My husband gazed at me adoringly in the car, reached over and gave my hand a squeeze.
“I had such a great weekend!” he told me lovingly.
We were on the road back to Auckland after another epic weekend on the slopes together at Mt Ruapehu. Except, we weren’t really together at all.
Like many snowboarder/skier mix couples, we spend our weekends together, apart.
John’s been snowboarding far longer than I have been skiing. He was there when I took my first tumble out of the chairlift.
He was there when I got carried down the slopes in a ski sled due to a bung knee. He was there encouraging me the first time I ever reached the top of the mountain, trying to navigate through my panic-stricken state, convinced there was no possible way down other than in a paramedic sled.
He was there to gently rub my bruised hips after skidding on ice while night skiing at Coronet Peak. And he was there to carry my skis out of the trees when I threw a hissy-fit at not being able to stay upright in the deep powder on our first trip to Japan.
But other than those important milestones in every skier’s life, I learnt that the best way for me to advance, was for us to kiss each other goodbye at the base chairlift and agree to meet up for a coffee in a few hours.
My non-snowbird friends don’t understand it. Why share an activity or hobby together, when you don’t actually share it with one another? But for me, it makes total sense to head to the mountain together and split ways soon after arriving.
Skier and a snowboarder
The first hint of skifield conflict began in the walk up to the mountain from the car. Me in my ski boots, with my robotic-like walk; John cruising up in snowboard boots with such ease you’d think he was wearing slippers.
“Hurry up!” he’d tell me, always eager to get up the mountain as fast as possible.
Keeping up with his pace was the fastest track to cramped toes and calf muscle strain by 9.30am.
Speed demon and a Nanna
I don’t have any innate desire or need to race anyone down the mountain. I’m just happy to make it down the terrain without bailing.
John, on the other hand, has been known to frequently use that fun catchphrase of “Come on!” followed by his gloved hand beckoning me to go faster – only for him to have sped off by the time I reach his last position.
I constantly felt like I was imposing on his precious slope time, my own feelings of inadequacy taking over and soon believing I was letting my snow buddy down by not keeping up.
Going solo allowed me to work at my own pace until I gained enough confidence to join him by careful choice, rather than high-speed collision.
I don’t know where I’m going when I follow him
Let’s just face it, snowboarders and skiers go down the mountain in a different way. There’s no reason why the two disciplines can’t share the mountain, but we work in different ways, we turn at different angles.
Through no fault of his own, too many times I ended up skiing over chunks of ice, into a tree or over some rocks from following the exact path hubby was taking on his snowboard.
I’m comfortable sticking to my limits
My husband has achieved much in his life – often by pushing himself to the limit, and then a little further to see how far he can go. In fact, the boundary is more of a mythical concept, to be contemplated and only established on reflection.
Me, I’m keen to see the boundary far in advance and do everything I can to avoid coming anywhere near it. But I’m cool with that. I’ve made my peace.
I’m all for healthy pressure, but when that turns into stress, heart palpitations and the desire to be choppered off the mountain as fast as possible, then it’s a futile exercise.
It’s easier to make snow friends when alone
As a skier/snowboarder couple, it’s fun to hang out on the chairlift and chat/bicker to only each other – but the downside of that is forgetting to chat to others on the lifts. By going our separate ways, we can maximise friend-making opportunities on the mountain and find new couches to crash on around the world.
Coffee time is much more fun
When you’ve been doing your own thing, catching up in the cafe over lunch or for a cuppa is a whole lot more exciting because you CAN’T WAIT to tell your other half about the epic bail you took, or the amazingly empty trail you carved up with fresh tracks or the photos of the poor newbie skier who landed upside in the snow after a chairlift fail (because we’ve been all there).
Going for runs together is quality time
Just because we split ways at the base of the mountain, doesn’t mean we never ride together. Now that I’ve had time to work on my own skills alone, it’s a whole lot more fun when we actually do ski & board together.
Sure I’ll never be as fast as him, and sure, I’ll begrudgingly follow him into unknown terrain in a whiteout wondering how the hell I’m going to get down the mountain without a broken limb, but we get to do it together.
Now as I glance out the car window to bid farewell to the beautiful mountain, I caress my husband’s hand.
“Can’t wait to share this with you again next weekend!”