Mike Walsh | Powder Report: Saying goodbye to my faithful board
Once there was a snowboard...
and it loved a little grommet.
And every winter the young shredder would come
and he would wax and tune it
and adorn it with stickers
and clean it to a shine.
He would strap in with care
and admire it on the chairlift.
and shred the gnar on the way down.
And they would travel together far and wide..
And when he hit a jump or rail,
he would always trust the landing.
And the boy loved the snowboard...
And the board was happy.
But time went by.
And the boy grew older.
When thinking about my snowboard's final days of service, and its future, post-retirement plans, it's hard not to think of Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree."
I didn't always treat it the best, covering it in layers of stickers and riding some of that muddy and grassy late-season New England slush. I plumb forgot about it once at Berkshire East two seasons ago, and called the mountain in a panic three days later when I noticed it wasn't in my trunk. Luckily, it was waiting for me at the lost-and-found. Just like it's always been there, waiting for me.
I've been toying with the idea of upgrading to a new board for a couple years, because my girl is getting rather long in the tooth.
I asked my mom the other day if she had any way of finding some of my high school senior portrait photos to accompany this column — there were three outfit changes, mom chose two and I used mine to pose rather sultrily with a beanie and goggles and my board leaning behind me.
We all make mistakes.
Well, her response was: "Did we have email back then?"
My board and I's relationship goes back to a point in time where email may not have been a real thing. I've been out of high school for 12 years.
I caught sight of her as a young grommet at a place called Play It Again Sports in my hometown of Marlborough. It was a shop much like Instant Replay in Pittsfield. The bright red with bouncy yellows and O'Sin printed at the nose was steezy as hell when pretty new, and it came with Technine bindings and a pair of Liquid boots. Liquid and Original Sin aren't companies anymore, and those bindings finally started breaking down this season. I replaced the boots, which were held together by Gorilla Glue, before this winter. But my board has remained.
I love the looks I get from technicians and lifties when they see what I'm riding.
We've traveled together all over the northeast, from the biggest Killington cord fests, to pow-sessions in upstate New York, to the quickest of trips to the smallest of Otis Ridges. We've cracked ribs and rattled brains together. I used it to impress girls and taught one of my first girlfriends to snowboard with it. It hit Wachusett every Thursday for high school ski club. When I broke my ankle at basketball tryouts, it was there waiting when I healed up and — terrified — hit the slopes again. It traveled with me to college and shredded Hunter and Windham. It moved with me to four different apartments, and currently resides in the garage of the first house I purchased. It's made fairly regular appearances in The Berkshire Eagle's Powder Report column, which was recognized by the New England Newspaper and Press Association Better Newspaper Competition this season.
I know every inch of it. Every sticker has a story, every ding, rut and scrape belongs to a memory. We've had some truly killer runs and some truly nasty wipe-outs.
That's how I know it's time.
I was up at Bromley Mountain two weeks ago, and on an admittedly icy day, I could feel my old gal straining. While carving down Sunset Pass, my board's edge gave out on a toe-side turn and I hit the hard pack face first. I slid in a virtual plank position for about 50 yards before I was able to stop and pop back up. The rest of that day, and my regular-season finale at Jiminy Peak's last operating day two Sundays ago, were pretty cautious.
I read up on all the new technology and different styles of boards. My ride is a simple, stiff camber board that has flattened with age. We bought my wife's first snowboard a couple months ago at Plaine's, and I've probably lusted over it a bit too much. For that, I apologize.
But I won't let her go completely. I've got visions of a bar shelf in my basement, or attach some legs and make it into a DIY bench, like Silverstein's tree, giving me a place to sit and rest.
It's been an incredible ride, but winter is no longer coming.
And now my snowboard's watch has ended.
Mike Walsh is an urchin snowboarder who can be reached in the local lift line or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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