Sunday, November 11, 2007

Skiing day 2: The survival of the fittest

7th Sept 2007:

The second day started off slowly at the mountain. There seemed to be some school groups around and it took aaagggeeesss to get the gear rented. Once I finally got my stuff together though, I joined my new group for the day. There were six of us and this group size worked much better than the bigger twelve from yesterday: with six we all learned each other's names and could support each other better.

The second day was all about learning how to turn. Turning, it turns out is the hard part of skiing. Today's lessons weren't as easy as yesterday's and other people on the mountain seemed to have a hard day also. I suspect it was due to the conditions: whereas the snow had been fresh yesterday, today it was more compacted and slippier in places. Whatever the reason, the first-aid skidoo seemed to be constantly going up and down the mountain with injured people. And then came the helicopter. Somebody elsewhere managed to injure themselves such that they needed to be heli-vacuated off the mountain and we all stopped to gawk at the UN (?) helicopter which appeared out of the blue to fly the injured person to hospital...

Putting the danger of the sport out of our minds we pressed on, left the beginners area and jumped on the chair lift up the mountain. Having worked on a chair lift before I knew what to expect and gave some advice to my ski-buddies (the main thing to remember is: it doesn't stop, so get into position as quickly as possible and once the chair appears just sit back and hang on). Getting off at the top of the lift was interesting as you are ejected down a steep slope and its quite easy to loose your balance and get in the way of the people coming off next...

The different ski runs are colour coded for different levels of difficulty. Green is the easiest, followed by Blue (intermediate) and the hardest being Black. Blue and Black was beyond us, so once we were all at the top of the Green run we gingerly took off doing wedge-turns down the slope.

After going down a proper slope, I can see now why the sport is so popular. Its exhilarating pushing your boundaries and very rewarding when you survive a seemingly impossible section of the ski-run.

Our little team did well the first time around, but it quickly degraded into a survival of the fittest. First, one of the girls in the group fell and injured her wrist so she left to get it seen to and her partner went with her. We were down to four and then someone else, Laura, had a fall. I'm not sure what happened to her because the rest of us were down at the bottom of the slope looking up at her lying on her side half way up. We all got back on the chair lift to get back to her and could see that one of the instructors had placed her ski-poles in front of Laura in an "x" shape which apparently means that there is an injured skier nearby. By the time we got back down she had gone... Hopefully it wasn't anything too serious :(

Speaking of injuries, in addition to skiing you can also do snow boarding which is like surfing on snow. After seeing the snowboarders in action over the past two days I sure am glad that I chose to do skiing: snowboarding looks painful(!) Beginner snowboarders seem to spend most of their time falling, either on their backside or more dramatically on their face! Our instructor explained that its easy to get the basics for skiing but hard to get good, whereas its the opposite for snowboarding. I could sense a level of frustration with the beginner snowboarders which did not exist with the beginner skiers.

By the end of the second day the survivors of our group had gone down the green slope at least half a dozen times. Confidence was high and we were all ready to take it to the next level.