Thursday, 3 March 2016

Auntie Learns to Ski

Of all the questions Auntie has fielded this holiday--"Was Buddha bad or good?" "What is chi?"--the hardest to answer was "Auntie D, you don't know how to ski?"

This was delivered by a tiny shrimp of a creature wearing a pink crash helmet in such tones of amazement that her aunt hung her head in shame. Her head was already hanging pretty low as it was, thanks to the golden robot feet slung around her neck. Skiing involves a lot of heavy things, but the high tech boots are the heaviest. As nervous as Auntie was, she was sure she was as likely as the Tin Man to break her legs.

Quebec is a wonderful place to be outdoors when it is 10 below zero if you are wearing your mother's pink turtleneck sweater, your brother's snowpants, your sister-in-law's red ski jacket, your sister-in-law's old ski mitts, your brother's black-and-blue crash helmet and giant robot feet. You may look fat, but so does everyone else at the ski lodge. As everyone is fat and most are wearing orange ski goggles it is very hard to recognize people.

"Where's your mother?" Auntie asked small Popcorn, her niece.

"I'm right here," said the blue and white, orange-goggled creature beside her.

No longer worried about freezing to death, the visitor to Quebec can stand around in the snow admiring the pine trees and the mountains and the brave people careening down the ski slopes. The frozen wind slapped Auntie around the face, but she merely found it refreshing. The skiing thing could not be so hard, she thought. After all, she had been taught how to stop by a five-year-old ("Pizza!", i.e. make the shape of a pizza slice with your skis) and consoled by her sister-in-law that it was basically the same as skating.

The ski lodge was neither as intimidating nor as luxurious as ski lodges are in novels, possibly because it was geared towards families. Children clumped in their own robot feet hither and thither, and apres-ski apparently means not mulled-wine fueled affairs with viscounts but chocolat chaud avec les enfants.

The ski rentals were downstairs, so downstairs Auntie went to rent skis and poles from good-humoured if plain-speaking French-Canadians which entailed telling them her weight. Quel horreur. Skis and poles collected, Auntie put her feet into the robot boots which clasped her calves like twin Iron Maidens. But however uncomfortable they were (or to be precise, the right one was), Auntie felt even more certain than her ankles were safe. She clanked upstairs and went outside and, under the watchful eyes of Belle Souer et Bratnica-Popcorn, stepped into her skis. Wielding her ski poles, she wiggled her way over to the clump of trees for her lesson with David, the young professional. When David arrived, she wiggled down to the bunny hill with its "magic carpet" ski lift, i.e. electric-powered ramp.

And then something wonderful happened: Auntie learned to ski. In fact, it seemed as if Auntie had always known how to ski, possibly because Auntie has known how to skate since she was four, or perhaps because the good cold Canadian air intoxicated her like ice wine. Down the bunny hill she went, happily making S's in the snow, and soon graduated to the big hill where, unfortunately, she fell off the ski lift. Undaunted, Auntie got her to her feet by clutching David, and then she careened down the big hill without falling down again. It was the most amazing thing.

It was sixty million times more fun than hockey.

Sadly David discovered that there was not enough time to go down the big hill again, so that was it for the lesson. La Belle Soeur collected Auntie and took off her skis and shepherded her inside and up the stairs to the big windowed attic of the ski lodge where apres-ski happens. As Peanut and Popcorn walloped each other and tested the patience of their ski-loving European grandfather, Auntie ate half a chicken sandwich and drank a hot chocolate and thought of nothing but getting back outside again. As soon as her chocolate was drunk, she rushed out after her family, who were on the bunny hill, and rod up and skied down until Popcorn called a halt.

Truly, thought Auntie, skiing is the most amazing thing. It may even be worth learning to drive for.

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