My boyfriend (“S”) and I drive to Cypress Mountain in the early morn. We’ve settled into an easy silence and suddenly, we round a bend of the road and enter wintry splendour. Clouds and fog obscure the city below, and it feels like we’re far away from our usual urban environment. When holding an umbrella aloft in the Vancouver rain, I often forget that there’s snow on the mountains.
This is the first time we’ve gone snowboarding together and for some reason, I’m feeling a sense of nervous excitement about this particular winter date. I recall my initial snowboarding at Cypress, which, embarrassingly, was only two years ago when I was single.
At that point, I’d lived my whole life in Vancouver and except for a few clumsy attempts at skiing as a child, I’d stayed away from the snowy slopes. Years passed, with fear and excuses (eg I’m not athletic; I don’t like falling) preventing me from trying again. Being single can be tough, but one of its most exhilarating aspects is that you have the extra time and energy for a wide variety of hobbies. It’s incredibly freeing when you realize that you don’t have to wait for someone to enjoy what your city has to offer.
And so, in my mid-thirties, I found myself in snowboarding lessons at Cypress, at first floundering at heel and toe edge on the bunny hill while the sixteen-year-olds in my class effortlessly whizzed by me. But I gritted my teeth, remembered why I signed up, and persevered. And slowly but surely, my body began to understand how to turn, and how to control my speed and direction. I advanced to runs. Although I certainly wasn’t graceful, it was empowering to learn something new on my own. The intense beauty of the mountain filled me with newfound joy.
For the rest of the season that year, I went quite a few times more, especially liking the night riding when the crowds thinned and the mountain was cloaked in darkness, save for the lights illuminating the runs.
Two years later, S and I are at the top of the bunny hill (aka “Easy Rider” at Cypress) together. The snow below is untouched. We, at first, tumble down, awkwardly trying to will our bodies to remember how to manoeuvre our boards. As we lie laughing on our backs, temporarily winded, I realize why snowboarding is such a great date activity. I still sometimes irrationally worry that S won’t love me if I look foolish, less attractive, or worse still, vulnerable. Dressed in a puffy, aquamarine outfit with snow on my butt, I let go of that worry just a little bit more.
At one point, I take a moment to look at the various people around us. I see another couple, a guy holding his girlfriend’s hands as she tentatively plows her way down the hill. Her eyes are wide with anxiety but he remains patient, quietly instructing her the whole way day. As the romantic sap that I am, my heart melts.
Infuriatingly, even though S has only snowboarded once before, he is cruising down that bunny hill after just a couple times. For the rest of morning, we practice on Cypress’ two green (easiest) runs: Collins (accessed from the Lions Express Quad Chair) and Panorama (accessed from the Eagle Express Quad Chair).
We share the chair with couples contentedly leaning into each other, and friendly people who chat with us as we make our gradual way to the top of a run. The snow is amazingly good – powdery and forgiving of my many falls. My legs ache and my muscles are tense from such physical concentration, but I adore every minute of the crisp mountain air, the adrenaline of (controlled) speed, and the pleasure of doing an activity together.
We wrap up the morning at the Crazy Raven Bar & Grill. I devour poutine with pulled pork, while S has a beer and pizza.
By the time we’re done, the afternoon crowd has arrived and the two of us are sluggish from food and the physical rush of boarding. We do another run and then decide to head home. Our snowboarding season has just begun.
As we make our way back to downtown Vancouver, we sigh, both agreeing that we had a lovely date on the slopes. We’ll soon be back at Cypress for another early morning visit (opens at 9am), or we’ll go at night to avoid the rush. Grouse Mountain and Whistler Blackcomb are also next on our list.