Well, I tried to think of an alliterative word for snow, but failed.  So the title of this post is only nearly an alliteration.

Back to the subject of this post – my trip to the snow.  Given that I’d never been skiing before, and some friends had invited me to go to the snow this upcoming weekend, I figured I should get some practice in.  To that end, I booked a snow express package with Murrays coaches for yesterday, to go to perisher blue.  The bus left Civic (in Canberra) at 5:30am, and returned at 7pm.

This immediately presented some challenges:

  • I had no ski gear
  • I had no idea where I could park all day in the middle of Canberra
  • I’d never been skiing before, so I had no idea what to expect

After chatting with some more knowledgeable people, I overcame these challenges.  I bought some Over The Glasses ski goggles, a pair of gloves, some ski pants and a ski helmet.  I think I got a bit carried away there, since I didn’t end up using the ski helmet, and I didn’t try the ski pants on with some trackpants underneath (result: they were *very* tight around the waist).  I found a place that I could park in Civic all day for $8, and I got a bit of an idea of what to expect from a guy at work who’d been on a snow express package recently.

So the night before I packed my gear plus various forms of sugar, and set my alarm for 3:45.  I figured I’d need to leave by 4:30, since a) the car park was a fair distance away from the bus terminal; b) when I booked the trip I was told to be at the bus terminal by 5:15am; and c) I really didn’t want to miss the bus.  As it turned out, I got to the bus terminal at 5am, leaving me with 20 minutes of sitting around staring blankly at the other passengers trickling into the terminal.

The bus trip down was fairly uneventful, brief periods of light sleep interspersed with moments of almost-consciousness.  I was glad I’d decided to wear my beanie on the bus – it was pretty cold.  It really didn’t get any warmer throughout the day though.  We arrived at the skitube that would take us up to Perisher mountain, and the bus driver handed us our lift passes, and pointed out where to go to get our included skis, stocks and boots.

I took the opportunity to visit the bathroom and put on my ski pants before getting my ski gear.  I ended up trying on three increasingly larger sets of ski boots before I got a pair that would fit my feet.  Picked up the skis and stocks and went to discover how to get a lesson.  I didn’t realise before this point how heavy skis were when they were being carried.  The lesson would cost me $51 (since I already had my chair lift pass), and teach me the absolute basics on how to ski, culminating in instruction on the use of chair lifts.  I had a choice of two locations for the lesson, one at Blue Cow, the other somewhere else.  The person selling the lessons recommended Blue Cow, and since I had no clue either way, I accepted the recommendation.

The skitube left shortly after this, and I would have to change skitube trains at Perisher to get to Blue Cow.  My first task on arriving at Blue Cow was to work out where I had to go to join my group lesson, followed closely by the need to find a locker.  Having stashed my bag in the locker ($19, with a $10 deposit that was refundable if I returned the key before 5pm) and putting on my ski goggles and gloves, I went outside.

My first step on the snow went badly – I kind of slid back down onto the concrete, but I didn’t fall or drop my skis.  Taking a more careful step, I negotiated the gentle slope up to where my lesson would be.  I was late, the group had already moved off from the starting position, but they were still learning how to put on their skis, so I hadn’t missed anything important.

We started by putting on just one ski, and moving around with it on.  We learnt about the ‘snow plow‘ position and other basic skiing techniques.  Then we started off at the bottom of an extremely gentle slope (it was practically flat), using the ski tow to take us up a little way, then skiing back to the bottom.  After a few goes of this, we moved onto a larger slope, although it was still quite gentle.  We spent most of the lesson here, catching the ski tow up to the top, and skiing down, practising turning and stopping.

Up to this point, I hadn’t fallen over, but I did manage to do a couple of embarrassing things, relating to my inability to stop in a controlled manner.  Having descended the slight incline, I needed to make a 180 degree turn and step sideways to line up to the ski tow.  The first 90 degrees of the turn meant I was now facing a slight slope towards the ski tow.  On two separate occasions my snow plow failed to stop me, and I ran sideways into another beginner skier.  The second was the worst incident, ending with the end of my ski in between another skier’s boot and her ski.  She had to unclip her boot so I could get my ski out!

Towards the end of the lesson, the instructor took us to a much more pronounced incline.  The object of this lesson was to do tight turns in order to descend the slope in a gradual manner, and then catch the chair lift up.  Unfortunately my execution of this plan left a lot to be desired.  This part of the lesson involved my first (and second and third) fall.

I’d start off going across the slope, then start the 180 degree turn to head back the other direction across the slope.  The first 90 degrees were easy enough, but at that point I was now heading straight down a much steeper slope than I’d experienced.  Try as I might, I couldn’t do the second 90 degrees – I’d end up going faster and faster down the slope, panic, lean backwards, then over I went.  After the instructor helped me up the third time, he suggested I should probably just walk down the hill to the start of the chair lift.

The chair lift was another fun story.  Getting on the lift went off without a hitch, and I thought I’d be able to get off at the top fairly easily.  I was wrong.  In getting off the lift, I inadvertently leant backwards, and over I went.  I managed to move over to the side out of the way of the lift, so I didn’t suffer the additional embarrassment of having the chair lift stopped on my behalf.  I also managed to unclip a ski myself, and get back up.  At this point it was just after 12, and I was feeling a bit light-headed and very thirsty.

I imagine the thirst and the light headedness related to my rush earlier in the day.  I hadn’t had anything to drink for several hours, and hadn’t eaten anything all day.  I drank a whole heap of water, and went and sat down.  In retrospect, I should’ve drunk the water a bit slower, since I felt pretty sick for the next 10 minutes.  Eventually I felt better, and I bought some lunch – some fruit salad and some deliciously unhealthy potato wedges.  I sat around for a while, occasionally sipping on a bottle of Coke Zero, just watching people walk past, and ski/board down the slope visible through the windows.

I got bored eventually, and given that I was feeling better, I decided to go for another ski.  There didn’t seem anything else to do.  The skiing part went fine this time – I was on the same gentle slope as before.  The ski tow was my undoing in the afternoon.  In the morning I was letting the rope slide through my fingers a bit before gripping hard enough that the rope started pulling me along.   Now that I was more confident, I just grabbed hold of the ski tow.  This was a mistake – the sudden lurch caused me to compensate by leaning backwards.  By now we all know what happens when you lean backwards on skis – you fall flat on your back.  I did this twice, and twice the ski tow operator had to help me up.

This time, one of the people from my morning lesson noticed what was happening (incidentally, the same person who had to unclip her ski boot to free my ski), and offered some helpful advice about leaning forward and letting the rope slide through my fingers until I was ready to go.  These tips helped greatly, and with a few more runs down the slope I was done for the day.

The bus trip back to Canberra was uneventful, as was the drive back home.  All in all, I had a great day, and now I can nearly ski.  Bring on the weekend!