Ever since I was a young boy watching Ski Sunday and the Winter Olympics, I have wanted to learn how to ski, but for various reasons I have never had the chance. For Rachael, the idea of skiing never had that much appeal until she enjoyed a ski lesson at the indoor ski centre in Dubai of all places, where she had a ball.
So when we decided to check out Sarajevo and its ski resorts we both decided to have some ski lessons to see if skiing was for the both of us.
We wanted to give skiing a concerted effort which meant kitting ourselves out with the required gear before heading to Sarajevo, this included; ski jackets, trousers, thermal sock, thermal under-trousers and tops, fleeces, gloves, hats, snoods, goggles and helmets. Boots and skis we would rent when there. It sounds like a lot to buy but once you have it, the gear should last for several years and much of it can be utilised just for normal winter wear. We also read as much online and spoken to friends about their ski and snowboarding experiences, to try and ascertain as much useful information as possible to alleviate any concerns we had.
When we arrived in Sarajevo we sourced a ski instructor through a friend locally and on the morning of our first lesson adorned our new get-ups, jumped in the car and headed to the mountain resort of Jahorina.
We met Hassan our instructor at the ski hire shop of a hotel at the base of the main piste. Here we were fitted with the necessary skis, poles and boots. The skis we were told were of very high quality and were the best suited to complete novices as ourselves. Our boots needed to be one size up than normal due to the thick thermal socks we were wearing and for the need for a little room to move your feet in the boot. Ski boots are quite awkward to get on at first and even more awkward to walk in as they are ridged apart from the tongue or shin area which requires a certain amount of give.
We had come into the ski shop from the freezing cold of the mountain and by the time we had finished getting kitted out we had quite a sweat on. There was a hustle and bustle in the shop with lots of other skiers and instructors, some looking very well seasoned not to mention a fare amount of snowboarders. (Rachael and I both had a much stronger desire to learn how to ski rather than snowboard, it just seemed easier to us).
Time to go back outside which was easier said than done! It took a few minutes to get our gloves back on, don our goggles and hats (our instructor said wearing helmets on the easy slopes we would be learning on would be overkill so not wear those), then to work out how best to carry our skis and poles. Of course we managed it eventually and were led to a flat area where we had a warm up, then finally it was time to put our skis on. I won’t bore you with details of our first moments on skis, but the gist is that we learned how to put on/remove skis, maneuver and walk in them and eventually we were pushing ourselves with our poles into a slow glide on the snow forming an upside down V shape with our skis in front of us. This was/is the way that everyone learns to ski as it gives optimum control.
Our scheduled lesson was for two hours and after less than an hour, Hassan thought it was time for us to move over to the nursery slope. This easy slope was accessed by taking small steps onto a conveyor belt which carries you up the hill, you then slide off at the top and find a spot before further instructions. The following period was spent with many runs on this small slope, slowly but surly getting to grips with our new ski legs. Rachael seemed to be getting the hang of things slightly better than me using the inverted V ski technique and could soon glide down turning from side to side and stop with ease, certainly compared to me who found stopping to be my biggest issue. Steering on the other hand was quite easy to get the hang of. For the last period of the lesson we were taught how to ski “properly” (in my opinion) with our skis parallel to one and other, as opposed to the V technique. Relatively quickly I found this a much more natural style and was soon able to turn and stop with a lot more ease than before. I’m not sure that I looked so slick but it felt a lot better!
By the end of our first ever lesson together, our instructor was happy enough to take us onto the low open section of the nearest proper piste. This was slightly daunting to both of us, but as we soon found out after traversing at angles back and fourth across the piste, it looked a lot scarier than it was. Although there were a lot of skiers and boarders coming down the mountain at various speeds and the overall gradient was steeper, due to the comparably vast amount of space we could really concentrate on our own efforts. Due to not having the ability to warrant ski lifting up the mountain we had to remove our skis and walk up a short way to take another run down. We did this around half a dozen times and we both agree this was the highlight of our day.
The feeling that we had learned how to ski, albeit to a low and slow level, was fantastic. Our instructor Hassan had been so patient and encouraging. Despite not speaking “perfect English” his level was very good and he could communicate his instruction to us terrifically well. He was very kind and gave us more than the allotted time, which was very cool. Also at the end he was very complimentary of how far we had come. I was more than happy to offer him a tip come the end, he deserved it.
To summerise our/my first experience of skiing, it was an absolute blast and only incentivized me to do more and make the most of this wonderful activity. Visions of skiing down mountains top to bottom, inspired us to have several more two hour lessons over the next month, but that is another story. Although the conditions outside were minus 6, when wearing the right clothing you get very warm and are quite sweaty when finished. Skiing requires a fare amount of energy, so a reasonable amount of fitness is required. Also mental perseverance is a must, but that should not come into play too much in your earlier lessons as there is a lot to learn and this keeps nerves at bay.
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