Dressed in Dad’s and my stepmum’s ski gear, B and I set off early this morning to Hovfjället, the little ski resort 20 minutes’ drive from the town where I grew up and where my family all still live. It’s a great place, although you can’t compare it to the Alps or those other big, fancy resorts. It has ten or so slopes, none of which will take more than a minute to get down, but it’s got everything you need and slopes of every colour code. Because I’m terrible at skiing, I stick to the green ones, i.e. the ones that are barely more than a flat surface. No, seriously, I’m really shit.
B had my brother D’s skis and I rented some ‘snow blades’, which are very short skis – I can’t deal with the regular carving skis as I get tangled up in them when I try to turn (and I can only turn to the left, which makes things worse) and these shorter ones are almost like being on rollerblades and I am ACE at rollerblading, so I felt quite confident when we were all geared up and pushed our way forward towards the slopes from the rental shop up on the mountain to inspect the board with the map showing the different slopes. My heart sank immediately when I discovered that the only green kiddie slope that would have taken me all the way down to the bottom of the mountain (to where the chair lift is) without breaking any bones was closed. Fuck.
“Here! There’s a green one going this way, and then only a short bit that’s blue that we can go down, that won’t be too bad,” B said as he pointed one of his sticks at the board to trace the route.
“Mm-hm,” I mumbled, already petrified, but also determined, I’m the Swede after all and should be the one confident with all things related to snow and ice.
Said and done. Off we went, past the main kiddie slope and its lifts, in the direction of the bigger slopes and the scarier part of the mountain. The first bit was indeed a green piste, but to my horror I discovered I could barely turn despite these short snow blades that should have made this so much easier. The last bit before the blue (second easiest – it goes green, blue, red and then an ominous black) part. Nearly careered out into the trees but managed to steady myself at the last minute and somehow made it to where B was waiting for me.
“I can’t do it!” I barked, both angry with myself and bitterly embarrassed and disappointed, feeling more than a little stupid.
“Yes you can, we’ll go slow.”
“I bloody can’t go slow! I can’t control the speed, can’t turn, can’t stop,” I wailed, doubtlessly sounding like a spoilt and bad tempered toddler about to throw a full blown tantrum.
After more whinging and refusal on my part to go down the blue slope ahead of us (that, in my defence, curved downwards so that you couldn’t actually see it, which to me at the time seemed like free fall and made it much scarier – the green slopes you can see down as they’re not steep at all), and after a couple of minutes of this I took my skis off and started walking back up. B tried his best not to be annoyed but could barely hide it, yet he came back up with me. Back at the bottom of the main kiddie slope up by the cafes and rental shop, he eventually managed to convince me to keep trying, that we go down the kiddie slope until I felt confident.
Said and done and thank God I listened. I discovered I could turn, even stop and after a few runs on this gentle little slope, I was ready.
I’m not gonna lie. The blue slope was scary – I’m not a confident skier, much less a skilled one – but I fucking did it, and once further down the mountain we could keep going on this long green one, where I built up a bit more confidence still. It was a beautiful day, sunny and bright, the powder snow glittering and the chill biting gently at our cheeks. Dare I say it, I even started to really enjoy it.
“Shall we head back up and grab something to eat?” B suggested.
“Sure!” I replied chirpily.
“The chair lift is right over there, you need speed over that last flat bit, OK?” he shouted back over his shoulder, already zooming down towards it, all sexy and confident.
Lo and behold, I zoomed after him (neither sexy nor confident, but Rome wasn’t built in one day) and when he turned around at the end probably expecting to see me somewhere far behind him, he shot me a smile when he discovered I’d kept up.
The chair lift. Anna is scared of heights. Hang from a wire high above the tree tops, from what can only be described as a structure that looks rickety at best. I regretted it as soon as we were in the chair and felt the first waves of a panic attack threatening to consume me, those familiar and terrifying palpitations making themselves known. I tried to breathe through my nose, resting my head against B’s shoulder and keeping my eyes closed. It was five minutes I don’t want to go through again, but we made it and we made it to the top alive.
Time to get off the damn thing. Looks easy enough, right? Stand up once your skis hit the ground and let the chair push you forward and off. I couldn’t bloody get up, and realised that the only way to get off was to throw myself to the side. Said and done, and not my finest or most graceful moment. Tangled up in my short skis and sticks I glanced up and noticed they’d stopped the lift. Expected to see B standing there, laughing at me. And there was laughter, but not from B, but the people in the chairs behind us and people standing around the top of the lift. Turns out B had got tangled up in his skis too and hadn’t been able to get off the lift either, having started to come with it back down the mountain and then fallen off into a big pile of snow. Laughed so hard I couldn’t get up, but at least we gave the people watching something to remember. I half expect to see a clip on YouTube and us going viral.
I was glad to go home, yet happy that I’d tried that bit harder.