July 8, 2008

Of Skis and Poles

(I had typed this up in my laptop at the end of the day, but had no Internet access so could not upload it until July 14th)

Happy birthday to me!

I was warm when I went to bed, but I was cold when I woke up šŸ™ Jin and I finally rolled out of bed about 7.35am, and went down for breakfast. We made pancakes which turned out fine this time! We had pancakes with lemon juice and maple syrup, and kiwi and banana on top. Yums.

The picturesque view of Mt Ruapehu
The picturesque view of Mt Ruapehu

We made it to the top of the mountain without chains, as it was such a lovely day. There was barely any ice on the road, and there were many people making their way up too. We parked at Daypark 4 yesterday; this time we had to park at Daypark 5 which was further down šŸ™

This time we didn’t bring any foodstuff with us, because we learnt from yesterday that we wouldn’t drink our water nor eat any of our food (although we were very thankful for the fruits and the yoghurt during the wait for roadside assistance) as we opted for hot food from the Happy Valley Bistro.

I decided to sign up for Discover Ski today, because I figured that I might as well try skiing while I’m all the way here. We arrived at 9.45am, so I got my skis, boots and poles and hung around until the 10.30am class started.

There were about 9 or 10 of us, with 3 Asians (the other 2 were a couple). Here’s what we learnt (in order):

  • Learnt about our skis and poles, and how to strap ourselves in.
  • Glided on one ski.
  • Strap both feet in, and learn to glide forward and backward.
  • Learnt to side-step up a slope.
  • Learnt to stop by forming a wedge (“V” shape).
  • Glide forward on both skis, jump (to test balance), and stop
  • Glide forward, slow down with a small wedge, keep going, stop with a bigger wedge.
  • Learnt to form the opposite wedge to stop going backward, and same formation to climb up a gentle slope.

This was all in one tiny section of the slopes šŸ™‚

Then we moved on to:

  • Learning to turn left and right by maintaining the wedge, and turning the feet, but without leaning.

And then:

  • Go down the slopes in small sections by turning left/right, and also weaving.

When we made it all the way to the bottom, we took the chair lift up, and waited for our instructor, Chris to give us a final briefing before dismissing us.

During the simple glide and jump, Chris actually asked me, “This isn’t your first time skiing, is it?” to which I told him it was. He said I wasn’t bad. Woohoo!!

I was one of the few in the group who didn’t fall at all during the lesson. There was one other man, but he had skied before. Everyone else fell, especially the Asian couple. Perhaps they weren’t very good at English, but they didn’t really follow the instructions. For example, when we were taking turns to do the simple glides, we were supposed to side-step up, but for some reason, they were trying to push themselves forward, and of course kept sliding back. And even when we glided forward, we were supposed to do a small wedge to keep our speed under control, and Chris had to keep yelling at Steven (the Chinese guy) to do a wedgeā€¦ all the time! I think Chris was rather impressed that for a first-timer, I caught on pretty quickly and was able to maneuver rather well. It’s really like ice-skating, or rollerblading, and since I can kinda do both (albeit at a very basic level), it’s easy to pick this up.

Sze on skis
Sze on skis
Jin and her snowboard
Jin and her snowboard

In fact, I didn’t fall at all whenever I skied today. I did fall though, but on other occasionsā€¦

I skied all the way down practising what I learnt, and when I made it to the bottom, I didn’t want to get in line with the long queues at the chair lifts, so I tried the T-bar, which was another type of lift, but because it was my first time and I didn’t know what to expect, I promptly fell right off. Unfortunately, my ski pole got caught in the seat thing, and although they yelled at me to let go, I did try, but it took a few seconds before I managed to let go completely. Because of me, they had to stop the lifts because the seat I was on had been yanked off. Someone even had to come down on a motored snowcar to see what was wrong. It was sooooooo embarrassingā€¦

I went back to wait for another try, but many of those in line just kept going until finally one lady smiled and allowed me to give it a go. I managed to get on without falling this time, because one of the workers yelled at me to stand straight.

However the lift only went halfway up the slope (I didn’t notice!), so when I got off I called Jin to find out where she was. She was at the cafe, so she glided down. In fact, during my class, she had a break at the cafe with hot choc and fries, and after that she continued with her snowboarding. Yesterday I had been really cold; today I was really hot!

Yay! Managed to get a nice camwhoring shot of us.
Yay! Managed to get a nice camwhoring shot of us.

We made it to the bottom, and then took the chair lift up; then we took a break. Well, I needed a break because I hadn’t had one, so we had hot chocolate each, and she got a donut and I had a chicken salad sandwich. It was such a lovely day out so we sat outside and had our meal, before having another couple of runs down the hill.

