By Victor Texucano | Courtesy Photos
Imagine a cold winter morning in the mountains with powdered snow covering everything in sight, a freezing wind that numbs the nose and cuts through bare skin like razor blades and snow falling mercilessly, yet gracefully, all around.
This is not a scene most East Texans are used to, and it might even be a setting they have never experienced. This scene, however, is not only common to the average snowboarding junkie but is one they find addicting. The thrill of snowboarding and other winter sports are something few locals experience often, but those who do would say the rush of the mountain adrenaline is not easily forgotten.
Miles Zeorlin, a 20-year-old student at the University of Texas at Tyler, has a passion for the sport. Miles was an eighth-grader when he caught snowboarding fever in the winter 2006. He was encouraged to take up snowboarding by his uncle, Mark Zeorlin.
“My uncle took me to a skate park, and he saw me skateboarding,” Miles says. “He said, ‘You can do all these things without the board attached to your feet; I think you should go snowboarding.’”
Miles says that ever since that day, his uncle, an experienced snowboarder who at the time lived in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, continued to encourage him to go snowboarding with him. Miles finally got his uncle’s wish in 2006, when he and his dad traveled to Highlands Ranch, a suburb of Denver. Miles recalls waking every day at 4 a.m. to make the long drive to Breckenridge, where he got his start in the sport he now loves.
During the trip, there was a blizzard rolling through the mountain, which Miles says was ideal, since fresh snow leaves a better ground cushion.
“It was dumping tons and tons of snow,” he says. “In my opinion, it was the perfect condition to learn, because I could do whatever I wanted and not worry about getting hurt.”
Miles attributes his love of snowboarding to his love of the mountains and the outdoors, as well as his being a self-described “adrenaline junkie.” Miles says he considers snowboarding an addiction.
“I think about it year round,” he says. “I actually plan my bank account around it, too. I try not to spend any money in winter unless it’s snowboard-related.”
Miles has gone snowboarding at least once a year since his first trip, not only in Breckenridge but also other world-class spots such as Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Loveland, Arapaho Basin and Keystone, all in Colorado. He has also snowboarded at Silver Mountain in Idaho.
While snowboarding has its share of thrills, it also demands a lot, says Leigh Pierini, training manager for the Ski & Ride School at Keystone. Getting acclimated to the elevation, staying hydrated and being properly equipped are key, Leigh says.
Leigh also stressed the importance of learning how to fall properly, by letting momentum roll the bodyweight instead of the participant trying to catch himself. She says many common injuries, such as wrist and arm fractures, can occur if the snowboarder attempts to interfere with the fall.
This was a bit of advice Miles forgot the last time he went snowboarding, he says. Snowboarding last Spring Break, he tried to catch himself after falling while attempting a trick known as “jibbing,” similar to the skateboard equivalent of “grinding,” and broke his wrist.
Another thing Leigh stressed was having the right attire. She mentioned some people try to ride in jeans instead of the recommended waterproof pants.
“They should be aware, they spend a lot of time their first day on the snow… so having the proper clothing is my No. 1 thing,” she says. “If they don’t have the right gloves or the right pants, it’s not a healthy environment for them.”
Leigh says the learning curve is a lot faster than in skiing. The first few hours of trying to find balance on the board are the trickiest. However, after balance is learned, people usually want to go on steeper terrain because it is easier.
Like Miles, Leigh says she loves snowboarding because of her love of the landscape but also because of the control she feels over that landscape when on the board.
“There’s nothing like being out in the middle of (the mountains), waking up in the morning and the air is just like crystals all over the place and you’re just out there with nature,” she says. “You’re just able to feel the wind in your face and you’re actually controlling your speed. It’s like being on a ride, but you’re the one driving the coaster.”
Another reason Leigh loves snowboarding, she says, is the people. She says there is certain camaraderie with people in the mountains who “share the same addiction as you.”
Leigh, who has been instructing for over 20 years, obviously loves her job. She says working as an instructor is like “being in a candy store, where you get to make the candy, and get to eat it all day.” She says there is nothing like working in a recreational field and “recreate for work.” She also finds it special to be able to have people come on vacation and share most of their vacation with them.
Leigh said the most interesting thing about her job is the people. The different people who come to the resort bring something new every day, she says. Whether they are millennials or Baby Boomers, they may have different perspectives on life, but they share the same commonalities, which are the sport and the mountain.
“The people are why I keep coming back. Everybody has a story, everybody has history, but there’s one common denominator, and that’s the passion for snow.”