August – Skiing

15 August, 2003 Rothera

Skinning Up?

It had to happen after an absence of 18 years from skiing I had to give up, giving up. My previous experiences of skiing are not good, for someone who has incredibly poor co-ordination the last thing you should ever do is to augment that by strapping a couple of six foot long planks of fibreglass to your feet which are encased in hard plastic boots that hinder all movement. To then stand at top a slippery slope awaiting the inevitable forces of gravity and inertia to take over, well it’s a slippery slope and I was perilously teetering on the edge of it. This was all hindered by the recollection that I’d never mastered any of the turn’s snowplough, parallel or any other now I come to think about it. I’d always resorted to crashing into things, picking myself up from the ensuing carnage and pointing myself in the other direction. Not the most orthodox method granted, and yes it does look messy for the simple fact that it is. The chosen targets for this epic turning style have been trees and small children; the latter being preferred as they are softer, result in less bruising and I don’t like them much especially the talented little ones who shoot past. Besides I rather like trees and am aware how trees prevent the inherent dangers of an avalanche.

Back on skis and memories of being cold, wet, bruised, twisted and angry parents all flashed before me; why was I doing this?

There was however an astute plan, something that had drawn me back into the whole ridiculous world of skiing, I was going to be skiing up hill. Skiing up hill ‘what could possibly go wrong ?’ I thought to myself. Fitted out with planks and sticks from our in house sporting goods store, or ‘Fuchs House’ as the adventurous and lonely like to refer to it, I set off.

Skiing up hill is slightly different; you only have to clip your boots on at the front and the skis come supplied with a strip of sticky carpet referred to as ‘skins’. The idea is that when you’re going up hill you stick on the skins, which stop you sliding back down the slope, even I could get this right. Every thing was going fine, a beautiful day, the ubiquitous flask of tea, I’d even managed to get the tricky array of clamps and locks configured correctly and there I was skiing again and even more amazing actually enjoying it. I’d been prudent enough to take along a Doctor in case my knackered exercise free zone of a body gave out, not for medical reasons you understand but the Doc generated hoots of derision and peels of laughter would spur me on by triggering my stubborn gene and make me not give up.

So we made it up the ramp, which is the sloped section overlooking the base and comprises the first section of the Wormald Ice Piedmont. Skiing along under the shadow of Reptile Ridge the sun shone and bathed us after what had seemed an overdue absence in the past few weeks of blowing snow and high winds. Staying within the black flags, which act as route markers and away from the red flags, which are used to signify crevasses, we wended our way along.

Below us and to the north and on the east stretched the berg crusted blue waters of the Laubeuf Fjord, which separates us from the Arrowsmith Peninsula and its fairy tale peaks. Continuing on we reached Jim’s Buttress allowing us to look to the west and the south over the Sheldon Glacier as it sparkled in the sunlight like a debutantes tiara, dancing lights reflecting in your eyes as we lay back with a cup of tea. Looking along the mountains of Adelaide Island; Mt Barrie and a covering of its snow being blown off its exposed slopes, forming cornices and streamers of white in the sky like a ships wake. Then Mt Gaudry as though anchored by the Horton Glacier. The Hurley Glacier with its blue crevasses zigzagging up its alabaster white crust, like a mad escalator snaking its way upwards towards Mt Liotard.

Fantastic, a perfect day, why hadn’t I done it earlier?? Oh yes the skiing, from here on it was all down hill. Carpet, er I mean ‘skins’ removed from skis I pushed off down the slope to with the echo of ‘speed is your friend’ ringing in my ears, yeah right up until the moment when the skis cross, then speed just makes the ensuing face plant even more undignified and painful. I scanned around me, but I knew there wasn’t a tree of small child for a thousand miles.

I made it back, unscathed, smiling and even went out the next day. Maybe it wasn’t the turns but the chairlifts that are the thing I didn’t like about skiing.

By Eric Thornthwaite