There was once when we got to the top of the hill, and there was another small slope higher which was accessible by the same type of seat lift; so I had a go on that lift and I managed to get up fine; but I dismounted too early, and I slid back into the next skier and we fell!!! It was so embarrassing. We had to scoot out of the way for the next skier, and she even had to help me unbuckle my ski. I had trouble putting my ski back on (like the true beginner I was) and glided down to where Jin was laughing at me.

The wait for the chair lifts were ridiculously long thoughā€¦ there were too many people today. We spent most of our time waiting in line instead of spending it in the snow!

After the second run, Jin wanted to go to the lower mountain, so she went up while I had another go down the hill. I got onto the chair lift with a boy, but my ski got stuck and it snapped off when I was seated, and the worker had to run after me to hand me my ski.

It was about 3.30 when I returned all the rental stuff and took the chair lift back up to the main center. I sat with a white lady from South Africa and chatted as we went up; and promptly fell on the ice the moment I got off.

My boots had no grip at all and I couldn’t even walk up a tiny slope as I kept sliding; so I had to crawl on my knees up the slope and crossed over to the other side to wait for Jin. There was free hot blackcurrant juice which kept me warm while I waited, but I didn’t need to wait too long. As we were walking I unfortunately found out that my sunglasses were brokenā€¦ in fact, during the ski lesson, the left leg had lost the nuts, and the only way to keep them on was to wear the hat; but as we were walking, I found out that the other leg was lost; so I had to bin them. And as we were walking and talking, my blackcurrant juice went down the wrong way and I suddenly had to stop, squat, and cough to Jin’s surprise.

The walk down to the car wasn’t as bad as it was yesterday even though it was further, mainly because there was no wind today. It was really a beautiful day!

I wanted to make a snowman, so we drove down to the flat fields near Chateau Tongariro. I tried to make a snow angel that didn’t work out; I tried to make a snowman that turned out pathetic. Well, at least I triedā€¦ the snow just wasn’t right for the snowman.

Attempting a snow angel
Attempting a snow angel
Baby snowman
Baby snowman

We drove back to the National Park Village and Jin wanted to look for a leash for her snowboard, so we followed some signs until we found a ski shop. The leash was too expensive for her liking though, so we left and went back to the lodge.

The past few nights whenever we came back we always found our heater was not working, and today was no different. I had to ask someone to come up and fix it.

After a lovely hot shower each, we dragged ourselves downstairs for dinner about 6pm. We each had the same thing we had last night ā€“ Jin with her Indomie Goreng and fried egg, and I had the cheese bake + pak choy + garlic. She had juice this time though, and I had the Belgian hot chocolate. We only had the pear for dessert because we were so full.

I’m not stiff yet, although Jin was quite stiff today. My shoulders are a bit sore though, and my knees are bruised from yesterday. My right hand is a bit weathered, because when I slipped on the icy road yesterday, I landed on my right bum and my right wrist. Today it was made worse because when I fell off the simple lift, the pole strap yanked across my wrist, and I have a bruise to show for it. It’s like I “single-handedly” stopped the lift from workingā€¦ literally!!

My shins are also aching because the ski boots are really stiff. I think it’s also partly because my pants which I pushed into the boots with my socked feet were not smoothed down properly and the folds must have pressed against them. They had hurt from the moment I wore them, and the pressure was there the whole day. I didn’t think of the pain when I was skiing, but everytime I stopped (when I got in line for the lifts, when I took a break for lunch) the pain came back to kick me in the shin. When I took them off, I could see the swell on my shins. It’s very similar to wearing ice-skating boots; the boots are very stiff and held the feet very firmly. I find ice-skating boots very uncomfortable too.

Personally I think I prefer snowboarding to skiing. Yes, skiing is a lot easier (and I didn’t fall at all, even when I got off the chair lift compared to snowboarding) but that’s the thingā€¦ beginner skiing is so easy, whereas beginner snowboarding is loads harder! And although I don’t really mind falling, what puts me off about falling when skiiing is that it’s so hard to get up. There are the poles and the skis to think aboutā€¦ I’ve seen people struggling to get up when they fall during skiing. Even when I fell off the simple lifts, it was a real struggle trying to get up again. For snowboarding however, it’s so easy to get up as there was only the board to think about. And since snowboarding is a lot harder to control and maneuver, it’s a greater challenge for me.

We thought of getting up early to do half-day snowboarding or skiing, but Jin is too sore and stiff right now to even consider it. I think I won’t be too stiff tomorrow (but then, you never know), and am tempted to snowboard again. But I don’t wanna do it aloneā€¦ and anyway there are still plenty of things I want to do in Rotorua!!

Jin has been asleep since about 8pm. I’m not even tired out, although do feel a little tired.

Well, that’s how I spent my birthday this yearā€¦ learning to ski and snowboard!