There is one thing in my life that I regret not being able to do more often. And that is wintersport vacation. I can’t really describe exactly why that is, so many different emotions come into play. I am a skier, I never tried snowboarding and probably never will. Skis are way more flexible in my opinion, especially on flat ground or even short inclines. But let’s start at the beginning.
My first experience with skiing was actually on a ski vacation that my high school organised. Students in 9th grade, or around the age of 15/16 were eligible to take part. I was thrilled, since my parents had met during a wintersport vacation and the whole world seemed to be absolutely enthusiastic about skiing and wintersport vacations in general. So I signed up and away we went. To Austria, I can’t remember the name of the place, but in retrospect, it was a small but very nice ski resort for that time. In the past 17 years or so, it probably has only gotten nicer.
Wintersport is about falling and getting up
But there we were, a bunch of teenagers, split up into groups according to skill. We had the “rich parents kids”, who had gone skiing each winter for all their lives since they could walk. And then we had those who barely knew what snow was – me among them. Our skiing teachers were going to be one dude, the older brother of some broad from our year. He had spent time at the mountaineer branch of the German military when he was younger. Needless to say, he could ski with a blindfold and his hands tied behind his back. He was definitely not good at teaching though. Screaming at someone to make them learn faster might work at the armed forces, but not with frustrated teenagers, who pictured this whole thing quite differently. My progress after half of the wintersport vacation was done can be summarised in this GIF:
I don’t feel shame to admit, that I was really close to giving up. Nothing worked, it felt like I was missing crucial information to keep in control on those two boards. The other wintersport noobs and me didn’t give up though. After a day of uncounted falls and frustrations, we’d make fun of Mr. Military. We managed to gather enough self confidence to keep going.
Things started to look up
Luckily, there was a second teacher, one of our school’s actual gym teachers. He was about as good a skier as the other dude after decades of experience. But thankfully, he had acquired some skills throughout his teaching career to motivate and actually make his protegés better at what they do. After the whole group complained after the second day of going through Mr. Military‘s ordeal, Mr. Actual Teacher decided that it would be better if he stuck with the beginners group for the last 2 days, so we could actually get somewhere.
And indeed, on the last day, our group (me included) could actually go up the real mountain, away from the beginners’ training slopes. What a sense of accomplishment!! I still was extremely stiff, making turns would scare the crap out of me, but I was able to spend more time going forward than picking my skis and sticks up and trying to get moving again. I returned home satisfied and hooked. The fact that this vacation was also very nice off-piste thanks to a bunch of cool guys I was lucky enough to be in the same year with, only enhanced the positive emotions.
I was hooked.
Back on the slopes
Fast forward 6 years or so. In the meantime, I haven’t seen any real snow on real mountains any more. The craving grew every time family, friends, student organisations or colleagues decided to make a trip to an indoor wintersport hall. I went a couple of times and improved my style, but I was nowhere near “proficient” levels. I could get down a hill if the conditions were good. As soon as there were complications like lots of ice or loose snow, a lot of bumps, or general crowded-ness, I would fall back to… falling. Anyhow, nothing more than a few bruises happened and the longing to finally see real mountains again only grew bigger.
Until at some point, a couple of friends from my study decided to go on a wintersport vacation and asked around if anybody wanted to join. I was in in a second. How could I not. We found some nice discount travel agency that set us up with an appartement and ski passes for a week in Avoriaz, France. Man. This place. The resort literally exists for the sole purpose of catering to wintersport fanatics. The whole thing is located at around 2000m above sea level in the Frech Alps. Slopes start at somewhere around 2200m, pass through the village and end somewhere down in the valleys below. So yes, we could basically step into a lift right next to our door, get up, take a slope down, pass by the appartement, go down even further, and take a lift back up. It was the best.
Improving the skillzz
My skills weren’t, though. Since three of us six were either absolutely new, hadn’t skied since they were 4 or 5 years old, or (and that’s me), were a bit stiff when it came to body control, we decided to take some skiing classes in the mornings together. That was the best thing I could have done. The instructor was amazing. He could pinpoint the exact thing that anybody did wrong and explained in detail, how to move, where to put weight, what to do with your arms, literally EVERYTHING to make you a better skier. He was great. I believe it helped that I had some experience prior to this, since the other two friends did not progress as fast, sadly. One even injured her knee on the third day and basically quit skiing after then.
As for me, after the third day of official training and hearing the amazed compliments from the three “pro’s” in our group, I decided to not take more classes and just spend the last two days with the three pro’s and improve that way. It was bliss. The feeling when you finally figure it out and see yourself get better, more in control and more elegant is out of this world. The weather did the rest. Mostly blue skies, a bit snow in between, but that only turned the whole thing more into a winter wonderland. If I was hooked before, I was enslaved after that trip.
Wintersport for life?
Things don’t always go as planned though, so I didn’t see any real slopes any more until 4 years later. I’ll tell you all about that next time! I’ll leave you with some impressions from Avoriaz. Writing this, I think I’ll go back there next time I’ll go on another wintersport vacation! I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving the feeling of plowing down a slope. White all around you, crisp air in your face, and the sound of fresh snow crunching underneath your skis. It’s probably the best feeling out there.