ADVICE FROM THE FIELD

Michael Ruby

Outdoor Adventure Program Manager, Fairchild Air Force Base, WA

 

Michael programs, implements, and leads outdoor adventure trips for active duty airmen, retirees and their immediate dependents. He leads a multitude of trips, such as whitewater rafting, whitewater kayaking, outdoor rock climbing, backpacking, mountain biking and snowboarding/skiing.

 

 

WHY I SNOWBOARD

I find a lot of respite in snowboarding. I guide one to three trips a week up to the local mountains, which gives me lots of time to shred the slopes and share my passion for snowboarding with others. When I am floating in knee-deep powder and enjoying the ride, my mind becomes free. I feel connected to the mountain as I carve my edges into the fluffy snow. The great thing about snowboarding, like most sports, is that you can enjoy it in many ways; some people enjoy the backcountry rush of deep powder, and others love jibbing in the park. It can be as leisurely or physically demanding as you want it to be. The best part is that it is your choice.

 

HOW I TRAIN

Snowboarding requires strength, agility and endurance. To help build strength for snowboarding, I focus on my lower body—back squats and other complementary exercises to strengthen my legs. If you do not snowboard often, your legs will become quickly fatigued unless you train. For agility, I like to do a variety of speed-ladder drills. To build endurance on the mountain, I run on the treadmill or outdoors, depending on the weather.

CLOSE CALL

"Shortly into the run, it became quite technical and steep. I spent most of that run tumbling, sliding, and crashing....”

WHAT I EAT

 

The morning of a snowboarding trip, I eat a breakfast that has protein, like a homemade breakfast burrito with sausage, eggs, and vegetables. While every mountain area will have a place where you can purchase food for lunch, I like to pack a sandwich and some sort of granola bar, take my lunch to an awe-striking viewpoint, and enjoy my lunch outside on the mountain. In case I am extra hungry, I keep additional granola bars and fruit leathers on hand. Water is another important factor in preparing for a long day on the mountain. My water intake starts the night before I go snowboarding, and I bring water to the mountain and drink it throughout the day. People tend to disregard the need to drink water because it is cold outside, but it is actually very easy to become dehydrated in the cold. Dehydration increases your risk of cramping.

 

GEAR TO GET

Quality gear is essential when snowboarding. Not much is worse than being cold and wet on the mountain. Starting from the top of the body down, I always wear a helmet to keep my head safe. I also wear goggles to keep my vision clear and eyes safe. On colder days, I wear a neck gaiter for extra warmth and protection from the elements. I dress in three layers, including a base layer, fleece mid layer, and waterproof shell. Remember, you can always take layers off, but you cannot add extra layers if you did not bring them along. Lastly, invest in a good pair of socks and gloves. They make snowboard-specific socks, but a wool sock will work. Gloves come in a variety of styles, so find what works best for you; I wear mittens with a base-layer glove inside. In terms of equipment, if you are interested in buying your own snowboard, take the time to talk to a local snowboard shop professional so they can outfit with you the proper snowboard and bindings for your riding style and skill level.

 

CLOSE CALL

When I first started snowboarding, I went with friends who were more skilled than I was. While they helped me improve my skills, they also pushed me past my skill and comfort level at times. As a beginning snowboarder in high school, I mostly rode on green and blue runs. One day on the mountain, my friends pressured me to try a difficult black diamond run that I had never tried before. After saying no multiple times, I finally was convinced. Shortly into the run, it became quite technical and steep. I spent most of that run tumbling, sliding, and crashing. Luckily, I was not seriously injured. I took a step back from snowboarding for a while because of the negative experience I had. The peer pressure made me decide to do something that I ultimately did not want to do. Remember, challenge by choice. It is important to challenge yourself to improve, but make sure it is your choice, not your peers.