It feels as though there is some level of agreement between people on the difference between skiing and snowboarding. That is; skiing is easy to begin, but difficult to get good at, while snowboarding is difficult to get the hang of initially, but progression comes more quickly after the initial challenge. Skiing, due to this opinion, often lulls you into a false sense of ability, which seems to be what came over me, when I thought it was a wise idea to explore the red run.
In terms of my past skiing experience, the field is pretty empty; a couple of trips to the artificial slope at the ‘snow dome’, and a week long school trip to Colorado back in 2010 where I was in the beginners group. I remember skiing a red run then, but only on one occasion, at the end of a whole week of build up. 7 years later, and no additional skiing experience, I would certainly be categorised under-qualified for the task of skiing down a red after only a couple of hours of getting back into the sport.
This story takes place in Oslo Vinterpark. I would not be exaggerating by saying that everyone there was great at skiing. Children, older people, locals, tourists, people hiring equipment… I felt like they were all better than me. I didn’t feel threatened, as I had come for fun, but I did feel a tone of intimidation when trying to take time on the slope, and others come wizzing past you left right and centre.
Oslo Vinterpark, or Tryvann Ski Resort was unusual because of its size. As a city-based ski resort it was not filled with options of different runs, it was there for days out, instead of lengthy stays. As you can see from the map, there was only one apparent main green, many intertwining blues and reds in the same area, and one huge long black, which I would be going no where near. When we arrived at the ski park, attempting to relate the map to what was really in front of us was like trying to teach a frog latin, we simply could not understand which runs were which. The choices of slopes to ski down essentially boiled down to two options, what we thought must be the green (though it was the steepness of a normal blue) and another path, with a colour we were not quite sure of. Though it looked like it followed into the direction of the red, the map lead us to believe it must be a blue. We should have known then, that making this spontaneous decision to ski down the mystery slope was perhaps something we should have thought over a little more, as by this point we were aware that our understanding of this ski map was completely skew whiff.
We had seen the red run when we ascended the slopes on the ski lift. It was insanely steep. We had seen the brave skiiers that tackled this run, and the slalom next to it, and how brilliant they were at zipping down in record time, but with full control of their balance, direction and technique. A simple snow-plougher-attempting-parallel-skiing-sometimes wouldn’t be seen dead in a place like this. My skills were no match for the beast of a hill.
But there we stood, at the top of the mountain, deciding to follow the mystery path. It began with quite a sudden steep section, but after that the ground became flatter. It was then a gentle downward slope with little hills here and there and we began to think… wait, could this be the green run we have been looking for? It was the same slope level I remember from greens in Colorado; gentle, where you can parallel straight down without feeling like you’re losing control.
We enjoyed this relieving feeling skiing down, having a great time. The slope was narrow, packed in with tall snowy trees. After a few minuets however, the trees parted to reveal the true nature of the mystery slope, it was in fact the red run.
We approached with caution, and as we got closer more and more of what the slope had in for us was revealed. Ahead of us was the steepest, longest and scariest looking slope. It looked so much worse than it had on the ascent, and there it had looked terrifying. It would be an understatement to say those expert skiiers conquering the slope earlier made it look easy. Me and my friend both looked at the slope, looked at each-other with concern and had the same thought in our mind – there was no other option but to ski down.
I didn’t want to pause for too long before the challenge began, for fear of overthinking and working myself up. So we began the ascent. We took it slowly, in sections. As the expert of our amateurish duo, my friend went first. She then had the ability to warn me when the ground was icy, and could advise me on less steep routes to take. We were doing well, aside from feeling embarrassingly under-qualified for the slope, being miles behind the speed and skill of other skiiers, and throwing all technique practice out the window and snowploughing all the way.
Around 3/4 of the way down, we hit the most dramatic part of the slope, what at the time felt like a huge blizzard, but was in reality just a hearty dose of icy wind. It was a scary moment at the time however, due to it being coupled with icy ground. It was at this point I felt myself slipping down the mountain and made the executive decision to fall. Thats right I chose to, it was definitely not an accident. Getting up from a fall on a mountain in skiis is not an easy task, I’m sure anyone who has skiied is aware of this, even if you have since mastered the art. Yet, I finally managed to turn my skiis towards a part of the slope where I wouldn’t immediately start tumbling down and then wobble myself up to get ready to have my second attempt at the slope.
I managed it, I made it to the bottom with no injuries, little stress, but a lot relaxation. Even though I had originally said I would not be happy to do a red slope at the beginning of the day, and the act of skiing one happened completely by accident, as I flopped onto the floor after reaching the end I let out a sigh of relief. I challenged myself to do something out of my comfort zone and I was proud. Though I completed the slope in likely the most ungracious manner, including a little lie down mid way, I was impressed with myself. The worry of injury can often hold people back from taking on challenges like this, but the fear, followed by the euphoric feeling after conquering it, makes it such a valuable experience.