Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ski Lessons

One of Erin's life goals is to make sure the rest of her family learns how to ski. She, of course, was trained on the black runs of France... in a blizzard... with nothing but her natural athleticism and built in GPS to keep her alive. The first (and until last week last) time I went skiing was at night, under the floodlights on the icy slopes of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Not exactly powder conditions. And calling it "skiing" is a bit of an exaggeration. More like rolling/sliding/falling down the hill with skis and poles tumbling behind. So - here we are in a country with real winters... time to hit the slopes and make Erin's dream come true!

With the highest peak at 1600 meters, the Czech Republic's "Giant Mountains", tucked away on the Czech Republic's northern border are not exactly gigantic compared to the nearby Alps. However, they are close, and they do have Ski Areas! We scheduled lessons for the kids and I, and hit the road bright and early Thanksgiving Morning. Grandpa and Grandma Rubesh had visited the weekend prior, so we had already filled up on turkey, stuffing and plenty of leftovers. Thanksgiving meant a day off work to head for the hills!

Skiareál Herlikovice is just 2 1/2 hours away by car - to the Northeast of Prague. When you're heading East, the trickiest part of the trip is just leaving the city. A journey to the east means either winding through narrow country roads to our North, or driving through downtown Prague. After about an hour of stewing in traffic, we started making good progress. The landscape started turning white just outside of Jičín, as we slowly gained altitude. The Ski Area is located just outside the town of Vrchlabi (try to pronounce that one three times in a row!)

A luxury ski resort Herlikovice is not. However, it did have the basics - a bistro selling hot dogs and hot chocolate for al fresco dining, a couple of ski lifts, and some good instructors - who spoke English! Suiting and booting four while keeping a baby happy is not a relaxing experience. However, 8 boots, 8 skis and 8 ski poles (the kid's favorite accessory) later, we headed toward the ski school. As it turns out, we had rented equipment from the spot closest to parking, but farthest from the ski area proper... fortunately, Kyler's new winter-hardy stroller has a bit of cargo space!

First lesson at ski school? How to stretch your muscles.

After a quick snack on the slopes, we found our instructors. Jad and Danna did great - they were slipping, sliding and laughing like crazy in no time flat! I had a private lesson on the finer points of a snowplow turn and important things like how to stop (without falling down - which was my previous method of stopping). At the end of our hour of on-snow training, Kyler was still fast asleep in his stroller, and Erin took to the slopes.

Two kids suited in about 5 layers of clothing, baby sleeping in the stroller, wife off skiing. What's the one phrase you're really not looking forward to hearing? "Daddy, I have to go Pee Pee!" Off we tromped to the decidedly communist "Hotel Eden" - dark dingy corridors, aging carpet and peeling paint. Fortunately, we quickly found the communal toilets, and were pleasantly surprised to find out that each stall came complete with free toilet paper! Appropriately relieved, the kids settled down to a DVD in the back of the 4Runner while I built a snowman and Kyler snoozed.

Did we have a good time? I'll let you decide - check out the following videos before voting!

No comments: