This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to head to Blue Mountain with my sister and some of my favourite Tribe members to attend the Oakley Progression Sessions. This opportunity is a female skier/snowboarder’s dream come true – sorry boys, it’s ladies only!
Hosted by Oakley Canada, female skiers and snowboards of all ages and levels took to the slopes of Blue Mountain under the guidance of some of the best female downhill skiers, snowboarders, slope style-ers, and half pipe-ers around.
After a morning yoga session and custom goggle build (yup, we made our own Oakley goggles – frames, lenses, straps we picked them all) we were divided into our learning teams and assigned a coach. Although I’ve been snowboarding for 10 years I have never been into the park (hence why I was here at the event), so I was happily assigned the beginner group (with my sister). We were with 10 other newbies under the direction of 4th place Sochi snowboard cross rider Faye Gulini and two time Olympian and World Cup Champion on the half pipe Dominique Vallee. Our group was by far the biggest, so we had two coaches, but it was nice to be with others who also new nothing about riding in the park, so we could learn and fall together 😉
After a couple warm-up runs the fun began learning some fun freestyle tricks which didn’t require anything other than ourselves, the first was a tri-pod. Exactly as it sounds you place two hands on the ground and one end of your board and slide down the hill kind of in a handstand – Why? Why not!
I was able to do it while carving on the second day and while I didn’t get the point after I did it on day 1, it was fun and I realized sometimes you don’t need a reason! I also saw a couple guys at the bottom of the hill who had clearly noticed my advanced freestyle skills giving it a try, and that was almost equally as awesome.
Riding a Box
We then hit up the learning park and learned to “ride a box.” Essentially it’s like the top of a picnic table made of hard plastic, it’s very slippery, and obviously not as wide. This was soon to be the first piece of the park any of us had rode. We received directions from our coaches: keep your board flat, no turning after a certain point, and look ahead. The box was flush to the ground which made it easy (-ish) to get on, getting off from the raised edge (not shown here) proved to be a bit more challenging, but once we got it we had a blast! After a team lunch we head out to…The HALF PIPE!!!
The Half Pipe
This was crazy. We sat as a group at the top of the half pipe and had our pro Dom share with us the “jist” of carving around. Bottom line “make friends with the half pipe” and “look up!” As the beginner group we sat for a bit waiting for the first person to slide forward and volunteer to ride the pipe (remember we were all rookies). Out of no where my SISTER puts her hand up and takes off – WHAT!!! No no no, other people are suppose to do this crazy thing – not you!
And off she went and KILLED IT! She was amazing carving up the sides. I love that she led the group, which of course gave me inspiration and I went next. My love of the half pipe began here.
We then head back to the slopes with new leaders (head coach) Mary Walsh and Christine Savage (both of Snowboarder Magazine amongst other cool stuff) to do some more freestyle on the slopes.learned a few more tricks on the slope – ollies, board grabs, and butter – again freestyle tricks that didn’t involve other equipment. It was very cold by now and we had been doing lots of sitting (watching one person at a time go vs. all taking off at once – we were tired) so we called it a day.
I Believe I Can Fly
Day two started with a similar yoga class, however this time there was a lot of moaning and groaning from the crowd. People were definitely feeling the bumps and sore muscles from yesterdays fun. In our same groups, we did our regular warm-up runs and with coaches Mary and Christine headed out to review our freestyle. We road switch (“wrong” leg forward), reviewed our ollies, road into the park and did a box, then hit the jumps.
Many of the similar safety rules are transferred from feature to feature in the park. Keep your knees bent and look up. So this time on the small jumps that’s what we did. After some coaching from both Mary and Christine we were flying – all of us. We would launch off the jump, land on our feet (most times) and take off the board and eagerly run up the hill to start all over. Again this was something totally new for most of us and everyone rocked it multiple times. After 6 or 7 jumps each we celebrated with lunch.
Rocking on the Rail
For the afternoon the coaches were placed around the park and we got to pick which activities we wanted to focus on. We had yet to ride a rail so that’s where we headed. The rail is about half the size of your snowboard, but you’re supposed to ride onto it, along it, then jump off. Sound scary? It is!! I really didn’t think I would do it and for the first time all weekend I actually felt scared (of falling and getting hurt). Coach Christine took us through the experience (keep low, look ahead), and one at a time our team mates went, we cheered when each one made it across, some landing perfectly on the first go. I was still really scared, telling myself that I would be okay not going – look at how much I had already done – then the louder voice became the one telling me this is why I was here – this is the safe place to learn – if I don’t do it now, I never will. So I stood up for my turn, took a couple deep breaths, and coached myself to relax. I road to the rail with a nice straight board, and then… fell over before even getting on – it was so thin, like how could I possible ride on that!!!
So I stood up, I now wanted to do it, and this was my chance. I stood at the end of the rail with my board lined up, and Christine pushed me across and I jumped off. Then I went back to do it again – 4 more times actually. She helped me get over the fear and give it a try, and actually do it and land it standing up!
The afternoon concluded with some amazing prizes being given out to gals who showed awesome courage and skills on the slopes (and on Instagram – search #OakleyProgressionSessions). We all received duffel bags full of awesome Oakley gear, some amazing memories, and some new tricks up our sleeves.
Things I learned:
There were definitely a few lessons learned by all this weekend. Here are mine:
1. When it comes to the park these two rules always apply: 1. Look where you want to go 2. Keep you knees bent!
2. Getting onto the rail/box/jump/half pipe (at least at the small height) is always the easiest part – it’s getting off that’s the hard part. (And I mean dismounting correctly – not just falling – that would be easy).
3. What would Beyonce do? Now I can’t confirm that this is exactly what Mary said to me on the jumps, it’s what I heard and thought it was rather amazing – I would imagine Queen Bey would get low and stick out that booty, she wouldn’t look where she’s been, only where she’s going, and that pretty much summed up point number 1, so it works. WWBD?
The Oakley Progression Sessions were a truly awesome weekend. I loved being there with my sister (although most people were there solo) and I loved everything that Oakley did to make this event so special. The coaching and the comradery truly made this an awesome weekend to learn and have fun in a physically and emotionally safe environment. Your coaches gave you the knowledge you needed and your team gave you the inspiration and cheers. I can not wait for next years session and I highly suggest skiers and snowboarders check this out. You will have a blast and learn something while doing it.
(And what I really can’t wait for, is to go snowboarding with my husband and brother-in-laws and show them everything amazing I learned that they can’t do – hehehe) 😉