This weekend I went skiing, which was a fairly ridiculous idea given that I have never been able to remain upright in snow at the best of times, never mind with a couple of clumsy great planks attached to my feet.
Yet, somehow, looking at people effortlessly going swoosh-swoosh-swoosh down snowy mountainsides always makes me think that a pair of skis must make the whole balance thing much more achievable. It looks so easy, so beautiful, so exhilarating! I’ve always wanted to try it (and I had it on my 101 things list for that reason).
So off I went with South African Friends Three, Four, and Five, and Irish Friend One, to Korea’s favourite ski resort in Muju. It’s a beautiful place, that made me all nostalgic and sort of wistful for Switzerland as soon as I entered the resort and saw the snowy mountain peaks, the narrow, hilly streets, the sweet little cabins, and the stunning views. For fleeting moments here and there I truly thought I was wandering through Interlaken or Zermatt, and actually felt a little mournful when I remembered I wasn’t. Maybe that’s a sign that I am not done with Switzerland.
We got dressed up in our slightly ridiculous ski clothes in one of the rental shops, who also fitted us out with boots and skis and snowboards. Then we had some hot chocolate and cinnamon coffee in a wonderfully Christmassy coffee shop at the bottom of the slopes, before heading off to swoosh-swoosh-swoosh in the dazzling sunshine.
On the beginner slope, there was a little moving walkway/escalator thing instead of chair lifts. It did not bode well that I almost fell over just stepping on to it, despite a distinct absence of snow, but then there wasn’t much I could do when I was already on it and helplessly ascending to the top behind an excited South African Friend Three. The nice man at the top helped me off and I stumbled uncertainly around while SAF Three marched confidently to the edge of the slope and promptly hurled herself down it. I watched in horror as she swoosh-swoosh-swooshed in alarming proximity to everyone else, somehow not colliding with anyone for reasons I could not fathom. Then I saw her take a tumble/roll and sit there halfway down the slope – perhaps fatally injured, perhaps crying, perhaps wondering how to stand up. Who knew?
It was somewhere around this point that I decided I’d had enough of skiing, and wished simply to return to the coffee shop and drink cinnamon-flavoured hot beverages while listening to Christmas carols and looking out at the pretty snow.
Unfortunately, I had arrived at this decision standing at the top of a ski slope with a queue of impatient skiers forming behind me from the top of the escalator. I clumsily staggered to the edge of the “path” to cling on to the fence and let the real skiers past, almost falling over in the process. I watched dolefully as three elderly ladies, a couple of doddery-looking old men, and half a dozen tiny children leapt past me and went swoosh-swoosh-swoosh down the mountainside. Surely it couldn’t be that hard, if they were doing it so easily?! I took a step forward. Swoosh-swoosh-swoosh!
Of course, that sound was merely my left leg going left and my right leg going right, and me standing there flailing my arms around frantically, powerless to do anything about it.
I stood there helplessly for a few moments once I had my legs under some form of temporary control, and then called out in my politest Korean to the nice man at the top of the escalator. Excuse me! Um… I can’t… I… skiing…” - I lapsed into English, my bottom lip wobbling - I don’t want to! Help me!
God bless that man. He didn’t even roll his eyes, which gave me some comfort that perhaps he’s encountered more than just a few people in my predicament. He strode over with the sort of confident stride that irritates me a bit because I don’t see why other people should be able to walk in snow when I can’t even stand up, and gently held me up while he took off my skis for me. Then he carefully led me back to the top of the moving platform, and indicated that I could walk back down the side of it.
Oh, the shame of walking down, head lowered, skis in hand, as smartly-dressed skiers pass you on their way to the top!
I was greeted at the bottom by South African Friend Three, who had apparently worked out how to stand up and was buzzing with adrenalin or utter madness or something. She made me put my skis back on again and try skiing down from a much lower point – which I did. As in, I climbed up via a series of crab-like movements, and then “skied” down to the bottom – a grand distance of about 10 metres. I only did it so I could say I’d “tried skiing”. Then I removed the skis/instruments of death and suffering, and marched off to a more comfortable environment.
I’ll definitely go on another ski trip sometime… but only for the beautiful scenery and the après-ski!
SNOW ON THE BRANCHES
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
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