Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cool Dude in a Snowdrift

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cool Dude in a Snowdrift

Article excerpt

Byline: By Geoff Hill

Aglance in the bathroom mirror confirmed my worst suspicions: 20 years ago, I had been an international sportsman and Master of the Universe but my body had been stolen by the aliens of middle age.

My six-pack had become a one-pack, muscles of iron, muscles for ironing.

There was only thing for it: go to Vermont, learn to snowboard and become a dude again.

There can be few experiences more heartmendingly beautiful than arriving in Vermont on a winter night and driving to an inn. In the headlights, the snowflakes rush towards you like stars towards the USS Enterprise, except that rather than hurtling forwards, you are going back to an America of the 50s.

On either side of the road, snow is piled to the eaves of wooden homes, churches and stores, gay with lights and welcome.

At last you come to an inn, and are taken to a room with a four-poster bed and open fire. You unpack, and go downstairs, half expecting to find Bing Crosby humming White Christmas.

Vermont is where snowboarding was invented in 1929 by Jack Burchett, who tied his feet to a plank.

Fast forward to 1965, when Sherman Poppen invented the Snurfer, two skis stuck together, as a toy for his daughter. The Snurfer became the snowboard and today in Stowe, the Burton Method School is alive and well, developing methods which it claims can teach even idiots to board. That sounded like me, which was why I found myself standing on top of a mountain the next morning with Will the instructor.

He was looking puzzled. The ideal snowboarder is 16 and stocky. I was 46 and 6ft 7in. Snowboarders dress like rejects from the Oxfam shop in Kabul. I was wearing a flying suit, pink and brighter pink.

Will was the man for whom the word cool had been invented: 6ft 2in, eyes of blue, a shock of blond hair, taught snowboarding in the winter and surfing in the summer in his native Devon.

Now, I've been skiing a few times, but this was back to nursery school: it was the strangest of feelings: the principles of weight shifting and using the edges were similar to skiing, but it was more of a Zen activity, in that you looked where you wanted to go, then instinctively went there. …

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