Eat Sleep Ski – Part 5 or How I Got My Black Eye

The long awaited dump of snow finally arrived Whistler yesterday; but the signs were not visible or evident in the valley where it rained most of the time, sometimes rather hard. Su and I never really had a lot of experience with skiing in powder or fresh snow; and indeed my skis were not built for those conditions. In anticipation of the dump so widely forecast, Su suggested I hired a pair that could help me do the job better, which I did during mid week. But let me first go back to where I left off.

We began skiing with Jim this week happily and leisurely, notwithstanding the poor snow conditions, learning some new skills and trying to sharpen old ones on the way. There were not many students and things moved rather slowly, which did not concern us a bit. On the second day, we were joined by two new students one of whom was a young lady obstetrician from Vancouver. She had a princess attitude which put off Su, so much so Su decided to take Level Four lessons the following day, leaving me to sojourn on with Jim and the princess. To cut the long story short, I decided to join Su on the fourth day; and we had just completed three days of Level Four classes with Dan, an instructor from Kent in his mid fifties, thus marking the beginning of another epoch in my skiing career.

Now, there are six levels in skiing, at least in Whistler Blackcomb. I had gone through the first three in the last three seasons and had no intention to progress further, because I am content with being a social or recreational skier. Level Four to Six lessons begin at the Round House, or near the top, implying that students would need to go up to the alpine zone on their own early to register for classes. The Snow School operates a rather strict and somewhat scientific system whereby all first-time students for each level would assemble together and be asked to ski to a named spot during which their performance would be observed and assessed by a number of instructors for the purpose of streaming and class allocation. The process is necessary because Level Four covers a wide range of competency levels so that there are noticeable differences between low and top Level Four instructions. I did not start off well, for unbeknown to me, some ice had developed on the bottom of my skis which made movements on flats very difficult. I was helped by a trainee instructor to remove the ice, but the small operation had resulted in me getting to the appointed place last. In any case, Su and I were allocated to Dan’s class, together with two other students, Stella and Anna; and I presumed that it was a low Level Four class. It snowed and rained almost all day, and the conditions were not good or safe in many areas, which in a way provided classroom materials for skills training or demonstration. Dan was systematic in imparting instructions, using clear and simple terms without mincing words. I was cautious and tried to stay behind Su most of the time. When asked what my objectives were at the end of the class, I had no problem telling Dan that my sole objective was to make Su happy.

It snowed a bit during the night so that fresh snow began to build up at the top and mid mountain, but it was raining at the mid station and below. I put on my newly hired skis the next morning. They were a few centimeters longer, fatter in the middle and curved up both ends to facilitate skiing on powder and thicker snow. I had to learn to adapt to the new skis; and as Dan put it, one would need to adapt when being put on the driving wheel of a new car. As a start, the skis came off much more readily with abrupt or bad movements and were faster than the one I had got used to. I also had difficulties getting them parallel during turns which resulted in some falls, but I had some light and enjoyable moments going through and bouncing on fresh snow.

It snowed even harder during the night and the major chairlifts at the alpine zone were not operative when school started. The staff was still bombing off built up snow in the mountains until mid morning. To say that visibility was poor would be very much an understatement, for at times I could not see anything at all. Such conditions, known as flat light, create snow blindness so that the skier loses perception of gradients and distances, which is not very good news. The other problem was that because many chairlifts were either closed or opened late and the conditions at mid station and lower were poor due to the rain, students and skiers all congregated at one or two areas, resulting in long queues. Dan tried to take us to places with lower traffic, but the heavy snow built up was not always pleasant for new level four students. I had a few falls from which I managed to rescue myself, except for one where I found myself buried in thick snow. The good news was that it was a rather nice feeling, but the bad news was that I could not get myself out of the situation. I was rescued by Dan and in the process learnt something. It was lunch time; and Dan advised that I should take a rest in the afternoon because I had been skiing non-stop for more than a week and because I had more than a few falls in the morning. I happily agreed.

While queuing for food, Su noticed that my right eye was blackened, as if I had been hit by a left hook in boxing, or more likely, been given a black eye from her. I was surprised, for I felt no pain at all. Thereupon, Su took out her iPhone and clicked a close up so that I could inspect the damage, for she did not have her make-up kit with her. The frame which I uploaded on the social media caused some sensation and created copious comments, mostly well meant and for which I am very grateful. Back at the lunch table, Dan and the other skiers were convinced that I had upset Su who then rightfully inflicted the mark on me. To protect and uphold her reputation, I have given you the full story. Neither Dan nor anyone at Whistler could explain how the black eye could have come by from the falls I had during the session, but then inexplicable things often happened.

To those who questioned the caption I posted, here is the answer: I lost the fight to gravity, but I won a day and a half off skiing.

I hope to talk to you again soon. Once again, thank you for your concerns. I am well and kicking.

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