Where better to learn how to snowboard than at one of Maine’s most mighty ski mountains, Big Squaw Mountain Resort. Rich with local community, this small operation was once bustling with winter sport enthusiasts. It first opened in 1963 with four trails. The first chairlift was built in 1967, bringing skiers to a new summit and becoming the second largest ski area at the time! Unfortunately, after changing ownership, the mountain was closed for a number of years until a nonprofit organization, Friends of Squaw Mountain, began to organize in 2012. Their mission is to “provide a channel for the positive energy for many of us who want to ski our backyard mountain again. As a non-profit organization, [they] will raise money and awareness to protect, preserve and promote the future of downhill skiing at Big Squaw Mountain.” Learn more at www.skibigsquaw.com or on the group’s Facebook page. With the diligent work of Friends of Squaw and local community support, today there are several trails open on the lower part of the mountain, ski rentals, lessons and a lodge!
Alright, now on to our adventure. With the help of Hannah at the front desk, my mother and I booked a “never ever snowboarded” lesson with instructor Kent. Randy, “the counselor” suited us with all our gear. He gave us newbies wrist guards, helmets, boots and boards. We headed outside to find Kent, who met us with great positivity. I was terrified, and I believe my mother was too but he quickly helped us relax and laugh.
The lesson began with Kent asking me which foot was my leading foot. I asked, “how do you know that?”. He told me to face the chairlift, which at the time was behind me. He gave me a tiny shove, and my left foot stepped forward first. There was my answer! We then learned how to strap our one foot in and skate on our board with just one foot attached. Before our lesson, I watched a young girl, perhaps twelve, perform this task with such ease. I instantly felt myself tense up. I was afraid. Deep breaths, I thought to myself. Just breathe. Then I laughed and remembered that good old faithful Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “do one thing every day that scares you”. Well, this was for sure my thing for today!
Next, Kent taught us how to stop by using either our toe or heel edge. After each doing this successfully even with a few falls, we removed our boards and started heading up a hill. That “hill” started to look more like a mountain the more we climbed. In reality, we had only walked a short distance, but my entire body began to tense up again. Looking at my mom, hers had too. She was totally out of her comfort zone. I shared Eleanor’s wise words with her. I looked at Kent and said “Im really scared!” Just then, he smiled at me, made strong eye contact with his reassuring blue eyes and reminded me he would not let anything happen to me, then made a silly joke I unfortunately cannot remember. He used humor throughout our lesson to help us both relax. It seemed to work wonders each time. For this, I was grateful! My trust in him was immediate and never wavered. Thank you, Kent!
Then we went down the entire “mountain” backwards learning now to use our toe edge. This was so hard for me!! I had a real hard time keeping my body straight and my knees bent enough. Having Kent behind me made me more comfortable, yet it took me nearly the whole lesson to get use to this. I felt like I was lifting my heels, but I was not.
When we went down using our heel edge, I totally got it right away. Sometimes I went a little too far back on my heels and fell, but this is absolutely my preferred method! My favorite memory of this part of the lesson was when Kent would squeeze my hands to remind me that I was tensing up again. It was the perfect nonverbal reminder that I was safe, I was ok and he was there to teach me! It was ok to be afraid, however being tense made everything a little harder. Just relax. Just be.
After learning how to slowly get down the “mountain” safely, we snowboarded across, side to side, right to left, looking where we were going, not at the board as I had to be reminded. We learned how to turn and go the other direction too. I was great at turning using my heel edge but using my toe edge was super tricky. My mom seemed to get the hang of this much quicker. We did this a few times before our lesson ended. We were kinda snowboarding, while holding our security blanket – Kent’s hand!
Throughout the entire lesson, we both conquered fears! Also we learned how many similarities snowboarding has to yoga!
- Not locking your knees
- Being in tune with your body, head to toe
Kent encouraged us that we had a great first lesson. He shared that on a next lesson we would revisit our newly acquired skills, then ride the lift and slowly work down the trail together. This right here made me super excited that I was learning on this very mountain! How amazing is this?
I told Kent at the beginning of our lesson that I was terrified of the lift. A little backstory to this fear: In 2011 during my senior year of high school, I took a school trip to Mount Sunapee where I took a ski lesson and skied right into a tree immediately after getting off the lift. Granted, there was ice and the conditions were not great. But, this is not a memory I am finding easy to “let go” of. I spent a few hours in the local ER with my mom and girlfriend that day. I walked away with a bruised elbow, great loss of confidence and fear that I I have let keep me from the slopes. However, I think Squaw may just be the place that helps me kick my fear to the side!
At the end of the lesson, my brother Gabe and Dad met up with us. We returned our gear, chatted up with Randy about our lesson and visited the cafe in the lodge. I indulged in a delicious gluten free chicken curry soup made by Chef Gare and we cheered our accomplishment with a glass of prosecco! Yum!
What an incredible memory this is to share with my mom! I can’t wait to come back for lesson #2! Stay tuned for my next Maine Adventure! Follow #sammadventureson on Instagram or just follow me!
Also, I am still looking for suggestions on your favorite Maine Adventures! I am in need of Adventure buddies too, so let me know if you are willing to join in on the fun!