I have a story, over a month old, that is still begging to be told. In late February, Sarah, Florian, Tracey and I piled into Florian's Jeep and drove over to Macedonia for a skiing weekend. I hadn't skied since I was 14 years old, so I was a bit nervous. We arrived in Mavrovo late Friday night, accompanied by rain. The hotel service was beyond wonderful. I have never stayed at a place that made you instantly feel like family. A yummy meal was whipped up for us, followed by dessert crepes. We went straight to bed anticipating a day full day of skiing.
Saturday morning came. We all bought our lift passes. I was told that the easier hills were at the top of the hill, which alone was odd. Being the Balkans, we received no map of the area. The four of us climbed on the single chair lifts and headed up the hill. I literally fell out of the chair lift instead of gliding off gracefully and immediately thought, "Oh boy! I'm off to a great start!" The man at the top asked if I was a beginner. I said, "How did you guess?" He exchanged worried looks with his fellow ski patrol. I asked, "So, where are the beginner slopes?" The man pointed off in an ambiguous direction. I took that to mean, "You're on the bunny slopes."
I earnestly prayed that whatever skills I had learned in ski lessons 16 years ago would suddenly surface. At first, I was amazed by what I remembered and even thought, "Gosh, it's all coming back to me." Sarah was snowboarding along side Florian and Tracey and I were a bit behind. Suddenly, the path became narrower and the hillside steeper. I lost control and went crashing into a snowbank. I dug myself out while Tracey took pictures, both of us laughing uncontrollably. It only got worse. At one point I resorted to taking my skis off and sliding on my rear end. By the end of the run, I was ready to turn in my skis. We finally made it to the bottom only to discover a different chair lift that was off to the side. Sarah was already on and yelled to Tracey and me, "The bunny slopes are at the top of this hill; come on up!"
We were all safely at the top and found some friends from Tirana enjoying a break in the lodge. I said, "So this is where they are hiding the beginner area?" Sarah said, "Um, yeah. You just went down a Black Diamond run." Holy smokes, even thinking about it now, I'm grateful to be alive! The rest of the afternoon, I spent with Mary, Violeta and Florian relearning how to ski and getting my confidence back. By the end of the afternoon, I was actually excited about skiing.
Sarah's new friend! This was seriously the cutest puppy I've seen in a long time.
The four of us returned to the hotel. We, once again had a lovely dinner with a lovely Macedonian wine. We played card games and enjoyed the fire in the lobby, with our clothes drying.
The next morning, I was more optimistic about a day on the slopes. It was a beautiful day, with a gentle falling snow and a semi clear sky. We got to the hill, only to learn that the slopes at the top were shut down due to wind. On that note, I flat out refused to ski the Black Diamond slopes, turned in my skis, and spent the rest of the day playing in the snow and drinking hot tea.
Was my time wasted? Not hardly! I'll always look back on this trip as an enjoyable experience with my enjoyable friends. I just know for certain that I'll never amount to much of a skier... Sarah and Tracey are heading to Slovenia for a spring break ski trip (they'll also be skiing in Italy and Austria too!). I'm heading the opposite direction to the Greek Isles. It's probably for the best!
*Note: These are all Tracey's pictures. I was too busy trying to stay alive and didn't have the time to take any shots at all!