Vancouver, Day 3: My first attempt at snowboarding


Today we were going late night (early morning?) snowboarding, as the nearby mountain was open 24 hours this weekend.

We woke up at midnight, and discovered on Tom’s phone messages that his friends wouldn’t be by to pick us up until closer to 2am, so we had some time to sleep. We tucked in again for a short nap while Cullen headed out the door to start his night/day of snowboarding.

We woke up at 2am and waited by the door until we got another message that his friend would be by closer to three. Nap time, again!

Now that it was 2:45am, we woke up the final time and waited until we saw the headlights through the front window. We were packed and ready to go for my first attempt at snowboarding.

We stepped outside in the morning darkness and Tom’s friends Matt (Canadian) and Robin (British) greeted us from the car windows. The backseat and trunk were a little cramped with their snowboards tucked inside, and Tom and I barely squeezed into the back, shutting the door just enough to not cut off circulation.

Matt and Robin were both in good spirits, and while I felt awake, I was nowhere near their energy level. Apparently Robin finished his shift at the ski resort late last night and is essentially pulling an all-nighter, hence his energy. Matt kept us entertained with his Aussie impression using a combination of obscure slang and curved vowel pronunciation to sound just authentic enough. The three of them spewed Rick and Morty quotes so frequently that I had trouble figuring out what were absurd conversation topics and what was a reenactment of a scene from the animated show. It was like being around my brother and his friend Jim, wherein they only communicate in movie quotes and not actual sentences. Its very confusing to be around.

We arrive at Grouse Mountain around four in the morning, and we gear up outside the car. Matt realizes that he forgot to pack snow pants, so he’s wearing skinny jeans along with his otherwise complete snowboarding outfit. He texts a friend and no, no one carries around spare snow pants, so he’s screwed. He hopes he doesn’t fall and get his pants wet, but he seems a bit more concerned about being viewed as a too-cool mountain hipster, like one that he once saw and heavily judged for showing up at the mountain in skinny jeans and a leather jacket. God forbid.

Robin laces up one of my snowboard boots for me, because I didn’t realize there are two sets of laces because this is literally the only time I’ve ever snowboarded in my life. What kinds of shoes have inside AND outside laces? These do, apparently. I do the other boot, and I stuff my wallet and camera in my coat pockets. I am engulfed in all of the waterproof fabrics that I can possibly fit on my body, with lack of articulated movement in my ankles and feet, and I’m ready to roll. Let’s do this.

We take the gondola up through the dark forest and get a spectacular view of the city lights of Vancouver before arriving at the top of the mountain. I’ve never been to a ski resort before, and this place is so cool! Robin comments that this place does things right for the holidays, as the trees near the entrance are twinkling with gold and red lights for the holiday season, which Cypress Mountain (where they all work) doesn’t have. Matt and Robin park their snowboards on the rack outside just as a group of their friends descend the hill, wearing hoods and hats and goggles. Cullen is one of them, complimenting me on my outfit, and in my stupidity and half-asleep stupor I ask him his name again, thinking he is someone we met at the club on Friday. Nope, this is the dude I’ve seen in Tom’s house at least three times a day for the past two days and lent me all of these clothes. Oops.

We hang out and chat a bit outside before Robin urges again that we grab a bite to eat. We step inside the lodge and run into more of their friends, so we stop and chat and then it’s my turn to urge that we get food. We move on to the cafeteria, finally, and take a look at our options. I get some spicy chicken strips while Tom gets a burrito or wrap that appears to be accompanied by an endless basket of fries. I say so because Tom’s wrap takes so long that he eats half of the basket, so the cafeteria employee offers to refill it at no extra cost. Trust me when I say that it was a lot of fries. My spicy chicken strips end up being buffalo chicken strips much to my disappointment, and Robin doesn’t understand the term. “But they are chicken, not buffalo,” he confusedly states. I have always disliked the smell of buffalo sauce, equating its ability to sting the nostrils to the pungent odor of smelling salts, but I brought this upon myself. Fortunately, it’s nothing that a BBQ sauce packet can’t fix.

I browse the beverage options and see that they have Canada Dry. If you were ever wondering what they call Canada Dry in's Canada Dry. Not "Dry." I grab a drink from the cafeteria fridge and my 4am breakfast of fries, fried chicken and a smoothie is complete.

I don’t finish my fries, which their friend Zach notes, and he grins wide when I offer them up to him. I enjoyed sitting and eating and was a bit nervous to begin my inevitable failure at snowboarding, but the time had come.

Robin and Matt headed up the mountain to begin, and Tom and I went to the rental shop to get some boards for ourselves. Tom gets himself a “premium” board and I get myself a regular one, as I am sure my performance would be unaffected whether I am strapping myself to an actual snowboard or duct-taping my feet to a 2x4 plank of wood.

I have to commend Tom on his patience. He's a very nice person in general, so it's tough to tell whether or not he's getting frustrated at my consistent failure. I chose snowboarding over skiing as I skateboard and figured it may be more familiar. However, my board seemed to have a magnetic pull towards the wooden poles barricading the slope from the area under the ski lift, and my board also appeared to want to test those poles' structural integrity. Tom blamed it on poor design of the hill, as it shouldn't slope downward towards the edge, but rather slope upward. He is too kind.

Halfway down the hill, two people on the ski lift wave at us, and I ask Tom who it is. It's Matt and Robin, who are offended at the fact that I didn't know who it was. Well, they had their helmets and goggles on, and I pointed out that I just met about 12 people in the lodge before breakfast, which then made them a little more understanding.

After falling, falling, and falling, we finally made it to the bottom of the hill, just as Matt and Robin gracefully descended. I unstrapped my board from my back foot and hobbled down the remaining distance to the ski lift, and the four of us went back up the hill.

