Cruising Through A Winter Wonderland

At the end of the season I finally felt at home in the woods. Going very slowly, of course, and talking to myself saying “Don’t hit any trees.”

The true lyrics are “walking in a winter wonderland” but for me, I like to go a bit faster; about 35 mph to be exact. My winter wonderland consists of steep snow covered slopes with plenty of trails to choose from. Practicing tricks, riding through trees, or cruising through the half pipe, snowboarding has always been a passion of mine since I began in the seventh grade. Granted, learning wasn’t easy, as many people have heard or experienced. You tend to spend a lot of time on your bottom as a beginner. Yet there is something amazing about mastering a skill that is challenging.

I began at Cockaigne Resort and I struggled immensely. Tears were shed, bruises were numerous, and my temper was tested. However every week I went, I accomplished something new and different. Whether it was turning to the right or stopping without falling, small goals were the key to success. It is quite rare to pick up a sport and be amazing at it right away, and the same goes for snowboarding. You use muscles you never knew existed, your sense of balance shifts, and most strange of all, you are strapped to a board.

On a snowboard you have two edges that carve into the snow, one edge takes you left and the other takes you right. When you master them both, you can ride an s-shaped pattern down the hill. For me the struggle was my edge that took me right, or toe side. You have to trust the hill and believe Mother Nature will take you that way. It took me two whole winters before I finally trusted the hill, but I can still vividly remember the first time I was able to ride in an s-shaped pattern down the bunny hill at Cockaigne. I only went up from there. Longer trails tested my stamina and made me stronger, while steeper trails made my reflexes better. Now that I had learned this skill I could go anywhere. Suddenly the cold weather was a blessing and I craved snow.

My high school took us to Holiday Valley every week and I kept on progressing there. My favorite trail is “Tannenbaum” which takes you through towering evergreen trees. The evenings were quiet and the lights lit up the trees; you felt like you were in a never ending Christmas scene. As high school students, we got as many runs in as we could before the bus brought us home. The next day at school was filled with fun snow filled stories.

Fourteen years later and I am still snowboarding; actually I am now a certified instructor. I pride myself with my ability to teach children and adults the sport of snowboarding. I help them overcome fears, build confidence, and most importantly get outside. It has been more than a sport to me, it has taught me important life lessons. I am more patient with myself and others, I set small goals to accomplish, and I recognize that everyone learns differently.

Fourteen years later and I am still snowboarding; actually I am now a certified instructor. Submitted Photo

I cannot wait for the chance to get out when many others stay in. I rejoice at winter weather warnings while co-workers grimace. I have traveled to resorts all over the East coast, challenging myself and seeing what other amazing terrain nature has to offer. I ride through the trees with the squirrels and birds. I see sleeping porcupines as I ride up the lifts. I pause and sit to enjoy the spectacular views at the peak of the mountain. Snowboarding is not just a sport to me; it is a way to experience outdoors in a way not everyone does. I urge you to try a new winter sport or activity this winter; you will be pleasantly surprised. Tubing, skiing, snowshoeing, or even a winter hike are just a few fun ways to get outside this winter.

“If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy and the same amount of snow” — unknown.

There are opportunities coming up at ACNC to get out and enjoy the season, albeit a little slower than I like to experience it. Little Explorers, Nature Play Day, Christmas Bird Counts, Solstice Bonfire, Holiday Camp, and Winter Wildlife Day are all upcoming programs and events in December for a variety of ages. No matter how you choose to experience winter outdoors, there are always ways to enjoy it and connect to the season.

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling 569-2345.

Emily Rechin is a seasonal naturalist at ACNC.

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