Snowboarding? What could possibly go wrong?!
It's currently 8am, precisely 3 degrees, all of my left toes are wet and the luke warm, muddy goo in the polystyrene cup I'm holding should be condemmed for trying to impersonate a coffee! But you know what? right now there is nowhere I would rather be, because right now I'm standing on top of and Alp with a snowboard strapped to my feet and I'm about to fling myself off, as the title says, 'What could possibly go wrong?"
Ignore the green run sign please.
Before we get to that let me rewind a couple of days, 3 to be exact....."Bollocks! I want to go home!" is how it started, you see I haven't been snowboarding in three years and only then it was for a week but that didn't stop me from thinking I'm a expert, so with a borrowed board that is about 10 years old and way too small for me, in fact the more I think about it I'm sure it was for a child, a girl child at that, hmmmm, anyway there I am standing at the edge of the precipice with what looks like a sheer drop in front of me ready to go, so off I go.....Wham! no more than 2 feet down and I'm already on my butt! no bother, its been a while, I jump up, dust off my pride and ....Wham again, this repeats all the way down the slope until I land flat on my face resulting in the expletive above! What makes it even more embarrassing is that as I'm getting up for the umpteenth time a class of very small school kids expertly zig zag their way around my crumpled mess, I definitely want to go home! but wait, It gets better for all you point and laughers out there, as I finally reach the ski lift I'm like 'hang on a minute, what's this?' I'll tell you what it is, it's one of those bloody pole ski drag, lift thingys, not a nice comfy chair ski lift thingy I'm used to (you can see where this is going can't you?) gulp, here goes...I waddle up to it trying to look like I've done it hundreds of times before, forgetting that I've effectively rolled down the mountain to this point, grab the pole, which might as well me a venomous cobra I'm that terrified of it and before I get a chance to work it out, it's dragging me up the slope, on my face! I let go. "Merde" "Ooh la laa" Are just a couple of the things I hear before switching my ears off, the kind ski lift lady tries and fails to contain her laughter, helps me up and explains what I have to do, 'ahh I get it' I excitedly say before hopping on again, board straight, body parallel, face forward she says...I'm off, woo hoo this is great, then immediately fall off again, I remember to let go this time but I'm now half way up so no choice but to unbuckle my board and do the walk of shame all the way back up to the top, it may only be 8 degrees today but by the time I've reached the summit I'm knackered, sweating, bruised and humiliated. I strap my board back on, take a deep breath and try again.....jeez these green runs are tough!!
As selfies go..
Fast forward 3 days, I've now had a few refresher lessons (thanks Nathalie) and green runs are a thing of the past, I'm now on the blue runs, oh yeah baby. Dodgy coffee downed, just about to set off on this particular run when Christian my mentor for the week tells me that there's a section that goes flat then actually up hill for a couple of hundred metres and it's important to gather enough speed to make it over the crest, no problem I say, and off we go, bloody hell I'm good at this I remember thinking to myself as we approach said up hill section, 'more speed Matt, more speed' Christian yelps, 'OK' I shout just as he zooms off, shit shit shit! too fast, so I wipe off far too much speed, 'NO, faster' Christian screams!, imaginary brave pill swallowed, head down, I bomb it! Oh Christ this is far too fast!, I'm now heading on to the flat-uphill bit and it's narrow, very narrow, I'm only an amateur at this and the only way I know how to slow a snowboard down is to turn it sideways, that means pointing the front of it towards the edge of the mountain, not an option.
I'm going properly fast now, 'That's it' Christian screams!, "I'm panicking!' I scream back, to which everyone around me spontaneously shouts 'DON'T PANIC!' which looking back was hilarious and even as I type this now I'm laughing. Anyway back to the action, I've now got the wobbles on, I'm doing at least a million miles an hour and I've attracted the attention of seemingly everyone with my 'I'm panicking' outburst, and now to add to my troubles there a bloody big sign right in my path, ironically with the words' slow down' on it, you couldn't make this up! I'm mean who'd put a sign there? as if this section wasn't narrow enough? do i go left or do I go right?, left? right? left right left right, whack! I plough straight into it! with what Christian later describes as a monumental crash, with at least 3 full somersaults and a couple of twists for good measure, probably in the pike position too! Cor blimey I remember thinking as I finally come to a sliding halt, jump up and am absolutely sure I'm dead because nothing has broken or fallen off, not even a scratch! escape of the century or what?! Actually it later turned out that I fractured my finger but it could and should have been much worse so I'll settle for that. Now all I have to do is take off my board and do the walk of shame (again) up the hill back to the wide eyed and slack jawed Christian who asks if I'm all right? then immediately bursts in to laughter when I said I am, Git!
The Alps are just stunning!
The rest of the week on the slopes are less eventful but wonderfully amazing all the same, culminating in a 6k green run though the pine trees pretty much all alone which was fantastic for a complete amateur like myself and I cant wait to do it all over again, I even managed to work out those sodding pole lifts!
Things I learnt,
The Alps are just incredible, not just on the slopes, but everything else, fully recommend a hiking tour if you get the chance.