The Gilded Serpent presents...
Why Belly Dancers are Natural Snowboarders
by Lauren Traub

OK, it sounds strange. But If you’ve enjoyed dancing Oriental you probably already have a lot of the skills needed to snowboard. At least that’s what I have found in my personal experience. It’s probably too late to get on the snow this season, unless you go to the glacier at Blackcomb, B.C., or to Portillo, Chile in the Summer. But it’s not too early to start getting psyched to learn to snowboard next season.

First of all, why snowboard? The answer: Because it is so much darn fun! I have just finished my third season of snowboarding. I am in my 40s. And I have never done anything as much fun in my rich and varied life! And, it is so cool to be a snowboarder. I have something in common now with people that I never would have met before. It might even give you something to talk about with your kids! Snowboarding gives you a great excuse to be outdoors in the winter. And you’ll be warm, too! It burns calories big time!

If you’re thinking “but I can’t even ski,” fear not. I could never ski either, despite a lifetime of half-hearted attempts. Knowing how to ski may even be a detriment to snowboarding, because you will be fighting the “one board, sideways” paradigm. Admittedly, that’s strange for first time snowboarders too.

People who have skied and switched to snowboarding say that the experience is a more pure union with the mountain. There’s just one piece of equipment to deal with instead of the four pieces with skis and poles. It is easier on the knees (you MUST, I repeat, must, wear knee pads) and a great strengthener for the quadriceps.

How Belly Dance Will Help
If you’ve been studying dance for a year or more, you already have body wisdom that sixteen year old snowboard hotshots can only dream of. You’ve strengthened your core, and your body knows how to take directions from your brain. You know how to move and balance. And to continue to breathe while in action. You enjoy physical activity and probably are fit. You understand physical rhythm. You have the confidence to know you can learn to do new things, things that seem impossible at first try! With perseverance, it will come.

You know how important it is to take lessons from a good teacher whose teaching you understand and who understands you. You know that you should warm-up your muscles before exerting them, and you know how important it is to take care of yourself using proper physical technique to avoid injury. And I hope you know that you should keep yourself well hydrated.

Outfitting Yourself for Safety and Comfort
The single most important factor that can make or break your first few days on the board is...PADDING. I am an advocate of protecting my precious human machine. You probably are too. That’s why you dance Oriental instead of ballet. OK, back to those knee pads. If you dance Tribal Style, you may already know how great knee pads are. In snowboarding, there are two main ways to fall, frontward, and backward, which makes protecting yourself relatively easy. The knees are your first point of contact with the snow, and contact can happen slowly and gently, as you stop to rest. Or it can happen unexpectedly and hard. You’ll see. That is why you MUST protect your knees. I wear Roller Blade TM pads that are soft and cushiony on the inside and have a hard plastic shell on the outside. Pads give the added benefit of keeping your knee joint warm and pliable. Wear the pads under your waterproof snowpants.

I recommend padding on the butt and tailbone as well, for those backside falls. Skateboard impact shorts are great. Specialized snowboard padding is starting to show up. If you can’t borrow padding and aren’t ready to buy, even bubble wrap stuffed down the back of your snowboard pants will be a big help.

A helmet is an excellent idea, but you might be able to get away without one for the first few lessons, since you won’t be going fast yet (hopefully!). When you start going faster or learning tricks, a helmet is a must. Once you’ve gained confidence and speed snowboarding, those occasional backward falls can happen in a split second, completely without warning. My helmet has paid for itself a couple of times over each season in preventing head injury or bumps.

A Camelback TM -type water backpack is an excellent accessory. I can easily drink two liters in a few hours of snowboarding. And believe me, you won’t want to stop to go into the lodge for water. You’ll be having too much fun on the slope! If you’re carrying a backpack, throw in an energy bar that won’t freeze and your neck gaiter too.

Getting Started
The way to get started right is with lessons. Kids with attitude may want to figure it out for themselves, but you are used to being shown the right way to do things. It saves time and frustration and will get you up and going much faster. The basic skills you learn in the first few lessons are important skills that you will use even as you become a good snowboarder. In your first lesson you may learn the valuable snowboarding technique known as the “Falling Leaf” pattern. This is a way of going down a hill slowly, toes and nose facing downhill, snowboard front edge facing down the hill, and using the back edge of the board as a giant brake. It is called the Falling Leaf because you will slide to the left and slightly downhill, then switch to the right, across and downhill, like a leaf falling from a tree. Despite its gentle poetic name, this maneuver can be a lifesaver later in your snowboard career if you accidentally end up on a trail that is uncomfortably steep or icy.

If you can, take a few private or semi-private lessons. You also know the value of personal attention when learning something new! Or go to the mountain on a weekday when there’s a good chance your group class will be small. Intensive workshops offered at mountains are another good way to learn, just as in belly dancing.

Practice your snowboard skills. Continue to learn new ones. Take lessons occasionally as you progress to avoid getting into bad habits. Breathe the sparkling mountain air, and enjoy! And remember, when the snow season (sadly) slips away, you have your old friend, belly dancing to embrace again!


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