I’m sitting in my gorgeous warm room reflecting on the day’s events. It’s about 5pm and soon we will go to the Onsen (more on that later) then out to dinny dins.
Today was the day that we paid an expert to teach me how to ski. The expert had his work cut out for him.
We woke at a reasonable hour, toddled down to a communal breakfast and I then put on 4 layers of undergarments with ski jacket and overalls on top. For the first time since I’ve been here, I was finally warm.
Our shuttle picked us up and took us out to Ever Green Recreational facility. I met my instructor – Neal, an Aussie (of course). We only had two other people in my group who were from Singapore.
Neal started with the basics…how to put on your skis, how to carry them without knocking someone out behind you. Got it…sweet…I’m all over that.
We then walked across the hill to the beginner slope. Apparently this is the MOST beginner level you can get. It was about 20m long and at a 10degree incline. It may as well have been Mt Everest as far as I was concerned. Here we learned how to stop by “snow ploughing” which for all your novices J is turning the skis in so the tips nearly touch and the backs out so it looks like a piece of pizza (I now know why Andy kept going on about pizza & fries). We had to go down the little hill and make sure we had the snow plough stance right and could stop when we wanted to. I don’t remember being scared at this point, I think I picked it up pretty quickly.
Neal then said we were going to learn how to turn. Right – turning….I didn’t think you had to turn, I just thought you went straight down. Turning is not as easy at Neal made it look. You have to stand up straight-ish but bear down on whatever leg is the opposite way you want to go…while you’re sliding down hill, trying to keep your balance and trying not to freak out. I took a few spills and was actually quite terrified of the whole thing. I decided that skiing wasn’t really for me…if I didn’t get it now, I’ll never get it. You see – I only do things I’m immediately good at. Unless I really have a passion for it and want to get better, I don’t see the point. This is skiing for me….lots of agonising moments of “am I going to face plant in the snow and hurt my bung knees and ankles”. After about 2 hours of of stacks, alot of snow ploughs alot of “Please don’t make me do it again”, Neal, in his infinite wisdom, decided it was time to have a go on a proper slope. This meant getting in the chair lift and going to the top of the longest, steepest mountain IN THE WORLD! (slight exaggeration, but it may as well have been). I kicked and screamed but he would not take no for an answer. Getting onto that chair lift, I was the most apprehensive I think I’ve ever been, but once you’re on, the only way off is to get to the end and ski down (although I did find a different way).
We got off at the top and OH MY GOD….I looked down and I felt like I was about to ski off the edge of the earth. I forgot EVERYTHING I had been learning for the past 2 hours and absolutely freaked out. Neal could not understand….”it’s the same principals of what you’ve been doing…you’re ready” he pleaded with me. I lost all sense of reason and common sense. I could not see straight. I was begging him to please take me down……plllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaseeeeeeeeeee. Neal wouldn’t listen and he would not take no for an answer. He was persistent! I changed my tactics…I’ll incite a coup. “Hey guys!” I called out to the Singaporeans…”You don’t want to do this do you?? It’s pretty steep! ” They didn’t care, they were rolling around in the snow and falling over and getting back up…that didn’t work. Neal would not give up, but honestly, I wasn’t being difficult, I was just absolutely petrified, I have never been so scared in my life. Of course, the only thing to do was to cry. Yup – I’m 32 years old, in the snow with two unco Asians, one determined ski instructor ,CHILDREN WHIZZING PAST ME…and I’m crying. I’ve never had a panic attack before but if it was any worse than what I experienced on that mountain, I don’t know how you survive. The worst thing was despite all my begging and pleading, Neal wouldn’t give up. He could not comprehend why I was so scared considering it was the same principals I had learnt and mastered all morning. This is the difference between men & women I suppose. I desperately pleaded with him to let me walk down, and he desperately pleaded with me to give it a go. He even tried bear hugging me and guiding me down, then bending down in front and physically moving my skii’s for me. It was no good, reason had left me and I could not see sense. My skis came off and I walked down the mountain…absolutely defeated but at least in one piece (physically, not mentally). Sorry Neal, I really am.
By the time I got down to the bottom it was time for lunch so I met the rest of my pro-skier / snowboard mates and told them my sorry story. I was so upset that I just kept crying (can you believe this? How ridiculous). Then I was embarrassed because I was crying…just a mess.
After lunch it got worse – Andy told me I was booked in for a whole day lesson, not just the morning. Then it got worse again – my fellow students decided they’d had enough and left. It was just me and Neal. Dear GOD.
I was so worked up by this point that I couldn’t even go back to the easy slope and be as good as I was in the morning. Just putting the ski’s on caused my heart to beat faster and my breath to become short. Neal kept saying “There’s no such thing as can’t. Stop talking yourself out of it”. You know – I’m a pretty positive person and happy to give stuff a go – honestly – but not if it leaves me in tears, a panicked mess. It wasn’t so much “I can’t” more “I don’t want to, please don’t make me!!!”. Once again, there was no getting around it but I think he understood that I was a woman on the edge so he let me go down the beginner bit again for a while. I kept telling him that me and that mountain – not gonna happen. I said I was citing irreconcilable differences and divorcing my ski’s. After about 30 minutes of trying to get some kind of clear head about the whole thing, my knight in shining armour, my Andy, snowboarded into view. I felt instantly relieved – he’ll save me!!! I told him how bad and scared I was and that I kept falling over. Then Neal brought out his camera – he’d been filming me! He showed it to Andy who said I was better than him. Not coping. Together they gradually got me to go further and further up the bloody hill. Out of the whole 5 hours I was skiing, there was a moment of about 2 seconds where I felt in control and confident. This 2 seconds was enough for them to get me back on that chair lift. Well talk about mind over matter…my mind was a million miles an hour up that lift. The only way they got me on it was by saying I could walk down to half way and then go down from there. Andy was amazing, he said we would split it up in 20-30m sections then I would stop, get my wits about me and go again. Believe it or not, with this method, I got down that hell of a mountain, tear free.
Once I was at the bottom, I thought – I’m pretty happy to never ski again. Something as terrifying as that is not an activity I want to do again. The problem is, I’m here for another 6 days, have spent $600.00 on ski hire gear, not to mention thousands on the holiday itself. The other problem was that Neal told Andy that I should have a private lesson tomorrow and Andy booked it in! All I’m hanging onto is that 2 seconds of confidence…I’m hoping it will be a bit more frequent. If I hadn’t had that, I would honestly never ski again and warn anyone else against this perilous sport.