By Valerie Stewart
Snowboarding is the sport that makes me feel truly alive. I’m fully present when flying down a mountain on a race course, or carving powder in the trees. My thoughts are not cluttered or stuck in past or future; I am completely in the moment. For me, snowboarding creates an ideal state of mind.
I’m a self taught boarder because snowboarding teachers didn’t exist when I started 21 seasons ago. The first few days were tough, but then it clicked. I decided to compete in the Lake Tahoe division of USASA (United States of America Snowboard Association) when I heard I could win a snowboard. I had no idea that it would lead to years of competing on the national level. USASA has an Open Class category which any age can enter if they are good enough and brave enough. Olympic medalist Shaun White was in that group as a very young teenager.
Intently observing the Open Class compete is how I learned to win. I watched the racers with laser focus. What was their body position in the start gate? Their angle out of the gate? Where did they land, and what happened – did they hit a rut or patch of black ice? When did they initiate their turn around the first gate? Did they fall in the trough formed by all the previous racers, or did they cut the gate a little wide to avoid the trough – losing a hundredth of a second, but still standing to charge the next gate? Observation is a marvelous teacher. My other “teacher” is simply time on the hill, always pushing myself to go faster and carve like a pro.
When I’m boarding, the only skin that is exposed is part of my face. I always wear a helmet and goggles, so the big issue is my nose and mouth. Zinc-based sunscreens are definitely the best protection. Blue Lizard is a great brand, because the zinc disappears instead of making me look like a ghost. I also apply it to the back of my hands for when I take my gloves off. To cover my neck, I wear Coolibar’s Sun Gaiter, which comes in a rainbow of colors. If it’s cold out, I pull the gaiter up over my nose and can still breathe without fogging my goggles. My other protective strategy is to do some stretching before and after boarding to avoid injury.
The Waterfront Pullover is ideal for a spring day on the slopes, or over a swimsuit in the summer. It’s super stylish, with ruching at the shoulders and wrists, as well as very technical. The aqua SUNTECT® fabric resists chlorine and saltwater, stretches four ways, dries quickly, and is super breathable. The half zipper allows for temperature adjustment, and the thumbholes protect hands from the sun. There’s even a hidden zipper in the side seam for money and keys. The fabric doesn’t wrinkle, and doesn’t shrink when machine washed and dried. I’m lovin’ this shirt, and own it in three colors.