We have a dorm accommodation in a mountain hut. I opt for a small room crammed with 9 other guys. There's no heating during the day time. At dusk, a boy comes around with sawdust and a strange powder which he puts in a furnace like apparition which burns and simmers till around 1 in the morning. Sometimes under the sleeping bag it felt like i was in Kerala during the summer. The hardest thing to do was to strip. Removing clothes when its bone freezing cold requires for me atleast 10 minutes of talking to myself, pacing up and down and then slowly to start the process by peeling away the warm snow boots and the slightly wet cotton socks.
The first few days all we see as we gaze outside the window is the snow. Outside its breathtakingly beautiful in a valley surrounded by the majestic white peaks of the Himalayas. In the midst of all the skiing, one often forgets the magnificence around. The 20 odd people were of a mixed age group with youth predominating. I was one of the 'older' folks with two twin girls of six making up the other extreme. Our instructor was a cool 24 year old guy who started skiing since he was six.
The skis were taller than me and were not that light. Throughout the 2 weeks, we carry the skis around more than we actually ski. It's 5 seconds of skiing (more accurate term: falling) and then unlocking your skis, hoisting it on your shoulders and climbing the slope again.The snow boots were very heavy and cumbersome but warm. They were also slippery to walk on cemented ground as evident by the numerous falls in the dining hall ! It was a great thrill though to finally put my skis on and to start skiiing. Not for long though, for falling happens more often than skiing in the first week.Starting with 'downhill' we progressed to 'snow plough' , 'traverse', 'side step', etc. The young devils in our course made it look so simple. Most of them had already skiied quite a bit before. The hard part after a 'crash' was to find these little guys looking at me with pity and to endure a lecture on the finer points of skiing.
We had a race at the end of the course fom a slope so steep that I was sure I would either end up dead or with a lifetime disability. Each person races on his own and is timed individually. Though I was almost shitting in my pants just before my turn, once I started I had a ' in the zone experience'. Only the slope ahead was before me and the speed was thrilling. I tagged the poles with ease and for the final curve even stepped on the gas. Thud! Yep, the inevitable fall but I recovered quickly to storm the finish line. An exciting high and I realized that the guy who just did the race was not me.
The constant pressure on my big toes from the snow shoes means that i have two swollen toe nails all black and blue. I limp around now but am happy that i finished my course in one piece. The bus back to Delhi was advertised as semi deluxe but infact very ordinary. Arriving at my photographer friend's place he was so shocked at my changed countenance that he took snaps. My face was the colour of coal except for the part where Ray Ban shades provided some uv protection and my lips were split. A true vagabond.
On to Rishikesh and beyond...