When the folks at Loveland Ski Area told me that I should take a full-day lesson to get the full learn-to-snowboard experience, I imagined myself seeing stars all day long.
Last year, I tried the do-it-yourself version, and managed to do what everyone warns about: Bruise my knees and bum, and knock my head so hard I was seeing stars —or were they little birdies?
I bought a new helmet after that day.
Needless to say, taking on the task of illustrating what it’s like for an avid skier to learn to snowboard wasn’t exactly No. 1 on my “fun” list. To my surprise, though, the folks at Loveland turned my dread into eagerness to try it again by the end of the day’s lesson. I was even trying to learn tricks, like flowing a 360 on the slope’s surface and leaning into a manual near the lift line.
As they say, third time’s the charm. I’d tried to learn to snowboard twice since I was about 12, when a friend convinced me to take a lesson so she could learn a new sport that might allow her to keep up with my crazy family. I was so obstinate, the instructor left me to fend for myself on the bunny hill.
Luckily, Loveland instructor Jon Weers had the more adult version of me to deal with — the professional who was in it for the story, if not the slim chance that perhaps I’d pick up the sport so I could surf powder instead of waterskiing it.
The folks in the snowsports school are headquartered at Loveland Ski Valley, which is the beginner’s side of the ski area. Meaning: I wasn’t exactly going to get run over.
Feeling somewhat safe, minus that one guy who’d crouch down, lean back, completely lose control of his board and go sailing past, I strapped in and set about following Weers’ instructions.
He made it fun, even though we were a serious group focused on learning the techniques. We practiced keeping our balance and looking where we’re going to prepare for getting off the lift. During the break to warm our toes and fingers, Weers had us pouncing in as dainty a 180 as we could muster — a skill that later came in handy to get going down the slope in the right direction.
He taught us how to flex the board to best engage the edges in a simplified way that made sense. With pauses to make sure everyone grasped the concept, the group slowly moved down the hill, practicing skills and adding to those skills as we felt comfortable.
To Weers, the best student is one who’s open-minded and willing. During his years as an instructor, he’s learned different mechanisms to help students learn. Those differ according to one’s anatomy (eg. kids are generally top heavy), one’s learned movements (eg. Weers kicks off the lesson by asking what sports his students have played) and one’s learning style (eg. using visual cues often helps).
His favorite part of teaching is seeing concepts click.
“It makes me pretty smiley,” he said, whether it’s a child he’ll never see again, or a woman in the lift line who’s making her own way down the slope — and credits him.
Weers’ group was one that fit the bill for a good lesson, with Front Rangers Bianca Calderon, Evan Hart and Frank Davis Jr. all eager to ask questions and forward their snowboarding ability.
All three were participating in Loveland’s 3-Class Pass, which allows first-time skiers or snowboarders to take three lessons in the new sport and receive a free season pass at the end. It’s a deal Davis felt was better than purchasing a pass outright.
Calderon and Hart said they opted for snowboarding because they’re already versed in skiing, and the package was enticing. Calderon was injured in a ski accident not long ago. It helps that snowboarders often look like they’re having fun.
Hart was eager to try a new skill.
“Skiing is easy for me,” he said. “I wanted to do something challenging. It’s a totally new skill. You have to know what you’re doing, and it’s less intuitive (than skiing).”