Skiing in the Czech Mountains
“Hermione was going skiing with her parents, something that greatly amused Ron, who had never before heard of Muggles strapping narrow strips of wood to their feet to slide down mountains.”- J.K. Rowling
When was the last time you did something for the first time? Well last week I learned how to ski. My school has a couple of cabins in Rokynice, a nearby mountain resort town. I went with Majka (my mentor), another pe teacher, and one 32 of my students from my PE and English classes. Most of the students were between the ages of 12 and 14. Although young in age the were far superior than me when it came to skiing and oh so fearless too.
I was lucky that I could borrow everything I needed from the other teachers. My first attempt at skiing wasn’t as discrete as I would have hoped. On the first afternoon, word got out that I was heading to the slopes and by the time I had my boots on I had an audience full of students waiting for me to fall. I really hate to disappoint my students so I fell all over the place. With the help of two ski instructors and majka’s husband I learned how to balance, turn right, turn left, and how to stop. In my opinion it was a pretty productive start.
The next day I woke up sore but ready to try again. I was a beginner so I was not advanced enough to use the lifts. What that meant was that I had to climb up the hill with my skis in order to reach the bunny slope. The other teachers were with the students so I was left to practice on my own. Before leaving me Majka said that if you are ever going to fast or going someplace you don’t want to go, fall down. Armed with this knowledge I headed to the bunny slopes. I did a few bends and fell down at the bottom. Problem was that Majka didn’t tell me how to get back up. Unable to pick myself back up, I made involuntary snow angels for about five minutes until some Czech men took pity on me and helped me up. After about an hour of this I decided I had had enough. I had no idea what I was doing, so I called it a day. On my way down the mountain (again carrying my skis) I inadvertently ended up coming down the wrong way. It wasn’t till I reached the angry parents at the bottom of the hill that I realized that I was sliding (I had given up walking at this point) through a slalom skiing competition for kids. Needless to say it wasn’t my finest moment.
The next day went a lot better. I got a private instructor to teach me the basics. I still had to climb the hill but by the end of the lesson I could at least use the lifts on the bunny slopes. I was so nervous but I had a great and encouraging instructor so that helped. Apparently the skis that I was borrowing were for carving so the next lesson I got skis that were better for beginners. The next day I finally had the confidence to go skiing on my own. I met with my instructor twice, and both times he said that I was really good for being an adult. I’m sure he has to say that but its nice to hear anyways. We finished the day by taking the 10 minute ski lift to the top of the mountain. When I got off I almost cried because we were so high up but what goes up must come down, and a dozen falls later I finally did make it down the mountain! The next time my students went downhill skiing I was able to go with them. Even though I was really slow and fell down occasionally, I think they were really happy that I came.
One of the loveliest parts of waking up and skiing in the morning is having a nice warm Czech lunch waiting for you when you are done. Every meal was cooked by the school chef and cleaned up by the students. It was wonderful to have as much free delicious Czech food as I wanted. It was even better that I didn’t have to do the dishes afterwards. We had everything from schnitzel to potato soup to svickova (beef sirloin in cream). We didn’t have gulas but I was able to have some for lunch on our day trip. For our day trip we took the lift to the top of the mountain and spent about 6 hours trekking through the mountains. Some of the more advanced students went on cross-country skis but most of the girls from my PE class walked with me. It was a really nice time because they asked me questions in Czech and were really pleased when they found out I could answer them. Afterwards they asked me all sorts of questions in English which made the hike down go by really fast. I really enjoyed spending time with my students this past week. We played all sorts of games and were able to talk about all sorts of things we normally don’t get to in the classroom.
So what are my final thoughts on skiing? Really fun when you are balanced and in control on your skis. Not so much fun when you’ve wiped out on the slopes and snow has gotten into your gloves. Perhaps my mom may have the right idea about this sport – the best way to experience skiing is by watching others from the safety of the cabin in a fashionable, color-coordinated outfit. I will undoubtedly try skiing again but for now, one week of intensive skiing is enough for me. Although I returned to Nymburk with a nasty head cold and a completely sore body, I’m really glad that I had this experience with my students and fellow teachers.