After six years of skiing, and after one week of snowboarding, I can now say with confidence that I've experienced both of these alpine sports, and that I'm able to talk about them a bit and to compare them. So here's a few reflective points in favour of snowboarding, and a few more in favour of skiing. I'm not making any decisive call here on which one I think is the better — just spelling out my views on the advantages and the disadvantages of each. The verdict, I leave in your hands.
All good things gotta come to an end, and what a lovely end it was. Today was my 7th and final day of snowboarding, here at the alpine resort of Cerro Catedral. Considering how crap the weather's been all week, I wasn't expecting much this morning: but I was rewarded for my week of perseverance — the sun was shining down on me today! Lovely weather, slightly less crowds, and the best snowboarding so far, all combined to make this about as good a finale for the week as I could have hoped. Got some great piccies today, did plenty of runs that I've never ventured down before, and finished the week with enough bruised body parts to keep me sore for a while, but luckily with no broken bones.
My first day of not snowboarding alone: yay! Today, I caught the bus up to the mountain with Ed (who managed to rise from bed this morning) — we also met up on the bus again with Paul, and his Brazilian friend — and together, we all went up the slopes on our funky snowboards. Sadly, the weather was once again pretty shoddy today: snowing / raining all day, and the mountain was a white-out / blizzard by the afternoon. Nevertheless, we had plenty of fun, and we didn't get too soaked in the process.
My fifth day of boarding down the runs of Cerro Catedral was the best day so far. The weather cleared up a bit today — it was still overcast as hell, but at least it wasn't raining or snowing — and my skills on the board are only getting better. Yesterday was the first day that I really started feeling confident on the board — so today was all about having fun! I tried going down some "red" runs (an Argentine special — they're basically hard blues), and even a few blacks ("chicken style" all the way, for now). It's still really hard doing proper turns on those steep bits, but I'm getting there.
Another day, another trip to the slopes. The weather was once again less-than-ideal today: yesterday's snow gave way to more light rain; although at least yesterday's dump has improved the snow cover a great deal. When I arrived at Catedral this morning, the staff at the board hire shop told me that almost all the lifts were shut, and that most of the runs were inaccessible — this was extremely disheartening; but fortunately it turned out to be untrue, as they had the main lifts open, by the time I hit the slopes. My snowboarding continues to improve: today is the first day that I feel I can actually say "I did snowboarding". I hit a certain critical point today, where I started to really feel like I was in control of the board, and I actually started to enjoy the feel of what I was doing. So I'm very glad I came out today: it was well worth it!
Another big day on the mountain, for a small and fledgling newbie snowboarder to keep tackling the terrain. Today was a very white day: it was snowing all day — not just on the mountain, but also in Catedral's alpine village; and even back in town as well, in Bariloche! Snow is fine by me, of course — unlike rain, it doesn't make you wet, and it makes the ground-cover better rather than worse (plus it looks beautiful when it's falling) — although a post-snowfall clear blue day is certainly better. I kept practising, kept venturing further up the chairlifts (and back down the slopes), and kept stacking it every five seconds. But hey, still getting there, little by little.
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.
I already heard that Cerro Catedral is one of the first ski resorts in the world to have implemented an electronic lift pass system. Today, in my first day of snowboarding on the mountain, I saw the new system myself, and it is very cool indeed. Every lift has a little scanner at the front of its queue; and you just stick your ticket in the scanner, and hold it there for half a second; and then the machine beeps, and the turnstiles open for you. Much more funky and efficient than ye 'ol punch-a-hole-in-me tickets, which need to be checked manually (or not) by lifties, and which need to be visible at all times. Catedral has a nice new hi-tech system on their mountain.
Today was the first day of my life that I tried snowboarding. And as such, I was pretty keen on getting lessons. I'd heard that you can get group lesson and board hire combinations, up here at Cerro Catedral. Well, let's just say that the ski/snowboard school situation here at Catedral is nothing like what I'm used to, and nothing like what I was hoping for. It's an absolute mess, and an expensive one at that. There are almost 10 separate, privately-run ski schools operating at this place — there's no official, resort-run "Catedral ski school" (unlike what every ski resort in Australia has) — and none of these schools are cheap. None of them operate proper, public group lessons, either. Well, I'll be daymed if I'm shelling out megabucks for private snowboarding lessons — don't need them, and can't afford them.
I'm staying here in Bariloche for a full week: and from today until next Saturday, I have seven days to spend on the snow at nearby Cerro Catedral, one of the biggest ski resorts in South America. Now, as anyone who's been to a ski resort in the past 10 or 15 years should know, these days skiing is only half the fun on the mountain. The other half of snow-goers are now ditching their skis, and doing snowboarding instead. I've only ever been a skier up until now; but this week, I'm trying snowboarding for the first time. Today was an interesting day: very slow, and very sore; but fun nonetheless.