10 February 2013

First Ski Trip at Borovets, Bulgaria

When you're on your butt staring at the sky, your limbs splayed in all directions and no idea how you got there...that's learning how to ski. Welcome to my own personal nightmare. Yes skiing, and to all you ski lovers out there currently yelling at these lines...exactly when did you learn how to ski hmm?? Bet it was when your were a LOT younger than me. Yes there is nothing more humiliating and hilarious than seeing little 4 and 5 year old kids whizzing by while I'm standing there wondering if I'm going to be able to stop and 'snow-ploughing' for dear life!

Day one on the Borovets bunny slopes
As you may already know through my newly launched Twitter account (@TravelsbyVP), i spent Christmas on the Borovets ski slopes in Bulgaria learning to ski and getting sore, shins, butt, thighs and arms in the process.

I had a week of beginner lessons, ski and boot hire and lift pass and it was a challenging week. On day two when nothing was going right i almost quit. I had a seriously mortifying meltdown on the slopes in front of my group and wished for all the world the ground would open up and swallow me but alas,to my horror and humiliation it insisted on leaving me above ground. My ski instructor Tseko did coax me back though, and aside from taking a day off, i stuck out the rest of the week till i was pretty confident on a green slope.

Meeting the snowy locals on my "day off" from skiing

Drag-lifts by the way, are the most awful lifts ever...there was not a single time i was on one where i wasn't completely focused on making sure i didn't fall off it, on one of the longer ones i even had a running commentary going in my head..."just a bit more VP, just over that bit of slope, try not to move, watch your skis, just a bit more, you'll make it.." yep, I'm not a fan, and I'm not the only one.

Chilling at the top of the mountain - no skis = no falling = happy VP

I fell a number of times while learning to ski, it really is unavoidable. My three most spectacular stacks are forever etched in my memory, one of which was actually quite terrifying.

"And that is where VP fell on her butt, yet again!"
Blue slopes and blue sky-This rather amazing stack happened as we were crossing a bit of Blue slope to get to a drag lift. there i was skiing and managing well i thought till a left turn took me from being vertical to seeing sky in seconds. I do not know how it happened. All i know is that i was on my butt in seconds and even though i tried to stop myself by moving my skis so they were horizontal against the slope, i still ended up with one leg above me, one below, my arms in other directions and my group at the top of the slope laughing their heads off (and i cant blame them really) before Tseko came over to help me up.

View from the top of the Borovets mountain

Getting cosy with the Fence - This fall happened on my second last day. I'm not proud of it and it was one of those falls that give you the time to realise how stupid you are. On yet another left turn i lost control, panicked and, instead of trying to fall on my left, i fell backwards...on to my skis...which makes you go faster, and i couldn't stop...and wham! i crashed into a log fence on the side of the slope so hard that my boots got firmly lodged underneath them and i simply could not move at all. No joke, i could not get up, turn, slide back out, nothing. Tseko came to the rescue again although he gave me a very  strong "No VP, that's very dangerous, don't do that again. You should never do that". As if i did it on purpose! But i deserved it, and i think i gave him a fright!

Queuing for the drag lift...can you see my excitement?
You call this a green slope? - This had to be my scariest fall. Our group was doing a long green run that went around the mountain - I actually really enjoyed this run (aside from the fall of course) and was sorry it was closed the rest of my stay due to lack of snow - anyway, it ran through some other runs, blue/red/black and it was as i was crossing the a red one when i fell and went sliding to the edge of it before someone stopped me somehow. Had i gone over the edge like that, i was sure i would have broken something, or many somethings. I was so terrified that even as i was being helped up i fell again and crashed into the other side of the green run which - thankfully - was more like a hedge of snow. I found out later that one of the guys in the group had a fall in a similar fashion and went so far over the edge that his legs and waist were over before someone managed to stop him and help him clamber back. He was terrified and rated it his scariest moment of the whole trip.

Borovets Gondola
Mountain lodge

Ok enough stories of falling. I have to mention my ski instructor - Tsvetan Draganov - known to us a Tseko. He was the sweetest and i think that made all the difference to my experience. He was very passionate about skiing being an ex-professional himself and he had a lot of patience with our group.
During our "awards ceremony" at the end of our stay the MC introduced him as the best known character at the ski school. And he was, the number of harmless practical jokes he tried on me often made me laugh out loud. Its great having someone teach you who has a sense of humor. That's not to say he was always joking around. He was very professional too, he gave encouragement, coached each person in the group with their weak points and made sure everyone was ok, happy and having a good time. I can say with absolute sincerity that i was lucky to have him because i did hear that some other people were not happy with their instructors.
Honestly though, i think he did struggle with our group, everyone was really nice, but they were couples or families and were not as social as they could  have been. Everyone sitting silently around the table at the awards ceremony was absolute agony, and bless him, Tseko did try to get a conversation going, he even tried to engage a couple in a party trick with a coin in the hopes of starting some kind of interaction.
Tsvetan Draganov and I at the "Graduation Ceremony"

Anyway, now i have:
  • A ski certificate that says i can parallel ski-turn (hmmm...not sure about that one)
  • Learned a new skill
  • Know how to stop
  • Can enjoy a long green run and
  • Best of all, i have some great stories to tell :)
Not at all bad in my books.

Posing for the mandatory ski photo with friends

Ok so here is my recommendation for the trip. Bulgaria is one of the cheapest places to ski, they have two main resorts (Borovets and Bansko). Boro Sport is the ski school i went with though i cannot guarantee you will have as great a ski instructor as Tseko. If you have never tried skiing, be afraid, but give it a go, be careful and you will definitely have a memorable experience.

-Vanishing Point

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