Not anxious to spend the bucks for a snowboarder’s sloppy clothing until I became a confirmed boarder, I showed up with rented gear, wearing my
normal ski outfit, for my first snowboard lesson in the bright sunshine of a perfect ski day at Wachusetts, a gem of a ski area in Massachusetts. The instructor, a pert and enthusiastic young woman named April, asked me if I were “regular” or “goofy” - snowboardese for which foot I placed forward.

“Does it make any difference?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she replied. “A great deal. It’s the difference between snowboarding and falling all over the snow.”

She explained that one method of figuring out which foot goes first is to have someone behind you give you a sudden push forward. The foot that you extend to keep from falling over is the foot that should go in the forward binding. Almost as soon as she gave me this explanation, I was suddenly shoved from behind. I threw my left foot forward to stay erect.

Another tecnhique is to run and slide on a slippery surface. Whichever foot leads is the one that goes in front.

“Regular,” it turned out, is the right foot forward; “goofy,” the left.

Our first lesson began at the flat area in front of the base lodge when our class of four jovial women and two tall and slender young men, all in their early 20s, and yours truly, a gray-haired somewhere-over-the-distant - 40s, locked our lead boots into our front bindings and looped straps to one ankle as a safety precaution for beginners. Boards don’t have runaway brakes to keep them from scooting off by themselves. The bindings don’t release.

Then April had us stand so that our feet were semi-sideways, one in the binding and one in the snow. We were facing forward keeping our weight centered and our knees bent, with one hand extended to each side of the board.

“Okay,” she called out, “use your free foot to push yourself slowly. If you push too hard the board may shoot out from under you. Keep your free foot close to the snowboard. Practice pushing in gentle steps to gain a sense of balance.”

We started to move in a wide circle. Only two of us beginners didn’t experience the awkward embarrassment of ending up on the snow.

Once we began to feel comfortable carefully shoving our way along, we learned how to glide.

“Push with your free foot. When you start to move, place your free foot on the board and against the back binding and glide,” shouted April.

We practiced gliding on the flat snow. Push with the rear foot. Place the foot on the board. Glide.

Eventually satisfied that we’d learned, if somewhat haltingly, how to glide, we were lined up for our first effort at snowboarding down an easy slope.

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