Skiing Like A Banana

Just to recap, I am skiing down at Perisher with my husband and two kids. While the rest of the family are good skiers, I have a muscle wasting disease which also affects my lungs as well as a neurological condition. I have joined the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association (DWA) and am having daily lessons with a private ski instructor who has adaptive ski training credentials. Last year, I managed to ski down Perisher’s Front Valley and after subsequently being severely ill, I am trying to ski down the mountain again…turn my mountain around. This is my personal challenge and it’s definitely not a piece of cake!

Welcome to Day 3.

I was seriously intending to tackle the mountain today but I was feeling quite unsteady on my feet and giddy getting my ski boots on. I was also a bit short of breath. Decided to play it safe and spend another day on the magic carpet…the beginners run. Don’t want weird medical stuff happening out there on the mountain. No nasty surprises.

At the same time, this being day 3 and I was still on the magic carpet, I was starting to wonder. Was I playing it too safe? Why couldn’t I just catapult myself out there and do it? I knew I could do it so what was holding me back?

In retrospect, timing is everything. The time has to be right and like an egg about to hatch, the chick inside has to be ready to come out. A yolk is never going to survive. It’s way too early and it has to wait.

Of course, this kind of thinking goes quite against the grain in our modern fast-paced automatic world. Everything has to be instant…immediate. When there isn’t the time for things to ripen naturally, we blast it with chemical sprays or other accelerants and make it happen now…ready or not.

I can’t operate like that. I have to take it slow…inch by painstaking inch. Being slow, isn’t something that wins you many medals. At least not upfront but the rewards are there in the long run. You are still standing to collect your medal at the end of the race. Just ask Winter Olympic Gold Medal Skater, David Bradbury.

I christened myself the “Queen of the Carpet” half in pride, as a bit of a joke but there was also an undercurrent of sadness. I wanted to be a real skier and get out there on the big slopes. Get out of the nest. Surrounded by kids and parents wielding cameras, iphones, ipads and anything they could to capture their little darlings for eternity, I had clearly outgrown the nest.

At the same time, I was working hard on my techniques and was developing the skills that would get me down the mountain upright on two skis feeling positive about the experience instead of being scared out of my wits and or crashing all the way downhill and vowing never to ski again. For me, having that positive experience is way more important than collecting notches on my ski pole.

However, although I was merely going up and down the beginner’s carpet, I was focusing on improving my techniques and was really improving. It was a definite case of slow and steady wins the race but I was still in the nest and to win the race, you have to compete.

I don’t know what most skiers aim to achieve at the snow. Whether it’s a matter of actually learning how to ski and understanding what’s involved and working on your technique or whether they just want to get down the mountain anyway they can… as long as it’s not in a box.

It probably depends on how long you’re staying and whether you’ve caught “the bug”. We go down for 5 day blocks and find that really enables us to not only pick up where we left off last year but also to extend ourselves. Skiing is a dangerous sport and even if you’re being cautious, you can still get mowed down by someone else and pay the ultimate price.

This more cautious approach is quite different from skiing down a run and ticking it off your list. Our son told us that one of the boys in ski school had gone down an advanced black run and he was very impressed. However, when we quizzed him further, it turned out that the boy fell down the whole way and that didn’t count.

So here I was on Day 3 back on the magic carpet yet again but this time with my new instructor, Mark.

After living and breathing through my big toe yesterday, today Mark was teaching me to ski like a banana. Of course, I didn’t have to dress up like B1 or B2 from Bananas in Pyjamas. All I had to do was lean over my downhill ski like a banana.

I’m not too proud to admit that I found all this banana talk very helpful. It was something I could picture immediately and understand. At the same time, leaning over my downhill ski felt all wrong and back to front. After all, shouldn’t I be leaning uphill, away from the slope? Leaning downhill made no sense at all. Wouldn’t I fall over? Then again, I’ve never been good at physics.

In addition to learning to ski like a banana, Mark introduced me to the Eiffel Tower, this time as a how NOT to ski. This is where you ski with your legs wide apart and you’re body is in an A-frame, like the Eiffel Tower. Instead, I needed to ski with my legs together keeping my skis parallel.

There was motive in all this Eiffel Tower and banana talk. The plan was to improve my turning so I could use turning to stop and slow down instead of relying on snowploughing, which is really tough on your legs. Considering that my legs experience noticeable muscle weakness, I particularly need to be strategic and take advantage of any strategies I can to save my strength. That’s not simply being lazy but strategic. However, skiing without snowplowing felt like riding a bike down a steep hill without brakes…unnerving if not outright terrifying. However, my skiing had improved and it was time to leave the brakes behind and move on…onward and upward!

At the same time, leaving snowploughing behind felt really strange because it’s really hammered into you as a rank beginner. Like many other skills, you often have to unlearn what you know to progress to the next level…as strange as that might feel at the time.

We all have to graduate and leave the nest.

Indeed, that was the next thing on the agenda. How was I going to get down the mountain? Instead of skiing down Front Valley like I did last year which is fairly steep and very scary, the new plan was for me to try Happy Valley. I’d never been down there but at least the name sounded right. The plan was for me to get towed across to the Quad Chair. Get off at Mid-Station and ski down Happy Valley and then take the Happy Valley T-Bar back up to Mid-Station and then for me to somehow get my skis back down without me while I take the Quad Chair back down as a foot passenger.

The usual thing is to ski down Happy Valley and take the Happy Valley T-Bar up and then to ski down Front Valley. This was too much for me in one hit and so we needed to cut a few corners. However, as you can see, there’s a small hitch to the plan…

How do my skis get back down without me?

Hmm, interesting challenges ahead.

That night, the family went out for dinner and I asked Geoff and the kids for their advice. We had quite a long family discussion about how I should proceed. As much as I had outgrown the beginner’s magic carpet, it was quite awkward to get me to the next level…to take on mountains other than Front Valley.

Decided to have a chat with them at the booking desk tomorrow to see what they recommend. Despite all my procrastination, I really am needing to leave the nest and venture onto some “grown-up” slopes.

Moving onward and upward…I hope!

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