Vail Valhalla - Page 2

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In the meeting room on the first morning of camp, our freshly assembled cadre of boarders gather in a circle, pressing back into downward dog to stretch out hamstrings and shoulders before a long day of riding.

Once we're limbered up and outside with our boards, more than a dozen campers and seven instructors start piling into the gondolas. It's only then that I realize it's starting to snow. We'll get more than an inch today, piled on top of the four inches that came in overnight. I hadn't even noticed the arrival of the white stuff as I rushed to camp dragging my snowboard, boots, ski pants, and assorted garb. Some snow god is smiling on us from on high.

Pischke and instructor Gerry Bortz take us on a snowboarder's tour of the mountain, leading the charge as we weave down under lifts, cruise wide-open shots, and thread through trees.

The only other time I'd been to Vail, several years before on spring break, there had been sunshine and melting snow. Today, one snow-covered run melts into another—with Vail's 34 lifts and 5,289 skiable acres, it's understandable that I'm a little lost.

Bortz leads us down Hairbag Alley, a snowy pinball ride through a tree-lined gully. From the lift, she points out the cliffs that she used to drop with friends, then takes us on a lower-adrenaline adventure through Bwana, one of Vail's three terrain parks.

Here, I try to put together what I've learned so far, like landing jumps on the balls of my feet, absorbing the shock with bent knees. I try to focus on another of my snowboarding demerits—holding out my back hand like a flag flapping in the wind—as the group takes a long run down to the base. As I watch Pischke and Bortz, I see their quiet upper bodies and try to mirror their form.

Rookies aren't the only ones who learn from other women. That's one of the reasons Christy wanted to have this camp. For years, she says, she saw guys doing back flips without thinking much of it. Then, she saw another pro—Morgan LaFonte, who's taught at ReTreat Yourself in the past—doing them. "That was all I needed to go out and try it," Christy says. "It just makes me feel more confident seeing someone who's similar to me who can do it."

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