Grouse Mountain and I have been eyeing each other off since my first day in Vancouver. The snowy peak, just across the bay, has been watching me run round Vancouver headless chicken style trying to sort out the bureaucratic hurdles in my life. On Thursday I jumped a significant hurdle and although it was by no means the final one it has allowed me to get away from the city and finally visit Grouse.
I have come to Canada with a few missions, one is the dull aforementioned bureaucratic one, and another is the far more fun project of learning to ski. So, sun shinning, on Friday I had a date with Grouse and a date with the skiing instructor.
The first step, after I put on my sunscreen, wriggled into my waterproof pants and puffy (second hand) jacket was to rent skies. The rental girls and guys were very nice and patient with me:
‘What is your height?’ ‘No idea.’
‘What is your weight?’ ‘No idea.’
‘What is your shoe size?’ ‘In Australia it is 7 ½ in Canada I have no idea.’
After some guess work I pushed my foot into some size 9 boots and the nice lady set up my skies to her estimation of my weight (apparently it needs to be semi-accurate or you will pop off the ski at inopportune times). She must have known her stuff because I only ever popped off at the appropriate times, ie when crashing.
Lesson one for the day: when you are learning to ski they wont let you have any poles as you are liable to stab yourself with them. You have to learn to navigate and stop with the skies alone.
Lesson two: Don’t tuck your waterproof pants into your boots.
We learned how to get the skies on and off, how to slide about on one ski then two, we learned how to climb a snowy hill with no poles- an odd sideways walk thing involving digging the edges of your ski into the snow- possibly the most exhausting part of the day; and then we learned the really important stuff:
how go slow and stop.
This involves a rather unnatural inward knee bend thing where you angle your skies into each other while avoiding actually crossing them over. Basically you make a slice of pie. I was occasionally wobbly at this stage and had a tendency to end up to the left of where I was headed.
Lesson three: don’t forget to look in the direction you want to go and don’t look at the thing you are trying to avoid or you will be more likely to navigate into it.
Then we tried to do turning. I was fine going left, but right turns, which involved navigating towards and then stopping before you got to a steep drop were a little beyond me.
After an hour of playing on our little hill our instructor seemed to think we were ready to go down the bunny hill.
The first section involved a small incline which levelled out quite nicely, so even if you were still not so good at stopping you were ok.
happy bunnies going slow
The second section was steeper and led directly to a tight turn into the ski lift area.
At this point my inability to stop, and or navigate became a problem. I hurteled towards the fence, attempted a rather tight turn and hooked my leg around the fence, thwacking my inner thigh quite nicely and making a bit of a noise.
going to fast
no ability to turn as yet
crash and burn
The noise was actually worse than the crash and although I was a little bruised nothing was twisted, broken or dammaged beyond repair- Physically that is.
Mentally I was a little worse for wear and about to tackle perhaps the scariest feat for the day- the ski lift.
Lesson four: do not hang about near the exit of the ski lift unless you want to be crashed into (by me).
Lesson five: don’t forget to get off the ski lift. On my second turn on the lift I forgot that it was not going to do all the work for me and ended up having to do a little hop -jump off the lift as it continued on its merry way. Luckily our instructor was on hand to give me a hand to hold onto.
At the end of the second hour our instructor told us that we had now graduated to being level two skiers (I think this really translates as knowing which end of the ski goes towards the front), then he told us not to go anywhere other than the bunny slope, and then he left us.
So my fellow L plater and I (a Mexican gal with as much snow in her veins as this Aussie beach bum) nervously set off to tackle the slope on our own. It was just us, the small children and the face planting snow boarders. We did ok- eventually even taking on the slightly steeper section of the bunny hill and I am proud to say that no children were injured by me.
The positive result of my first run down the bunny hill being a disaster was that my fear of a repetition made me learn how to go slow, and after a good hour or so of nervously navigating down the hill I had my first run of the day which felt more parts fun than fear.
Grouse Mountain bunny hill, with a view of a steeper slope.
As the afternoon wore on the we improved, and occasionally regressed. I made my final run of the day very carefully, then concentrated too much on how tight the last turn was and ended up ploughing headlong into a man waiting for the lifts. Luckily my warning cries of ‘Shit Shit Shit’ alerted him I was coming and he was stable and solid enough to catch me.
Going up on the lift my pal and I decided we needed just one more run for the day; and this timeI went a bit faster and I nailed it.
Then I decided I needed just one more run for the day. By this time the sun was sinking, the clouds had come in and the lights were on. I was going down blind, the now familiar hill just revealing itself one meter at a time.