Heat haters rejoice: snowboarding and freezing temperatures are just across the border. Of course, this leaves open a lot of questions. Where is this? How do you actually snowboard? Is it as easy as it looks? Was there real ice and snow? Our junior reporters and readers went to Shenzhen and learned the key skills to beginner snowboarding and the joy of cooling down.
Our destination was the Alps Ice and Snow World, one of the attractions at the Shenzhen theme park called The Window of the World.
Fun fact: there is no real snow in Shenzhen. Like in Hong Kong, Macau, and other places along the Pearl River Delta, winter there is usually mild, short, and ice-free. Snow World, which also has a large ice-skating rink and play area complete with ice block sculptures and Christmas trees, uses huge, air conditioner-like machines to keep the place below freezing.
We went on to the slope area used for skiing and snowboarding, wearing thick jackets and knee pads. The walls and ceiling were a canvas for stunning mountain scenery. The zone was named "The Alps", and it wasn't only a place for skiiers and snowboarders to practise their tricks. Along the side of the room was a long ice slide for those who wanted to have fun without any boards or skis. Michael, our snowboarding coach, greeted us inside.
For beginners (like us), there are four basic skills to learn.
Step 1: Don't lose your board
If left by itself, your board will slide down the hill. Turn it upside down to avoid this.
Getting up is the first trick. Grab the middle of your board with one hand, and with the other, push yourself off the snow. Straighten your knees and then hope for the best.
Step 2: Getting around - push off!
To move on flat ground without having to actually carry the board, simply put one of your feet on the board and push off with the other so that you slide along the snow, almost like you would on a skateboard.
But how do you know which foot you should slide with? There are two types of snowboarders, depending on the foot you lead with. "Regular" are those who lead with their left foot, and "goofy" are those who lead with their right. To test if you are a regular or goofy, simply sprint and then suddenly try to stop. If you stop with your right foot, you're a "regular", and vice versa.
When sliding, remember to keep your upper body parallel with the board and look forward to see where you are going.
Step 3: Vertical sliding
Spread your arms wide apart and stand up straight. Make sure your upper body is parallel with the board and turn face downhill. Gravity will do the rest.
Step 4: It's all in the legs
Sliding horizontally is a tricky skill, and it all comes down to how well you can control your lower body, especially your legs.
There are two braces covering your calves called "highbacks". You have to apply a little bit of force on both highbacks while not lifting up your toes (it seems contradictory, doesn't it?), so that you can maintain a steady speed, a smooth flow and avoid falling down.
Once your board tilts, lean back a little bit more on your heels. When riding a bike, you wouldn't look at the wheels. Similarly, when snowboarding, you need to look forwards, rather than focusing on your feet or board.
Step 5: Falling
If you feel you are about to fall, hold your chin close to your chest and make sure you fall onto your arms instead of your wrists to avoid spraining. If you are falling backwards, bend your knees and cross your arms in front of your chest.
As a beginner, you learn to appreciate the technique and discipline involved in standing on a giant board of plastic. While snowboarding (from our experience) is a lot more difficult than skiing, falling down is all part of the learning process.
It's refreshing to try out a cool activity like snowboarding at any time of year.
Our instructor, Michael, was easygoing and patient. We were slow learners, but he continued to encourage and help us.
This was a fun learning experience, and a great way to get excited about winter, even though it's only autumn!