The going-up was quite hard, but nothing could prepare me for the sking back down. I'm not a complete novice, but I haven't done that much skiing (either in the station or out in the wild) and I certainly have never skied in fresh powder before.
For those who, like me, have never tasted la poudreuse before, here's a little compte rendu of the reality of skiing in the powder for the first time:
- It's awkward: (Unlike me) you're probably quite a good skier, but you've never skied beyond the comfort of the groomed ski station slopes before. You don't know exactly what’s called for, what stance to adopt, how to react to the snow, how to keep motivation and momentum going, what to expect from your body, the snow. In brief, awkwardness abounds.
- It should be fast, but it's actually very slow: The snow is so deep, up to your thighs in places, and you are skiing with such awkwardness embedded into each turn that you feel like you are descending at a snail's pace. You're so careful with each turn that you take more time than someone who’s done it a thousand times. The whole thing last forever (or seems to)....and your friends stood waiting at the bottom won't let you forget it once you've made it down the mountain!
- You're indecisive: You aren’t sure how to do this, and so you hesitate before committing yourself to the slope. It's new, it’s different, it’s uncomfortable and you've got to get it just right.
- You have to do it yourself: The reality is, when it's time to come back down, nobody can hold your hands or ski beside you. You have to find the motion and rhythm for yourself, something that no amount of instruction or good advice can ever do for me - you've got to learn how to do it all by yourself.
But here's the thing - even if it took me ages to get down that slope, even if I had to use every inch of courage and strength to do it, even if I kept the others waiting and poor Nico had to keep pulling me out of the snow, I realised that somewhere, sometime if there is something that I really want bad enough, I can just do it.
I saw the others skiing so effortless down in front of me, enjoying the excellent conditions, the beautiful surroundings and in my beginner skier's mind it cried out "I want to do that too!".
So I skied. And fell down. And got up to try again. And advanced three metres and fell again.
And got up to take a turn.
And fell down.
And got up to take another turn.
And in that awkward, uncomfortable, slow, hesitant way, I made it down the mountain. It taught me the importance of inching forward, no matter how hard it is.
It also taught me that if you're going to fall, it's best to fall in lovely soft powder. And to make sure you have a Mountain Man skiing behind to help pull you out when you get stuck.
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