Having grown up in sub-Saharan Africa in Zimbabwe, the last place I thought I would have found myself in my adulthood, is on the pistes of Vallnord in Andorra. Obviously, the snow and frost are in total contrast to the dry heat of Zimbabwe I was accustomed to.
It was a very long journey by coach from Calais to Andorra, but I must say, the views once you get there are breath taking. The air is crisp and clear and Mother Nature starts whispering to you to notice her.
As the pistes were on higher ground, we had to take the gondola (cable cars) up to the mountain – the views were absolutely exquisite. As I was walking down from the gondola, I suddenly slipped on a patch of black ice. Boy was that painful, it had me tense the rest of the day – not a great start to a long day but I soon forgot about it as I customised myself to my new conditions.
Well… you are all wondering how I got on with the skiing itself? Do not be fooled by the confident stance in the picture below. You’d think I was ready for the winter Olympics – not!
Firstly, let me say, I did not expect the ski boots to be so heavy and the skis are long so it is like having an extension of my feet. The positive of this was I am sure I was burning a few calories and not missing out on my regular exercise – every silver cloud!
The first lesson was how to put on and take off one’s skis using the ski poles. The second lesson was the all-important lesson of knowing how to stop when skiing down a slope, in this instance the “snow plough”. After a few attempts, I still did not get it right and it was obvious I needed to keep practising. After my fall earlier, I was rather nervous and my confidence had been knocked. Unfortunately the life of a tour manager beckoned and I had to pause my experience of ski school to attend culinary matters, ensuring everything was ready for my group for lunch.
After a couple of days of building courage, I thought to give skiing another try. After all, I was surrounded by people in skis even toddlers were able to ski- I mean how hard can it be?
So I put my boots and skis on and started practising the snow plough again. My colleagues Andy, Liz and Sarah then urged me to try the “baby slope” – which in the skiing world is a baby slope, not much of a challenge. To some perhaps, but to me? Oh boy it was like a mountain. I tentatively got in line to get on the “magic carpet” which in essence is a snow escalator only without the steps. I got to the top and Liz, bless her, had taken it upon herself to help me. So, at the top of the baby slope, she started showing me how to snow plough. She said, “Farai just dig in the skis and ensure that you do not have the skis parallel.”
As she was saying this, I started sliding down the slope. My heart was beating so fast and I was thinking to myself oh no, my worst nightmare- I couldn’t stop. I hadn’t yet mastered the snow plough. At a distance I could hear Liz’s voice shouting, “Farai dig in, dig in!” But no matter how hard I tried, I kept sliding down the slope, at this point, I was now sliding on my bottom. I was sliding across and had the potential of colliding with another skier. Eventually, I came to a stop narrowly missing the chairlift and the heavy snow on the side. Liz was right behind me and checked if I was ok. She helped me up and I took my skis off.
I breathed a sigh of relief, I was nearer level ground. Liz again encouraged me to go back up the baby slope. However, I was quite happy practising my snow plough without going onto higher ground. I practised by myself for a while, but it was then that I thought to myself, maybe skiing after all, is not for me.
So to sum it up, skiing requires practice and determination, but please do not let my experience put you off. I can proudly say, although I wasn’t successful at skiing, this is certainly one thing to tick off on my bucket list and I thoroughly enjoyed my time away accompanying a ski group.
Who would have thought… a girl raised in Zimbabwe has had a go at skiing on the pistes of Vallnord!