My world extended in many ways yesterday. It is one of those days where I wonder if I knew what I was getting myself in for, would I have gone? This morning I wake, sore and bruised with many stories to tell.
On board the shuttle out of Banff up to Lake Louise, I was simply blown away by the beauty. I have never wandered far from Banff but I can only imagine it is stunning all year around, the trees, the mountain, the river. Dressed in 21cm of fresh snowfall, it was breath-taking. The snowfall felt like a perfect gift on my first day skiing. Crossing below the mountain, along the valley, the usually dirty train looked red and vibrant. It was the kind of beauty you feel in your gut.
We booted ourselves up, got our day passes and headed to the bunny slopes. There were people coming down a massive steep slope and I could not work out exactly where they were coming from, seeming to wind around the mountain somehow. B would be my teacher for the day. She got me into my skis and talked me onto the T-Bar. Getting off at the top, I nearly fell but didn’t.
And we were off, a gentle snow plough down. I fell over. And again. And again. At this point, my main learning was how to get up when I fell down. This was a good starting point. I got up a little speed and skied a little. It felt good. I fell again. There was someone in front of me. I didn’t know how to curve around them. Down I go. I was delighted to reach the bottom. Up we went again, nearly falling again getting off the T-bar but I didn’t. I came down again, a few more pointers from B, a warning about the powder making turns cumbersome and downhill slow. I’m not sure how much I fell, but I was ok falling. I expected to fall a lot. I did think I’d be upright for longer between falls.
When we look back now, we are not certain who’s idea it was. I can put my hand up and say I expressed my doubts from the start. There were 2 newbies. They took us up a green run. At the top, the able skiers and snowboarders asked us if they could do a run and then come back to us. Most didn’t know Lake Louise. They didn’t know what was in front. One stayed with the snowboarder.
I knew from the beginning I was going to far: the compressed powder at the top, the sheer slope, the different directions, the trees and orange fencing. I struggled, sliding and falling rather than skiing. My goal was always to the point I could see, and yet each time it went on and on. At one point, I wondered if I would ever get off. I wondered would I hurt myself getting off it. I wondered how long it took to get to the bottom and up again and when I could expect some help. There may have been tears of fear, genuine fear. I got much, much better at getting up, at twisting my skis from the position I landed in to be in the position I needed to get back up in.
I remember hearing B and the Boarder behind me, and it was music to my ears. I was not abandoned. I had to get down but I had company and help and advice. So it went, on and on, I began looping across the mountain and back, a maximum of 4 turns before falling. Usually it was my right turn where I fell. A few times, I turned to go up the hill. It wasn’t my intention, I believe my skis were jinxed, Harry Potter style. I somehow fell and hit myself hard in the face. I twisted my back a little, my ankles a bit and my knees a lot. I sat in some kind of frog position at one point and an older skier sat beside me, saying yoga helps. B told him “She does in 4 times a week” and I knew I had to push up out of it. I did. I swore a lot, especially at the skier who told me to show them what I got. I got nothing baby, but more expletives. I swore at B a lot. Not at her personally, just in her direction. The worse situation was a really bad fall and losing a ski. I know it protected my leg but it was a struggle to snap back in. A few times I had to slide down to a flatter section to get it back on.
A few times B told me that I was now on the steepest section. She lied each time. The hardest was the end where it was more packed and busy. A few times I picked up a good speed and covered a little distance. Seeing the base was a breath of relief missed with a hard shot of “How the f&*k am I going to get there?”
It took two and a half hours for me to do a run the most able in our group can do in 8 minutes. I learned a lot. Lessons should have been my first port of call, I should have followed my instinct and stayed on the bunny hill. I know what shredding and tearing up mean, I know what a steep hill looks like, I know what a snowplough is, and it is not always a big machine with a bucket in front. I know how hard skiing is. I knew it was before, but now my body understands it, my muscles remember it.
Barr that, I took it all well. I sat for times, never for long and I always got up, often as soon as I fell down. I did not cry in front of people. I did not hit anyone except myself with my pole. I enjoyed the scene, even when my heart was in my mouth or my mouth in the snow. I heard a bird once in the trees. There are no words for the scene, sadly no photos either: I broke my camera. The skill of the snowboarders and skiers whizzing past me, over bumbs and other terms I do not know yet. There was also a kindness; when I was alone on the ground, nearly each time, someone checked I was ok. I knew if I were to break something, or knock myself out, I would have gotten help. I did see someone being stretchered down a hill; and that takes some skill.
A hot chocolate Baileys finished my day off and we re-counted stories until bedtime last night. Epic falls make great stories. It seems even the most professional talk more about the falls than the sprints or jumps. And boy did I have some epic falls, some witnessed, some not. We also built 2 snowmen on our lawn and it turns out, I know how to do that. I needed to feel skill in something, anything.
I went to yoga, I needed my Wednesday shot, especially after my day on the hill. We were asked if we were playing on the ice or watching from the stands. I thought back on my time on the hill. I’d laughed and cried and quietly concentrated. I’d been frustrated, hurt, angry, upset, spell bound, delighted, excited, nervous.But I’d been there. In many ways, it was the hardest day of my life. But I was fully there, fully present, fully focused, fully engaged. I could not distract myself from the pain or frustration, I had to use it to help me down.
I thanked B. I showed them my bruises on either side of my hips. I laughed. Others laughed. I wake this morning, knowing I would never tell my yesterday self a thing if I could. Somethings are better to live through regardless of how tough, frustrating and painful, and my first day skiing was one of them. I will go back. Just not on the green run yet.