If you haven’t heard, asphyxiation and foot binding aren’t just for waterboarding anymore. Water torture has a frozen counterpart and it’s called snowboarding.
Snowboarding is a test of oxygen deprivation. Specifically, it tests whether a person can survive the Colorado Rockies where he finds himself gasping for air at 10,000 feet above sea level, a place generally reserved for mule deer, mountain goats, and the skeletal remains of the pioneering Donner party.
The reason snowboarding must be conducted on a steep mountaintop is so the boarder can gain momentum while sliding down a snow-covered slope on a single board without relying on brakes. The board is about the size of a small surfboard, yet when you’re careening down the mountain at 40 miles per hour, shrinks down to a Popsicle stick.
Snowboarding is often compared to skiing because in both sports, you fall. An important difference is that skiers possess an emergency release mechanism on their bindings which allows them to fall unencumbered by skis. This helps them avoid broken bones and suffer only knee injuries and concussions before they have to hike back up the fifty feet to unbury and retrieve their skis.
Snowboarders, on the other hand, are firmly attached at the feet in non-release snowboard bindings. The exception is when the snowboarder decides to adjust his strap-in bindings while suspended in midair on the chairlift and accidentally catapults the board into the skull of an unlucky gaper. In such cases the snowboarder invariably experiences tremendous remorse and yells down comforting words like, “Dude. Can I have my board back?”
Considering that both feet are bound to a relatively narrow snowboard, it is logical that falling is the leading cause of injury in snowboarding as the boarder is launched at a 90-degree angle at rocket speed and ragdolls downhill before finally coming to a halt with the help of a snowboarder, skier, or mature pine tree.
Compared to skiing, snowboarding injuries are usually to the upper extremities and the ankle. This is because when snowboarders lose their balance they can’t “step out” a leg to recover, as they are shackled to the board. The instinctive protective reaction during a fall is to outstretch a hand towards the ground (or towards God if the fall is off a cliff) to break the landing.
“Shredding,” “grinding” the rail, and “inverted” aerials are all fitting terms for snowboarding because they describe not only moves and stunts on the board, but also what happens to some snow boarder’s bones and ligaments after a wipe-out.
Some of you parents may have already learned this the hard way if your child has ever been rushed to the emergency room with a broken right wrist and a minor concussion after taking an ugly crash while soaring down the half-pipe, as my son has. If you’ve been fortunate not to have yet experienced this, think twice when your child innocently asks, “Can I try snowboarding this winter?”
If, in a weak moment, you lose control of your senses and say yes, be sure to invest in a good snowboard helmet and wrist guards. Otherwise, encourage the pursuit of a less harmful sport, like mountain climbing, ultimate fighting or skydiving.