Mark Whybird
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       `-* The Ski Trip

The Ski Trip

- the fascinating saga of my one and only ski trip.


"... I had no trouble waking up in time. I was so excited that I could hardly stay asleep at all. Any way, I got to where the bus was to pick me up with plenty of time to spare - even more time than I thought, because the bus came about 1/2 hour late. They had been waiting for me at another stop, although I was waiting at the right place. Some hours later, I was happy to catch my first ever glimpse of snow on the mountains through the window of the bus. The bus took me past signposts pointing to such legendary places as "Threadbow" to the transit center at the base of the "Ski Tube", where I hired my gear, determined when my bus was leaving (5pm, apparently) and boarded the train which would take me under the mountain, to the slopes of mount Blue Cow...

By the time we arrived (only 12 minutes later), I had my Ski boots firmly attached to my feet, and knew that in all of the bulging baggage that I had brought, there was not a single drop of sunburn cream. I had to buy instead a special skiing yuppie sunburn cream, which came in a special yuppie small tube (for easy carrying), and had a special yuppie string attached (so it could be worn around the neck) and even had a special yuppie stick of lip balm built into it. I wouldn't have minded so much if it hadn't come at a four times special yuppie price!

Thus armed against the sun, I stepped outside. I was impressed by the crunch of show under my feet, the fresh, cool, purity of the air, the speed and confidence of the skiers flitting past - and by the fact that I was now about five minutes late for my lesson, and I would just have to put my bag (including expensive camera, etc) somewhere where I could maybe keep an eye on it.

During the ski lesson, I learned two things - 1. When skiing, you get a lot warmer than you would think, and 2. When skiing down a slope in a line, be very careful of who is in front of you - it can be embarrassing if they stop suddenly.

Of course, by the time my lesson was over, there were no large lockers left, and I was forced to apply a sort of compression algorithm to my bag. I used the tried and true algorithm known as "Push-squeeze-grunt-arrgh!".

And so, I spent the afternoon skiing - first on the beginners' slope, but eventually graduating to the beginners valley - "Pleasant valley". Actually, I was lucky to make it there, because, following the directions of a chair lift operator I spoke to, I headed off at first in the opposite direction, down a slope where I later saw an obscure sign calmly saying "The ski patrol does not patrol beyond this point."

Let me make it clear at this point - snow skiing is FUN. Fantastic. My day skiing was GREAT. I thoroughly recommend it. But the actual skiing part of my ski trip does not really make an exciting story. Imagine it - "Well, I skied down the slope, got on the chair lift, and rode to the top, then I skied down the slope, then I got on the chair lift...." You get the idea. Very boring to describe, but brilliant fun to do. I was slightly amused that some girl I shared a seat with on the chair lift started striking up a conversation with me - until she learned that I was only a day tripper. Suddenly, she didn't seem as interested in me. A pity, because we were having a fairly interesting conversation until then.

Anyway, by about 3.30 or so, I was thoroughly exhausted, and I decided to sit in the bar overlooking the slopes for a bit. Leaving my skis and poles standing in one of the racks outside, I casually sauntered over to the bar and ordered a couple of soft drinks. Believe me, it is quite difficult to casually saunter while wearing a pair of ski boots. They are designed for skiing, not walking. I wandered over to a free table on the other side of the room - meaning that I had to negotiate the obstacle course of a room crowded with both adults and kids, some still carrying ski poles and all (including myself) clumsy in ski boots. Eventually, I sat at the table, sipped my drink and looked out at the skiers below. While I was relaxing like this, something prompted me to study my bus ticket a little - and that's when I saw it.

The ticket clearly said "Departure - Ski Tube terminal - 4.00pm."

Looking at my watch, I realised that if, by some incredible stroke of luck, one of the trains (which leave at about 20 minute intervals) happened to be leaving within the next 3 minutes, I could just make it to the bus back to Canberra. And miracle of miracles, at that moment there was a boarding call for the train.

There was no time to lose. I bolted across the crowded room (narrowly avoiding being impaled by several sets of ski poles), clattered down the stairs at high speed in my ski boots (never an easy task - and made even more difficult by the fact that the stairs were filled with people coming up them from the train), and across the train platform to my locker. After a small struggle, the gear which had been packed in there exploded out at me, so that I needed both hands to carry it. It was while I was waiting in the ponderous line to get my deposit back for the inadequate locker that I realised that my skis and poles were still upstairs. By jumping the queue a bit, I managed to get to the man who would give me back my deposit. It seemed to me that he must have been specially trained in doing things in slow motion, as he seemed to take forever to go through the simple motions required to accept the key and return the deposit. Stuffing the money in my pocket, I ran back up the stairs - which was now filled with people streaming down them to board the train, all of whom remembered to bring their skis and poles with them. At the top of the stairs, I burst outside to the ski racks - where I was confronted with about 500 pairs of almost identical skis.

Anyone else might have wasted time swearing or crying, but instead, in an act of sheer desperate willpower I located the correct set, clattered down the steps again holding my gear in two hands, a ski pole in my mouth and the skis and other pole in a third hand which I must have grown for the occasion, I think. I stepped aboard the crowded train just as the doors slid shut.


The train would make its 12 minute journey, and I would have almost 10 minutes to return all of my ski gear to the hire shop and board the bus. Or so I thought. For some inexplicable reason, the return journey took 20 minutes! When the train finally did arrive at the ski tube terminal, I bolted to the ski hire shop and found that the locker man was not the only expert in being slow to hand back money. I bolted from the shop to the bus stop outside, and finally saw my bus.

It was driving down the road.

Away from me.

This, the same bus that waited 1/2 an hour for me in the wrong place this morning, had now decided that they couldn't wait another 5 minutes for me here! Unbelievable! Staying another day was out of the question - my (nontransferable) plane ticket was for tomorrow.

I talked to the person at the ticket office at the ski tube. They got in touch with the bus, which would wait for me at the next town, about 30 kilometers away. They kindly arranged for a taxi to come from that town, pick me up and drive me there to meet it. As I sat in the taxi watching the meter tick over at double the normal rate (since I had to pay the taxi to come to me and to take me back), I couldn't help but think that I could have just kept the skis and gear - losing the deposit would have been cheaper than the taxi fare, and I would have had the gear as well!

I also thought that I would do it all again in an instant if I had the chance.

[ This Drivel is copyright Mark Whybird ]


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