Saturday, January 6, 2007

Skiing in Andorra

I went skiing for the first time some two weeks before Xmas.

When Matt and Yuens asked if I was interested, I agreed on the spot. It was the last winter season before I head home man. Die die also must go skiing!

We agreed on Andorra for several irresistable reasons:
1. It had very good slopes for beginners.
2. It had one of the best ski schools in Europe.
3. We didn't have much money.

Going to postcard places like Switzerland or Austria would mean resculpting our fragile bank accounts with huge ugly dents, and we do like to keep the figures pretty.

Andorra is a small country. By small I mean tiny. Like a small pea so tightly wedged between two big pork chops that you wouldn't know it's there if I didn't tell you. By the way that was what I had for dinner tonight, hehe. Andorra is on the border of southern France and northern Spain, about 3 hours from Toulouse or Barcelona.
We managed to get a good deal. 500 pounds for a 3-star resort with half board, skiing lessons, ski gear, ski passes, return flights and coach transfers to the resort for 7 days. Not bad huh?
Only problem was, there wasn't much snow because it was early season and winter was late.

Fortunately, there was just enough for us beginners to get some ski coaching :)

The first day I was all eager and ready. I figured that if I can rollerblade, skiing shouldn't be that hard to pick up right? So with my boots strapped in and my skis gleaming in the sun, I couldn't wait to start.

So macho hor?

We started off learning how to lock in the skis to the bottom of our boots and how take it off. This I learned to be very useful when you plant your bum or face on snow and can't get up.

Then we learned the 'plough'. This is basically spreading your legs and pointing your toes inwards. No, not in ecstasy boys and girls. Fear is the more accurate feeling when you're going down the slope and you can't stop. What the 'plough' is is an inverted 'V' to help you stop. I don't know about you, but I thought that was single most important lesson in the entire trip. I want to stop when I want to stop, with my eyes watching the beautiful mountains instead of straight up into the sky :P

Skiing is damn tough work man. I woke up on the second with my whole body aching. Shoulders, torso, legs...oh man how the legs ached. And I got my shins all blistered on the first day because I wrongly tucked part of my ski pants into the boots, and they really hurt like hell. But darn it I was there to ski, and I soldiered on through the pain like a great trooper. My sargeant would have been proud.

The next few days were spent practising and learning how to turn. Not easy man. The stronger leg will be very prominent, and I found that I could shoop-shoop to the left gracefully but sucked big time turning right. Right leg stronger mah, what to do. So, there was some hiccups la.

On the final day of ski school, we had a slalom time trial race! It was just a nice fun end to the lessons, but for I was feeling very competitive. You see, we were broken into groups during the week. Groups for the more advanced, the good ones, the beginners, and the ones that needed more help. I was in the beginners, and damn I wanted to beat some advanced students! Hehe...sometimes its fun to be kiasu.

Everyone had a trial run before the race. I pushed off the starting gate....and fell flat. Less than a meter from the start. Three instructors came to help me up. Aiyoh damn malu! #$&%$!#&!!

Shaken and a bit stirred, I steadied my nerves for the actual run. Everyone seemed to be doing well and I got my hopes up. My turn came eventually, and with a good push I was off. Bending my knees nicely and shoop-shooing around the flags, it felt great being cheered on by the rest. A few big pushes near the end and I crossed the finish line. Shiok man :)

The whole event was filmed and shown at the local pub later in the day, providing good laughs and a nice close to the ski lessons. But before that, everyone was already pretty chuffed that we graduated!! So, in true Malaysian style...take photo!

I met some new friends too, of which was a couple from Malaysia! What a small world eh? Kelvin and Muan Hong who are staying in Southampton. Very nice and friendly folks :)

me, yuens, matt, muan hong, kelvin

At the pub, certificates were given to everyone, with the recorded time from the race noted in. And with every name being called out, I got more nervous...because I wanted to get into the top ten time sheets. 13, 12, 11...wah damn tension.

Finally, No.10...the only one from the beginners group...Ying! Fuuuhhhh! Malaysia boleh!! I got a top ten time!! So proud! But tah ma de...the gwailo got my name wrong. Ying. Ying??? Nevermind. I beat quite a number of more advanced skiiers man. Hehe.

But my true moment of glory was to come after that. The MC announced the competition for best bruise. I couldn't have felt more confident then. Yeah sure, some of them showed some light bruises, and a girl even had a bandaged wrist. Then, I showed them my shins.

I won a medal and a bottle of champagne for that. Power. Best feeling in the world. :)

remember boys and girls, wear both layers of your ski pants outside your boots...

The last day of skiing we went on an actual beginners route around the mountain. Our instructors were so kind to bring us around the route once with us. Kudos to them, they've been so helpful, friendly and fun to have. We bought them some wine as a thank you.

The views along the route were beautiful and you get really good views. No wonder so many people like skiing. It's worth the hard work just to enjoy the scenery.

The best view was at the top of the mountain. From there you can view the mountain ranges from France, Andorra and Spain. It was simply breathtaking. I stood there for a fair bit taking it all in.

Towards left: France Center: Andorra Towards Right: Spain

This ski trip was really fun and adventurous. It was tough work and I took a week after the trip recover from the aches and exhaustion, but I did something new and exciting. I visited a new place and met new friends. I enjoyed the mountains and learned a new skill.

I'm no longer a ski virgin. I've been broken and bruised.

And I loved every minute of it.

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