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Endless Slope

So Easy Even a Chimp Can Do It

Watching my eight-year old twin nephews bomb down the hill when I was getting my first snowboarding lesson on the bunny slope while in my twenties made me feel like throwing down my board and giving up. Why couldn’t I get up on that mountain and fly down it as fearlessly as they did?

Well, as you might know already, as an adult it’s harder to learn something new, like a sport or language. Adults tend to over-think everything and have a hard time letting go enough to learn. But we live so close to the Sierra Nevadas that it would be a shame for me (or anyone else who lives here) to never try snow-boarding or skiing.

From my own experience, it’s not always pleasant to drive four hours in traffic and spend a bunch of money on a group lesson where you have to wait for everyone else to get a turn, then acquire bumps, bruises and a load of snow down the back of the pants, in hopes of learning enough to make it down the hill without falling 100 times. Good thing then that for $75 -- about the price of a lift ticket or a lesson package -- you can take a one hour fast start lesson on dry land at Endless Slope at Pier 38 on the Embarcadero Pier 38 between Townsend and Brannan Streets. It’s a good way to test the waters before throwing down the money to chance skiing or snowboarding down the mountain.

The “endless slope” is an angled platform with a carpet that rotates. The “fast start” lesson consists of a 15-minute discussion covering goals and equipment fitting, 30 minutes on the slope and 15 minutes of skills assessment and a personalized progression plan. If owner and instructor Sam Morishima can teach a chimpanzee to catch air on a snowboard, he can teach you.

Yup, I said a chimpanzee. His name is Louie and you can witness his skills in MXP: Most Extreme Primate. Sam told me Louie got so good at snowboarding that they had to bring in another chimpanzee as a double to shoot the scenes where Louie was supposed to be learning how to snowboard.

Sam’s been skiing since he was a kid and was a freestyle skier at Santa Clara University. After earning his degree in biochemistry and microbiology, Sam spent many years in international sales, marketing and business development positions in the biotechnology industry for companies throughout the world, but he always carried his love of being on the slopes with him.

After growing tired of the constant traveling and pace of his job, Sam thought about trying a healthier career. On a stop at a surf store in southern California, Sam saw his first revolving ski simulator. Sam put the money together for one of his own, and started his own ski and snowboard school at his home in Sacramento, where he still holds classes on weekdays. A couple of years later, he opened his second location in San Francisco to hold weekend classes.

I stopped by and took my fast start lesson on a Saturday afternoon. Sam took the first part of the class to get me set up with the equipment, figure out what kind of skill level I was at, and finding out what I wanted to accomplish. After getting accustomed to the harness, I was up on the board and it really did feel similar to being on the slope. Thankfully, though, I wasn’t going to end up with a face full of snow when I fell like I would if I was up on the mountain. Sam took me through a few basics and assessed my strengths and weaknesses. When my shaking thigh muscles couldn’t take it anymore, I slid down off the simulator and Sam and I discussed how I did and what I needed to work on to move to the next level.

To take the next step in your training, there are a few plans available, starting from packages of four ½ hour sessions for $215 up to $580 for twelve. Each single ½ hour lesson costs $70. If you sign up as a family of four, you’ll get 40% off the total fee.

For those of you who feel like you don’t need instruction but would like to get a little practice time in, you can reserve half-hour conditioning sessions (with no instructor) for $30, provided you’ve taken at least five lessons on the Endless Slope or can show that you have previous ski-deck experience.

As an experienced, intermediate or beginner snowboarder or skier, the money and time spent at Endless Slope will be well worth it when you make your next trip up to the mountains. That is, if there’s some good snow.