Mountain High

August 1, 2007 at 2:15 am (Uncategorized)

I can already see that there’s a frighteningly addictive quality to this whole skiing thing. I want more ice, and not of the illegal variety. I’ve always loved the apres ski culture – mulled wine, log fires, fur trim and cheese boards – but because I never learnt how to ski, my opportunities for enjoying it were limited. I tried skiing once 10 years ago in Thredbo, and my hour-long group beginners’ lesson wasn’t really sufficient tutelage. I slipped through the cracks in both the snow and the training, and I never went back.

I did try snowboarding once, too – in 2001 in Canada. That was interesting. I went with my snowboarding junkie friend Brian (“You’ll be absolutely fine, Di, it’s so easy” – famous last words), and after a quick demo at the top of the mountain, he was off and I was stranded. It was not easy, and I was not fine. It seemed I couldn’t dig my heels in sufficiently to go down the mountain (Cypress Mountain, I think it’s called, outside Vancouver in BC) in the fairly standard and strongly recommended fashion of facing forward. No, I could only get my snowboard to work by digging my toes in, which consigned me to the extremely foolhardy, don’t-try-this-at-home-and-certainly-not-down-the-side-of-a-mountain method of going down backwards the entire way. Thinking about it now, I just can’t believe I made it. And I made it several times, too. Backwards. Then a heavy mist rolled in and I couldn’t see a thing. It occurred to me, belatedly, that I had no chance of controlling my safe passage by careening down the mountain facing the wrong way. So I kept trying to turn around. It was damn scary thinking I was about to sail off a sheer drop, and inevitably I lost control of the entire enterprise and landed badly, breaking my wrist. I sat on my arse in the snow and waited for Brian to come by so I could loudly abuse him and throw my board hard at his head. As I sat there, I developed a migraine and a serious aversion to the cold. My snowboarding days were done, and my wrist spent six weeks in a cast that ended up smelling like a damp sock belonging to someone elderly.

So I was a trifle spooked about skiing Treble Cone in New Zealand’s Wanaka, a place so stunning as to render me practically speechless. The only word that kept coming out of my mouth was “Wow.” Anyway, I was sure I was going to be a total ski gumby instead of ski bunny, and felt sure I’d embarrass my colleagues and hosts right off the mountain. I approached my first lesson with the kind of trepidation only real terror can produce. I’m going to be writing about this trip professionally, so it doesn’t make sense to tell you everything about the experience here, but I can say that thanks in large part to the kind, competent, patient instruction of our hero, Canadian instructor Sean Murphy, Inga, the other beginner and I both successfully skied Treble Cone, and we both arrived at the bottom unscathed and utterly euphoric.

Uh oh, I think I’m hooked.

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