Farnsworth, a friend of mine from Davenport, Iowa, who wanted to try out some early-season snowboarding. In fact, it would be the first time ol' Crash ever stepped foot on a snowboard.
Me, being a veteran boarder (one time) and Farney on his innagural trip, we should have known better than to expect an easy day on the slopes.
After reaching Loveland, we found the media relations director, Nena, who helped us out by setting us up with a couple of complimentary passes for the day.
Rather than taking off and returning to ski later in the year, we decided to honor our word and hit the slopes literally.
The ride up the chairlift may have been the best part of the day, as the few clouds that were present allowed for a great view of the valley to our left, and unfortunately on the right, the only open slopes.
Where was the bunny hill again?
For anyone who has attempted to snowboard, there is one thing that is certain it is not easy.
With only one run open, and it being anything but a bunny hill, aside from the view from the lift, things were not looking good.
As we prepared to exit the lift, I told Farney the best way to keep from falling.
Apparently, I was too busy talking and not listening to my own advice, as my next move was rolling out of the way of a beginning skier who came flailing wildly off of the lift.
I soon found out the only thing worse than skiing on ice is snowboarding on ice. And, the only thing worse than snowboarding on ice, is not being very good. The result is often a not-so-soft fall.
Over.
And over.
And over.
At 29 years old, I was beginning to feel more like I was 80.
I thought about flagging down the ski patrol snowmobile and getting a ride down the mountain, but as I raised my snow-covered hand, I became the recipient of a direct spraying from a 10-year-old skier.
"Nice place to sit," he yelled.
If I could have moved my fingers, I would have given him one.
As I kneeled on the ground with snow covering my sunglasses, I looked more like Frosty the Snowman than a frustrated, rookie snowboarder.
The only thing that kept me going in a downhill direction was the fact that Crash would shoot past once in a while, only to fall even worse than me.
One wipeout in particular didn't look so good.
"You OK?" I asked him as I slid to a stop.
"I think ... I broke ... my back," he said. "I think ... I need ... a backeotomy."
As he laid there thinking about smoking a cigarette and laughing at himself like a deranged maniac, I turned back downhill, facing the dim reality of having to continue.
Bumps became bruises, and eventually through the icecyles I began to see my destination the bottom of the hill.
Resigning yourself to the fact that you are going to fall at least five more times in order to get there may be the most difficult part.
When I finally reached the bottom, I decided that my day on the slopes was over.
Falling close to forty times was enough encouragement for me.
Enough of snowboarding for another year, I was ready for a seat at the bar.
I soon found out that early-season isn't only reflected in cheaper lift tickets, but cheaper concessions as well.
After a beer and a bowl of chili, I started to contemplate another run down the slopes, but thankfully, good sense prevailed.
No Michael Jordon here.
I think I've retired.
And all of the falls that I will perform from now on will be just like they have in the past.
On the bunny hill, and on a pair of skis.

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