Skiing at Mühlbach am Hochkönig, Austria

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The day after Roman's big surprise, we woke up at 7:30 to go skiing in Mühlbach am Hochkönig. We caught the 7:50 bus to the train station, took the train to Bischofen and then another bus to Mühlbach (Sergio and Alberto, that is; Roman was staying in Salzburg with his parents). Caroline and I sometimes feel like they are our 'Spanish brothers' because they act like older brothers; they are only a few years older but they take such good care of us. For instance, Alberto bought my train ticket, and Sergio bought my breakfast.  They do these things all the time and expect nothing in return, though we do offer.

Here's a fun fact for you to process as you read this story: I've not been skiing in about, oh, 9 or 10 years. The last time I went skiing was 6th grade, if I am not mistaken. Also, my ski experience consists of bunny slopes and green slopes and a total of one blue slope (which I probably skied down by mistake). I am usually perfectly content not being challenged by difficult slopes. I assumed that the boys would let me do my own thing while they skied the European equivalent to the black slope. Instead, they let me ski a few times down the easiest slope (and yes, I fell a few times), and then they told me it was time to 'step it up'. I am very scared of heights, and there were a few times when I would stand at the top of the slope, looking down, and honestly feel like I was going to throw up. Sergio and Alberto were so patient. Sergio is actually a certified ski instructor. Alberto is technically a beginner, as this was only his 7th time in a few months to ski, but you would never guess it.

My dad always told me how dangerous skiing can be (which I fully believe) and that he wasn't worried about me doing something stupid, but another skier doing something stupid and crashing into me or hurting me, etc. I thought about this a few times while skiing, but Sergio and Alberto were very conscious of this, too. As we progressed to harder and harder slopes, Alberto would ski backwards down the slope and Sergio would always ski behind or around me to make sure that no one was getting in my way. After a few hours, and some minimal progress, they made me ski down a Level 4 slope, and when I saw the sign, I started panicking and saying, "I can't, I can't, it's too steep, I can't do it." Sergio told me, "You only say you can't because you think you can't. The skis don't control you; you control the skis." He was full of fun motivational speeches like this one, but apparently they worked, because I skied down the 4 without falling.

As we progressed to harder levels, I did start to fall.  One of my falls was really, really bad; I fell flat on my face, and the first thing I did when I sat up from the fall was touch my nose to see if it was broken (one of my biggest fears is re-breaking my nose because they say that if you break it once it's only a matter of time before you break it again). When I fell, I hit my face so hard, but amazingly, nothing happened.  Well, my pants fell down (I was wearing Roman's clothes, and they did not even fit me a little bit) but if that's the worst thing that happened, I can handle that.  Also, did I mention I was wearing a black leotard underneath my ski outfit?

Despite that fall, Sergio did not 'baby' me at all. He would never help me up when I fell and anytime Alberto would try to help me up or help me take off my skis, etc., Sergi would say "No, she needs to learn how to do it in case she gets separated from us and we are not there to help her". Every time I fell, they would stop and wait for me to get back up and I would always apologize for slowing them down. Sergi kept saying to me, "Stop apologizing. I don't want to hear it." and Alberto would say, "It happens every day. In every moment, someone falls down on the slopes somewhere."  Interesting logic, Alberto, but thank you.

I kept telling them to let me ski a slope on my own so they could go on to the harder slopes since I was burdening their time. Sergio kept refusing and saying that he is a ski instructor and this is his job, etc. Finally, after I skied a number of slopes without falling down, they sent me down an easier slope by myself. Before we parted ways, Sergio pulled out a map and showed me 4 times which slope I was to go down and where they would meet me. He then made me take out my cell phone to show him that I had it so I could call him if I got lost and made me repeat to him the number of the Austrian ambulance system. I laughed at this but later I realized it was actually a smart idea and probably something my dad would do. Skiing down the slope by myself was my favorite part of the afternoon. It was so peaceful and I loved being able to go at my own pace and not worrying about slowing anyone down. I skied down the slope successfully -- no falls whatsoever! When I met up with them later, they told me that the slope they went down (the hardest one, probably) was super icy. The sun was setting, so the powder wasn't as soft and they said it was almost like skating on pure ice. Thank goodness I didn't have to deal with that. I would have died.

We were so incredibly tired after the long day of skiing, so when I stepped off the bus on en route to the train station too early and had to run after the bus to get back, I was not amused.  

Now, days later, I am still SO SORE. I knew I'd be sore but I had forgotten the toll it takes on your body. Walking up the flights of stairs to my room in I.K. takes a little more time than it should now....

Moral of the story: next time, I'm making Caroline come with me. 

Alternate moral of the story: daaaaaang, Austrian kids can ski.  They learn to ski before they can walk, I'm sure of it.

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