Ski Week started off as a two-and-a-half-hour train ride to Schladming, Austria. A small but very famous ski town in the middle of the Austrian Alps, nearby to where we had our hiking weekend back in Autumn. My host family walked me straight up to my train and waved me goodbye, it was the sweetest thing. Halfway through the train ride, my friends from Vienna joined us on our train. Once we arrived in Schladming, it took several taxis up the mountain to take us to Hotel Seiterhof where we would be staying for the next eight days. It was a nice surprise for me to find that I was in a room with three of my favorite exchange girls. We had the BEST room too, with a huge balcony to ourselves and a great view of the mountain peaks. Of course, this meant our room became the party room and designated movie room so there were always other people in our room, go room 205!!
Our first day of lessons began the day after our arrival. Before that morning, I had planned on Skiing the whole week but at the last second, I switched to snowboarding! I decided to take the chance of not being with my friends in order to learn something new that I have wanted to learn for so long now. There were definatly some downs and A LOT of frustrating moments and even some tears, but in the end, it was a really good decision and I am really proud that I stuck with learning something that didn’t come so easily. I wasn’t alone though! I had three awesome girls in my snowboarding class with me, and together we went from not being able to stand or stop on our boards to cruising down the slopes with our skiing friends.
On Monday night we had a small excursion. We were invited to a rotary meeting in the basement of the ski school. It was actually a lot of fun because we used the speakers and lights to have our own party. It was a really nice walk back to the hotel because it was almost a super moon that night and so the surrounding mountains were lit up with moonlight.
Most of the week had a regular schedule. We were a group of 40 or 50 exchange students from all around the world, including exchange students living in Croatia and Bosnia. Our days started with breakfast together downstairs every morning. Then, we took a bus to the ski school which was only a 2-minute ride away. After arriving, we split up into multiple different groups for lessons depending on our skill level. They determined our skill level on the first day by making everyone ski or board down the bunny hill. Of course, me and some other girls had never been on a snowboard before so we couldn’t even stand. We ended up getting a special instructor just for us. Every morning we had lessons till lunch time. During the beginning of the week, the beginner ski group and snowboard group met up for lunch back at the hotel since we could not yet reach the lunch spot on the mountain by skiing. This was a downer for me because I felt like I was missing out and being separated from my friends. I even tried to go down the mountain with them even though I was not ready. That ended in a few tears and having to walk back to the hotel with them. But it only made me more determined to get better. After lunch we would take the bus back to the hill and practice on our own. For the first part of the week, I spent the majority of my time on the bunny hill with the other beginner snowboarders. Minus a few painful runs down the real slopes. But then, on Wednesday I felt myself getting better and I spent the whole afternoon pushing myself to get even better. I cannot even count all the times I fell, but every time I got back up even if it took me a while to recover from the trail bone bruises or the sore wrists or head. On Thursday, I had a huge learning curve because my friends took me up the mountain with them. It took a lot of pressuring from the boys to get me to man up and try the big slopes. But everyone was so supportive and helpful, they waited for me and gave me tips on how to get better. I learned so much that day and I am so PROUD that I stuck with it. It was very scary to go on a mountain after using a board for the first time four days before that. But I did it!
Thursday afternoon/evening was also really fun. Although not for all of the exchange students. We went Rodeln down a track on the mountain (Rodeln is basically tobogganing). It was so much fun for me because I was with Pedro who already knew how to steer and stop. But some of the other pairs did not know how and so there were some pretty bad crashes. One even resulted in a hospital trip, but nothing too serious.
By Friday I had passed my learning curve and now I think I can say I am a decent beginner snowboarder. On Friday I could keep up with my friends and I did not fall once that day! I was cruising down red runs with lifelong skiers by the end of the day. However, by the middle of the day we were all so tired from skiing or boarding all week long that we hiked to a nice spot on the very peak of the mountain and sat there for hours listening to music, making memories, getting sunburnt, and having a good time. The first few hours we spent up on that cliff probably have moments I will remember for a very long time. Later on, the evening back at the hotel was really weird for me because it was the last day of ski week and I think we were all so tired and sad to be going home the next day.
Saturday morning was full of goodbyes and post Rotary event sadness, but I was happy to be going home with such fond memories. I think when I get back to Canada, I will save up for a board and switch to snowboarding. It will also be a good pass time for the long winters! Speaking of long winters, it is well into spring here in Graz now. The birds are singing, the trees are blooming and the bugs are whizzing. It is weird being back at school and it is quite boring. After being with the exchange students all week, it is super obvious how hard it is to get along with the Austrians in my school. But luckily I only have this week and next week of classes and then I am off to Italy for a week! Florence here I come!