“So, are you gonna strap in or...?” Oh. Right. With Mark laughing at my forgetfulness, I reached down to my board, my hands fumbling for a few painful seconds until I managed to secure my lead foot into the binding. I breathed a sigh of relief. I didn't want to look like a total rookie, even though it was my first time. I felt incredibly proud of my accomplishment, no matter how small it was. My relief didn't last long though. We had made our way to the front of the lift line, and I had no sweet clue what to do. That was the one and only step I hadn't Googled at 5:00am. Crap. I looked at Mark, trying not to look overly panicked. He grinned. “I forgot newbie, come on.” He grabbed my hand to guide me, and we glided out in front of the lift to a long red line in the snow marked Stop. That wasn't so bad. Not to mention the fact that MARK HAD HELD MY HAND! Sure, it was only for like, 3 seconds, to guide me, but still. I hadn't actually spoken to a boy (other than some of my repulsive classmates) in months, so I was doing my best to not go into cardiac arrest. The chair then came up behind us, and I mimicked his motion of putting my free hand behind me, and I prepared to sit down. Thankfully, I managed to get on no problem. I sank my butt onto the chair and brought the metal bar down. Liz:1 Ski Lift:0.

    On our ride up the mountain, while I was awkwardly sitting and staring at the glistening white mountain below me, Mark turned to face me. “So Liz, what makes you want to try snowboarding?” He asked in a fake interviewer voice. To be honest, I hadn't really thought about it. “I don't know, I've just always been drawn to the snow and all sports that come with it. I watch snowboarding on TV all the time and I just thought it looked fun, so I figured I'd try it out, you know?” I started to explain, but then I realized that I had started babbling, and I figured I'd better shut up before my “guide” jumped off the ski lift to get away from me. He nodded. “Sounds reasonable.” I was just working up the nerve to ask him something, when I saw the sign on the approaching tower “Prepare to Unload.” I gulped. “Okay.” Mark said. “Now what you're gonna do is slide forward, and push yourself off gently when your board hits the ground. Then shuffle your way to the side of the slope, kay?” He lifted the bar up. Here we go I thought. I slid ahead, and put my feet down. I was so, so close. But then, in some cruel twist of fate, I realized I was too late sliding off. I quickly pushed my butt off the chair, and ended up face-planting into the cold, white powder. Even with my face buried in the snow, I could hear Mark cracking up. “Are” gasp “you” gasp “alright?” I normally would want to bury myself in a tunnel and stay there at this point, but Mark's reaction was contagious. I rolled myself up and out of the way, and the two of us sat side by side, clutching our ribs in hysterics. “Oh my God, I can't believe I just did that.” I chuckled, thankful he couldn't see my beet red face from behind my helmet and goggles. He was still laughing. “Yup, that was pretty gnarly if I do say so myself.” After a few deep breaths, we managed to calm down enough to finish strapping our boots into our snowboards, and secured our leashes around the bottom of our legs. “Why do we need these things, we're not dogs!” I protested. Mark shrugged. “It's the policy. Plus, if you wipe out, which you probably will, it keeps your board from getting away from you.” Was he insulting me? I didn't think so-it was probably just sarcasm. I took a second to think what a normal teenage girl would do in this situation. Halfheartedly, I punched him in the shoulder, hoping he didn't take offence to the gesture. He looked at me, in shock. “What was that for!” He looked baffled, and I smirked. “I will not wipe out, just wait and see!” “Wanna bet?” He challenged. “Loser buys the other coffee at that cafe?” I suggested. “Hope you brought some money with you Liz.” He winked at me and walked ahead. I could feel my face warming up again. Mark McMorris just winked at me. I couldn't help but feel like the luckiest girl on the planet.

   We stood up at the top of the hill, taking it all in. A few minutes ago, I had been boasting confidently about my “skills”. Looking down at the steep slope, I suddenly had butterflies in my stomach. “Now, we're gonna start out here today, on the Beginner's Slope.” My eyes widened. “This is...beginner?” He grinned at my hesitation. “Having some second thoughts are we, Miss Cocky?” The athlete in me refused to back down from a challenge, so I stuck my tongue out. “Who said I was backing down McMorris?” Remembering what I had read, I stood so that my lead foot was pointing down the hill. I carefully applied pressure to the front, and bent my knees and straightened my back. Off I went.

   Gravity took over, and I slowly started gliding down the hill. My first thought was hey, this is so easy! But then, I began to pick up speed. I'm not going to lie, it was kind've scary. I started to get nervous, and I thought about stopping. But then I realized, I wasn't too sure how to do that. There was no turning back. I focused my eyes on the slope ahead of me, and kept watch for other people. There was nobody too close by, so I decided to try turning slightly, just for practice. I leaned my body into the side of the slope, putting weight on the right edge of my snowboard. I veered slightly to the right, and quickly straightened out. I had done it! The rest of the way down, I kept trying some turns, making them faster and harder each time. I was feeling great. The wind was whipping through my jacket, but I didn't feel the least bit cold. It was energizing.  I couldn't remember the last time I had felt this elated. The feeling was comparable to being out on the basketball court- that rush of adrenaline, the confidence, no worries in the world. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, the bottom of the hill appeared. I quickly tried to stop by turning my board perpendicular to the slope, and leaning back. Unfortunately, due to my rushed actions, I ended up leaning back a bit too far. I fell hard onto my butt, and hit my head against the snow. But hey, at least I stopped. I could hear someone approaching behind me, so I scrambled to roll out of the way. I recognized the blue jacket flying past me. Mark was right on my tail, cruising down the mountain like it was a walk in the park. He stuck a perfect, graceful landing right next to me. “Way to make me feel unaccomplished.” I muttered, half-jokingly. “He offered his hand to help pull me up. I took it, and to my surprise, he pulled me into a giant bro-hug. “Liz that was sick!” He yelled in my ear. “I've never seen a newbie have a run like that! Are you sure you haven't done this before?” I stared, waiting for the punch line. “Did you completely miss my wipe-out at the bottom? Or would you like me to reenact it for you?” He laughed. “Oh don't worry, I can't forget that. But still, I can't believe you stayed up the whole time!” Shyly I smiled back. “...Was I that good?” “Would I lie?” He clutched his hand over his heart and looked at me with that goofy grin, and it felt like my heart was melting a bit. Snap out of it Liz. “Okay, so does this mean I don't need to buy you coffee when we're finished?” I asked innocently. “Oh hell no, you still owe me sweetheart. But in the meantime, let's go again!” He unfastened his rear strap and hobbled back to the ski lift. I followed behind, feeling like I was on top of the world.

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