Friday before last I woke myself up in the morning at a crisp 0630 hours or so to embark on my first excursion up and in the mountains for a one-day skiing adventure. The previous night I was chatting and tooling around the ‘net before discovering that a buddy was heading up to the Andes the following morning. I jumped at the opportunity, and literally about 7 hours later I was picked up, and three of us gringos were off on the 90 minute trip out of Chile’s capital and up the Andes Mountains to ski resort El Colorado.
Naturally I was heading off with a couple of seasoned snowboarders. And although I liked to tell people I’d been out skiing before, it actually consisted of a couple of gos down a small plastic hill hosed down with soapy water during a mid-summer trip I took in Colorado, USA, with my grandmother more than a decade ago.
This was going to be my first rodeo.
After a bit of a hassle with renting equipment (but at least I got the student discount!) it was me and the mountain. My friends had already ran off to the more challenging areas, leaving me to figure out how the hell to put on my boots, move, get to a lift, find a beginner hill, and, you know, consider how I might possibly negotiate breaking, turning, surviving, etc. Oh, happy days. But it was a peach of a day. There had been a bunch of new snow the day before, it was a weekday meaning it was not busy at all; it was sunny, clear, and beautiful.
I went for it and began applying the only tactic I really remembered about skiing… which was something about making your skis into a pizza or something to slow down. Unfortunately that seems only to work on plastic hills hosed down with soapy water. I gave up the whole ‘be cautious’ experiment and just flew down the hill. This is SWEET! I thought. And the beginner hill even graciously produced a steady incline to conveniently slow my speed. Unfortunately the blind spot produced from the upward angle quite deviously shrouded the very steep, rapid final descent, complete with orange banners, cautions, ‘Slow Down: The End is Nigh!’, and I am again flying down the hill, this time frightfully close to real skiers and snowboarders casually looking on. So it goes without saying that it was a pretty cool feeling as I threw myself to the ground in the by-now desperate hope of stopping before I ram into something or someone.
..& the snowdust settles.
Hey I’m even pretty close to the ski-lift.
But if any of you know me you know that I have the reflexes of a cat and the physical dexterity of those that may commonly be referred to as a natural athlete. After a couple trials, naturally, I was carving lines across the beginner patch and really enjoying myself, only crashing when I became over-confident, which was basically often. But for a while, for a while there it was all looking good. And by lunchtime, I was quite pleased with my progress. Lookin’ pretty legit, ‘innit?
After lunch I joined my snowboarding friends, and they guided me down a low-intermediate hill a few times. Of course they were impressed with my exquisite turns and overall style and grace. Stephanie had been a longtime skier, actually, so she gave me some crucial advice and encouragement which helped a lot. But, man, what a lot of work it is, this sport. My! my leg muscles were burny.
Finally us three went all the way to the top. I was pretty worn out, but I wanted to go up there. Once I got up there I was finally certain that I was definitely too tired to ski anymore. They flew down the hill before I made my pitiful descent, filled with a lot of snow in my trousers as I skidded and slowly scampered down the more difficult terrain. At least I got to enjoy the gorgeous view. Notice the hazy brown fog in the distance, which demarcates Santiago.
As I dozed off on the car ride home, I vaguely remembered feeling this facial irritation, which I attributed to it being drug through the snow on the final descent. If only I had been so lucky!!