I began my skiing career in February 2012 when I wrote four Letters from Whistler. I went back to these letters before I started writing this one, and I can’t help telling you that I was somewhat amused by what I had written then and am glad that I had done so.
We had paid for 15 lessons in advance, but had only used four so far, even though Su had skied on every day and I had skipped on only one. We have since learned that the lessons package could be upgraded to one which would entitle us to attend unlimited lessons for the season. We met a young couple, man 34 and wife 32, who have taken out the option. They have planned to be here throughout the season and have rented a lodge for four months about 25-minutes-walk from the gondola upload point. It is an option worth looking at if ever we decide to stay in Whistler for longer periods. Hilton has the obvious location advantage because of its proximity to the gondola and because it also provides free overnight storage for our skis and poles.
Still on this couple, we met the wife on our first lesson with Jim this season. They have decided to spend almost the entire season in Whistler to enjoy their togetherness and to improve their skiing skills. I have talked about Whistler in previous letters; and the long and short of it is that there is not much one can do here if one does not ski. Take today, for example, Su remembers that Crystal Hut on the Blackcomb side not only offers great signature waffles, but also stunning views on a clear and mild day. We were there on the last day of our last skiing season and I remember basking under the warm sun, albeit in rather windy conditions. So today, which was meant to be a rest day, we went with the couple to Crystal Hut, implying that we needed to put on our full skiing kit to get there. We had a great time, even though the sun only came out for a very brief moment. In short, one needs to be able to ski to enjoy what Whistler offers. I sometimes wonder whether one would be tired of fresh air, quietness, simple food and great sceneries, which while conducive to the cleansing of the body and mind, could lead to attachment too.
I mentioned Jim in the last paragraph. This gentleman will turn 75 in April. He was actually my first instructor, but it was Marlene who finally got me on my skis on the slope and weaned me off my favourite Magic Carpet. Su took lessons mostly under Jim in the last three seasons and they had a great time together. We met both Jim and Marlene before our first lesson, and both instructors claimed responsibility for honing my skiing to what it is today, recalling the early days when I displayed no signs at all of being able to learn the sport, not to mention being able to enjoy it. We also met Jungle, who had been rather busy this season, and a few others.
There is so much to learn about skiing; and we picked up new things all the time, from socks, boots, poles, cat tracks to goggles, and from every small turn, pole planting and side sliding. Take socks, there are a few leading designers providing a full range in size, thickness and material. Cat tracks not only protect the underside of the boots, but also reduce shocks from the impact of the soles hitting concrete pavements. They also make walking on snow and ice more comfortable. We have also found out that goggles are designed to fit the facial contour and that there are different shades for different weather conditions. Of course, one needs to address questions of why one is learning any skill at all. In my case, I began as a reluctant learner. I recall that at one point Su almost gave on me when a number of instructors had failed to make me stand on my feet on the baby slope, not to mention making me move. I lost count of how often I fell and dropped my skis on the first two days.
I think there are sufficient similarities between skiing and golfing. Both are somewhat high end sports. More relevantly, both are counter intuitive for the body. I suggest that in the end, it is all in the mind. I develop this theory when I was waiting to descend the famous Olympic Dave Murray Downhill Run, which is a black diamond run. Jim had threatened to take me there on the first day, but he waited till the third. He is a cautious instructor. We waited on top of the slope because a blind skier was about to pass through. The skier was sandwiched between two helpers wearing a red vest bearing the letters BLIND on bold type. Su said that he would listen to the sounds made by the skis of the helpers in front and behind to decide on how to make his movements; and he had no problem descending the slope. That should be a great motivation to all learners, and it doesn’t really matter what sport or skill one is talking about.
To those who asked why we are returning to Whistler for the fourth consecutive season, my first line response would be because Whistler offers the safest skiing and top class facilities. Friends have cautioned me to be careful before we set off from home, reminding me that I am not exactly a spring chicken. I thank them for their concerns, but would take their reminders as motivation to keep the body fitter and the mind more alert. It looks like that we would continue to spend time skiing in Whistler each year, so the question is when and for how long. It might mean that something else would have to go, but we would cross the bridge when we get there.
To be continued…..