As a repatriated Swiss who grew up in Canada, there are two smudges on my character profile. The first one is that I don’t much care for hockey. I’m sorry, I’ve tried, but I just can’t get into this sport. In fact, I don’t really like watching any sports, especially on television. For me, sports are something to do and not really to watch. I might be singing a different tune when I have a child playing sports, but right now that’s my attitude.
The second blemish is that I don’t ski. Yes, a Swiss-Canadian who can’t ski. Well, at least now that blight might be removed and turned to “I didn’t ski.”
For Christmas, my best friend gave me ski lessons to finally get out there. It took an Irish woman in Switzerland to tell me how unacceptable it was that I couldn’t ski and that I must change this.
On the first Saturday of 2012, I thus headed to Laax to learn how to fall down a hill.
Now, I must be honest here. I tried skiing once in my life. It was my 12th birthday and my school went skiing at Mount Pakenham near Ottawa, Canada. My dad and sister came with. My dad is truly Swiss and in his younger days would ski down from the top of the Säntis. My sister had learned how to ski over a few years before that and was also quite good.
As I took my literal crash course in skiing, they went off to the red and black slopes. I spent my day on my own, falling down the bunny hill. Up to that point in my life it was the worst birthday (and has remained the worst birthday in memory). I swore that I would never go skiing again.
Before I headed off to Laax, I looked for a ski school there and found the Laax Ski School. I looked through their course offerings and found this great one day course that isn’t offered every weekend, but as luck would have it was being offered the Saturday I wanted to go.
The course is called Laax for Beginners. It is for true beginners and you start with very basic, but important information: How to put your skis on, how to glide and stop moving. The course also includes equipment rental, lift pass and lunch. If you’ve never skied, this is definitely a course you should try.
My instructor, Marta, was phenomenal. We started the morning off in the Schneewunderland, and step-by-step she helped me to put different elements together to finally go downhill, that is to ski downhill and not fall downhill. After Marta was happy with the progress that was made in the Schneewunderland, she asked if we were ready for the blue hills. The answer from my end was, “Yes, let’s go for it!” And up we went.
If you've ever seen the South Park episode in which the kids learn to ski, it really is a little like that: “Pizza, French Fry, Pizza, French Fry”.
Even as I learned to do more advanced things, anytime I had a little trouble I knew I could revert to using the “pizza position” (Schneepflugposition) to slow down and even stop.
As we took the lift up, I saw the piste and was a little worried: It was very steep. When we got to the top I was informed that this was the red piste, a little too advanced for me. The route Marta had selected for us was from Curnius to the beautiful alpine village of Falera. For the rest of the day we learned how to make nice turns on the slopes.
I'm sure most people have heard about how much snow that the Alps have received in the past few weeks. Now, I’ve never skied on good or bad snow, but I believe the conditions were phenomenal. My ski instructor also said that she could not believe how great the conditions were. Other than making for good skiing conditions, the snow also made for a great day, showing how beautiful the Swiss Alps can be.
A few falls really helped to enforce Marta’s constant but friendly shouts of “Hands in front of you!” - as soon as you let your hands get behind you it starts to turn your body and you lose control. There were many other things that I learned that day and that will stay with me the next time I go out.
But most importantly, I had a great day on the slopes and now believe that this is a sport that I want to do on a regular basis. Now I’m one more step to further repatriation. But I still don’t care for hockey.
(Pictures courtesy of Laax)