Snow monsters

This is a true story of 2 girls, from seriously tropical countries (India and Brazil) who decide to try their luck with winter sports. All characters are for real and any mishaps depicted in this story happened and are not figments of their imagination. While they may look like victims of domestic crime, majority of the injuries are attributable to a snowboard. This story may be comical for a pro, inspirational for a beginner and dramatic for someone who has never been in snow. What it does have throughout is an adventurous streak combined with romantic hope.

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So, it all began when my friend Luiza from Brazil decided to visit me in Austria. We were both born and raised in cities which had an average temperature of 30 degrees centigrade. So, the idea of being in snow covered Austria was as frightening as it was exciting. For novices like us, the first step is to overcome the childlike excitement that comes with snow. The crazy feeling of running out of the door everytime it snows and to throw yourself on the ground, even if it is in the middle of the road. Once we overcome that, we can think about productive activities in the snow.

So, the first question was whether to go skiing or snowboarding? Having one hour experience with the snowboard (the receptionist from my hotel had been kind enough to give me baby snowboarding lessons) and 1/2 a day on skis (with a patient teacher who politely told me I am not cut out for skiing), I had pretty much come to a conclusion that I looked sporty even when I was not moving on a snowboard. However, with skis, I had a very awkward stance like I couldn’t decide whether I was going fencing or learning to walk on stilts worn the wrong way. Purely based on look & feel, we decided on snowboarding.

Next thing that we had on our list was to figure out our clothing. I heard we could always rent a snowboard and the shoes, but they atleast expect you to land up wearing the right clothes. Roy’s cousin came to my rescue and lent me her ski clothing (which looks like it has been used just once). It just goes to prove that Indians don’t particularly last too long with winter sports. Either way, I bundled up and Luiza followed the Onion principle and wore enough layers till she looked my size. Together, we rented bright ugly helmets and looked the part. This is the part I love about winter. Everyone looks equally fat, non-stylish and ridiculous. The only thing that differentiates you end of the day is if you spend the time on your ass or feet.

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Sport decided. Clothes done. Next was to figure out where we could actually go and learn snowboarding. It wasn’t in the backyard. We researched what was the nearest location we could get to from Fuschl, at the lowest cost and effort. Our backpacking instinct led us to discover a free bus called the Ski bus (not kidding) from Fuschl or Salzburg to Hintersee. Going at 8:38 am or 11:16 am and returning at 4:15 pm, it seemed fairly simple with a quick switch at Hof, a village in between. So, we were all set. Sound simple right. However, we woke up after 9, but got ready before 11. So, we said there would be no harm in taking the 10:15 bus afterall. We get to Hof, only to figure out there is no connection for the next 1 hour.

Here, we meet the other 2 characters of the story – Olga and Kamila. 2 very lost girls in the bus stop with a lot of equipment. Originally Polish, they had a distinct advantage. They have spent their entire lives in snow.That obviously meant they had learnt to ski before they had learnt to walk. But, we Indians and Brazilians are good at one thing, if not winter sports. That is at talking. We quickly broke the ice and figured out that they had a season pass, they spent all their time outside university skiing and that it was their first time at Hintersee however. They had miscalculated bus timings as well and had missed the connection. So, that leaves 2 pros and 2 beginners, at one bus stop, headed to the mountains. What are the chances?

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4 girls and it would be a shame if we couldn’t stop one car. That’s exactly what we did in under 5 minutes. You would think Austrians wouldn’t stop the car for Marilyn Monroe. True. They wouldn’t. They would stop it for a woman with Skis. That’s what Luiza and I figured out. Either way, to our rescue, came Stefan, a computer engineer working in another small village called Faistenau, near Hintersee. He was more than happy to lug all of us and the skis to Hintersee.

So, we got there, rented our stuff at a small rental shop and headed to the baby slopes, while our 2 polish friends hopped onto the ski lift to head up the mountain.We agreed to meet for lunch, however it never happened.By the time they went up and down the mountains and did god knows how many runs, I think Luiza and I lost a few kilos walking up the baby slopes, falling, trying to get up, falling, trying to move, falling, turn, falling, skidding and falling. With this, we also managed to get snow inside our jackets and pants and gloves and managed to question the fundamentals of snow proof clothing.

When we tried to wear the board and stand up, we felt like a cross between a sumo wrestler (who couldn’t lift his weight and stand) and a terribly uncoordinated dancer. While in theory ‘move your body weight here and there’ and ‘use your shoulders’ seemed right, in reality, before you can move, you slip and fall. If you do manage to move, you go ahead a bit and fall. If you move and try to stop, you break and fall. So, we were quite a sight on the slopes.

All in all, the only people who spoke to us were slightly older people who stopped to check if we had a bad fall. I mean, we really couldn’t have been going that fast to have fallen and hurt ourselves, but the way in which we were sprawled on the ground looked as though we were trying some stunts and fell down. You get the drift. Most of the others (starting from 4 year olds) generally whizzed past us with such ease, that we had to be very careful about not falling in their way. Actually, coming to think of it, they were hardly our concern. They were advanced enough to turn or swerve just incase they saw us in their way. However, we were worried more about each other. We had absolutely no control over ourselves and crashed into anything, including each other. All in all, no broken bones. So, in retrospect, we can surely say it was fun.

The photographs below will do justice to our (mis)adventures. Picture speak louder than words and you can use the ones below as an Idiot’s guide to snowboarding (or falling).

When you fall, don’t forget your board and don’t bury one of your legs in the snow. It does give a Tom & Jerry effect, but doesn’t help with body pain.

When you fall, don’t rest your face on the snow. It seems nice for a few seconds, but then it freezes. So, along with the pain of not succeeding, you are stuck with a blue face. No amount of warm punch can bring back the colour.

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When sliding on your ass towards the trees seem scarier than going downhill on a snowboard, pause and take a photo. It calms your nerves.

The photo below is one of the the many types of lifts available and it generally takes you to places slightly high and beyond reach. That basically means you cannot come down unless you know how to snowboard all the way down or get back on the lift. I am seriously contemplating making tutorial videos on how to get on a lift (if I manage to learn). Especially for those with snowboards, you have to fix one leg and jump in with the board hanging and jump out without falling. If you don’t do that and send your board in the next chair, you have to be super quick to jump out and grab your board. Unlike genius me, who jumped out, couldn’t grab the board and had to walk and skid down on my ass the whole way. And remember two things – Never trust a friend (who has never been on a lift) when she asks you to get off the lift. And, open when you get off, bend low, if not the chair can knock you unconscious.

And, the only rule you are allowed to break is ‘open the bar before just before exit’. For beginners who don’t know how to get off the lift, you need a few seconds extra preparation time to pretend to leap and jump off the lift. So, you can open it a bit before.

This is a baby lift. Its not even a lift. Its something that drags you up a conveyor belt by hanging on to it. 3 year or 4 year olds with very low centre of gravity manage this with ease. When I tried it, I was dragged a few feet, dropped and knocked out cold. It is lethal. Trust me. Do not take this.

Between the chair lift and this little dragging device, there is something called a T lift. Reminded me of the hook from the movie scream. I don’t know why. I saw this guy (who looked pretty comfortable in the slopes) falling a few times trying to take the lift. And, that’s when I decided not to go anywhere near it.

….. and always conserve some energy to take ‘happy shots’ end of the day just to live with the satisfaction that you survived.

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