Catedral snowboarding, day 2
Went back to Catedral today, after yesterday's debut, for my second ever day of snowboarding. Sadly, the weather was not very good today: it was raining in the village and on the snow all day, and I got soaked through by the freezing-cold precipitation; so much so, that I had to return to Bariloche at the early hour of 3pm, in order to get myself warm and dry, and to avoid catching pneumonia or something. But anyway, I managed to get myself another lesson, and I got in a fair bit more snowboarding practice. So it was a wet day, but a day of progress nonetheless.
The sub-optimal and most unpleasant business of finding a group snowboarding lesson, from Catedral's mess of ski schools, repeated itself today, and it was no easier than yesterday. I managed to get myself another "first-day only lesson", with Catedral Mountain (I didn't tell them that I already got one of these, with a different school yesterday), which included the day's board hire. Once again, they weren't too happy about offering the group lesson, and they were very insistent that "you can't really learn snowboarding in a group" (BULL$#%&!), and that it would be better if I took a private lesson. And once again, I told them that I'm taking the group lesson, if they have it, or nothing at all.
Well, it turned out that I got a private lesson, for the price of a group one! Nobody else turned up asking for a group lesson, and I'd already paid and booked in to the class; so they gave it to me 1-on-1. My instructor, Martín, was a great guy: in today's 1-hour lesson (from 12:30pm), he went over the basics with me, and then started showing me "what snowboarding's all about". That is, he showed me the basics of how to carve down a hillside on a snowboard, which involves turning so that you're alternately facing backwards, and then forwards — always with your strong foot in front. The first time that I managed a full turn backwards and forwards, it felt so daym cool, I couldn't believe it! That was the first time that I really experienced the sheer fun of snowboarding. I think it's only going to get better from here.
Unlike his employers, Martín was also a really nice guy (plus he spoke English). He asked if I would come back tomorrow for another lesson, and I told him that I couldn't, as the school only offered the lesson + board hire combo for your first beginner day on the slopes. He told me not to worry, that I can come back tomorrow and have another group lesson (whether we have a "group" or not) — all I have to do is ask for him. Hopefully, he'll be true to his word, and I'll be able to get more lessons! Anyway, we'll see.
Today, I also finally settled on which foot is my stronger foot, and thus which should be in front on the snowboard. Snowboarders come in two varieties: "regular" (left foot in front), and "goofy" (right foot in front). Which one you choose is simply a matter of which foot you're more comfortable having in front. Yesterday, I went regular, but I wasn't entirely confident that it was right for me. So this morning, I tried goofy. Anyway, goofy felt even less right: so I think that I'll stick to regular, and that hopefully as I progress, I'll be more comfortable with it, as I get comfortable with snowboarding in general. People who have experience in surfing, or in skateboarding, already know which is their stronger foot: since all I've done before is a bit of (very casual) sandboarding, I had no idea which was better for me. All things going well, I think I've figured it out now.
I did quite good today: I can now do two or three carving turns on the snowboard, before falling spectacularly on my face (which is an improvement). I also went up one of the big chairlifts today — the Princesa I — and made it back down the mountain in one piece. One thing that I've discovered, is that going down narrow "catwalks" on a snowboard is Really Hard™! These flattish, road-like paths down are really easy on a pair of skis — but on a snowboard, they're even harder than going down a steep hill. On the straight and slightly-steep bits, it's very hard to control your speed or your steering; and on the totally flat bits, you just stop, and you have no ski poles to push yourself forward on the snow. Major pain in the a$$.
Pommers and chairlifts are also quite a challenge on a snowboard. The pommers, in particular, took me all morning to mount all the way to their top. Stopping the board from veering off, and keeping the rubber ball between your sideways legs, is no easy task. Chairlifts aren't as bad as pommers, but they're still difficult: you have to kinda twist yourself sideways when you're getting off them; and then you have to board off them with your back foot unbound. These things were made for skiers: using them with a snowboard is an ugly and an uncomfortable hack.
Anyway, I got soaked all morning by the cold rain that was pouring down on the mountain; and by the afternoon, I was wet all the way through to my undies, and the water inside my clothes was rapidly freezing up. And me with it. By 3pm, I realised that this was a combination that I couldn't put up with any longer — if I stayed on the slopes, I was going to get sick and catch a cold — so I jumped on the bus, and headed back to Bariloche a bit early. Once back at Patanuk, the amazing hot showers there never felt so good, and I stayed in for quite a while, until I was fully thawed.