The only time I could gracefully snowboard was when my back foot wasn't strapped in and I was pushed by the momentum of the ski lift arriving at the top of the hill. I'd smoothly glide down, unable to stop, which was fine since the trees were just behind a small uphill curve that stopped me. Now, if only there was someone pushing me down the hill at just that pace, I could do this perfectly!

Robin, who is a snowboard instructor at Cypress, took the time to show me how to stop. And slide forward. And stop. I would get the hang of it until he stepped away, because then I'd just fall backwards, or forwards, or my legs would do some extreme splits because my back foot still wasn't strapped in and my heel was desperately digging into the snow to prevent my slow demise. While Tom was an excellent instructor, he rides lefty so I couldn't copy his lean or positioning as it would consistently ram me into those border poles. I didn't want to hold up the guys so I released Robin of his teaching duties and he and Matt went up to one of the more difficult slopes.

Tom remained, and he would coast down the hill beside me and smoothly stop and watch as I pulled my board out from the soft snow beyond the barricades, crawl across the slope, then dig my board in and fall again, lean forward and fall again, then stand upright and fall again, until we would inevitably reach the bottom of the hill. His patience was astounding, and I appreciated his help but felt guilty that he didn't have a chance to do his own thing, despite his insistence that he didn't want to leave me alone.

At one point I crashed into the "SLOW" signs at the bottom of the hill (oh the irony) and felt a sharp pain in my left ankle, causing me to go into a minor panic. Please don't be broken, please don't be broken. I unstrapped my foot and was able to move it, which I believe isn't something you can do with a broken ankle. Unstrapping the front foot after hours of boarding was a strange feeling, as it suddenly felt so light, like I was removing an ankle weight. After I got back up, I realized I could still board without difficulty (well, without more difficulty than I was already experiencing), so we continued.

We went down the bunny hill a few more times in different parts, as the curves varied along the width of the hill, and finally it was time to see the sunrise around 7:30am.

Matt and Robin were at the top of a larger hill beside a windmill, but the nearest ski lift was closed today, so getting there would require that we descend a mid-difficulty hill before we'd reach the next-closest ski lift. Tom estimated it'd take 30 minutes, which was too long. We instead stayed where we were and watched the colors of the sky over the Vancouver skyline change from pink to golden yellow, and I removed my board and laid on the ground for five minutes while a general calm washed over the slopes as everyone collectively watched the sunrise.

It didn't last long, and soon skiers and snowboarders were zooming past. I insisted that Tom go off on his own to actually get some snowboarding in. I was tired and didn't want to fit any more pole-crashing or face plants in, so I would meet him back at the lodge.

About 40 minutes later, Matt, Tom and Robin returned to the lodge. Matt looked exhausted and wanted to go home. We convinced him to rest at the lodge while Matt and Robin got some more snowboarding in. Matt and I slept on the bench until a very angry lodge employee came by and said "Hey, you guys can't sleep here! Either hit the slopes or go home!" Excuse me, sir, someone might take away your Canadian citizenship with an attitude like that. If you're gonna have a 24-hour ski day, you have to let us REST.

I buy a juice to make us worthy of using the bench, and we don't get yelled at again. Around 9am, Tom and Robin return and we're ready to head out.

We reach the car and Matt is confused as to how there was a parking pass in the window. Apparently when we were getting ready earlier, Tom paid for parking. Matt didn't realize there was payment required. Good thing Tom was there!

We drove back downtown, luckily with a more awake Matt (that nap refreshed him to spew at least 30 more Rick and Morty quotes). He dropped us all off and Robin, Tom and I went off to seek out brunch. Nothing opened until 10am, but after waiting outside the Tap & Barrel passing the twenty minutes by telling "good jokes" ("I need to have some at the ready for occasions like this," said Tom) we went inside.

I got french toast, which was served as three massive diagonally-sliced baguettes covered in berries and "real maple syrup." Hello, this is Canada! It BETTER be real maple syrup. The meals that Tom and Robin ordered came with tater tots on the side, and neither of them had seen or eaten them before. "Are they just mini hash browns?" asked Robin. "Why not make them one big hash brown?" inquired Tom, "I'm just going to call them hash browns because tater tots sounds weird."

Upon learning I was American, our waitress told us that she was an aspiring actress, and in her classes, she was learning how to "do an American accent." I asked her which one, but then figured out it was just the generic one, and she said, "Yes, so we don't say 'sorry' and 'about' weird."

After brunch we said goodbye to Robin, and then we climbed up the hill of Lonsdale Ave in our flat snow boots until we arrived at Tom's place. We changed and crashed, napping until the mid afternoon, then late afternoon, then evening before thinking hey, we should probably get up at 6pm to do something.

We get up, get ready to head out to dinner, but by the time we get to the Sea Bus ferry, the wait time display says 30 minutes. Tom has work tomorrow and has to wake up at 6am, so we decide to ditch the ferry and head back to eat somewhere in North Vancouver as it will allow us to get back home at a reasonable hour.

The plan change is to our benefit, as we end up getting sushi at Sushi Bella (you can't NOT get sushi in this's practically every third restaurant) which is fancy and stylish yet super cheap. Unlimited free green tea! $3 USD spicy tuna rolls! You cannot beat this place.

The presentation is super fancy with the tuna roll drizzled with a sweet chili sauce and topped with shredded cucumber. I ordered a Lady Mango roll which consisted of avocado, red beets and yam tempura with tropical mango salsa. It was all SO GOOD. I ate these two rolls and ordered another Lady Mango roll, which was a steal at only $5.50 USD.  Normally I can't finish whole meals at restaurants but apparently Vancouver is the place where Melissa got her hunger back.

After dinner, we went back up the hill and went to sleep at a reasonable hour, around 11pm.