News From The Slopes

Fresh from the slopes, over GPRS (at charging rates starting at “two limbs”), comes this report from the Bulgarian Holiday Team (Claire and I, along with my dad and my sisters).

JOURNEY: Uneventful, but tedious – three and a bit hours on a plane followed by a five hour bus journey is pretty mind-numbing, although we did get a break at a Bulgarian McDonalds (complete with hilarious Cyrillic lettering on the sign – picture to follow [I don’t have enough arms and legs to pay to upload it]).

ACCOMODATION: Remarkably nice hotel: infinitely superior to our usual stay at Aviemore Youth Hostel for Cairngorm skiing, but with a predictably scary price tag to go with it.

FOOD: Every meal seems to contain egg and/or pork. Are these the national foodstuffs? Scrambled egg with bacon in is an obvious breakfast combination. Eggy bread laced with ham was less expected, and quite a suprise to bite into. Stuffed peppers very nice. Cured sausages not bad either.

SKIING: Generally good conditions – some partially broken runs (by Bulgarian standards – in Scotland we’d call them “perfectly usable”) this morning because the weather report predicted snow for two days so they haven’t turned on the snow-blowers, but no snow’s been forthcoming. Here in Pamporovo there’s a lot for beginners (one entirely green run is almost 4km long!) and some nice challenges for advanced skiers (I’m particularly enjoying some of the red and black runs on the West face of the mountain), but fewer options for intermediate-level skiers. Not as large a resort as Mt. Tremblant in Canada, where I was a few years ago, but still far more than Cairngorm or The Lecht offer us on our traditional trips to Scotland. Of particular note is The Wall, a black run that’s so-called because it’s quite steep. Here’s an example for those of you at home: stand up – pretend you’re on a ski slope that stretches down to your right and up to your left (so you’re “sideways” on it). Now stretch out your left arm to your side. If you were on The Wall, your hand would be touching snow. Well, a wall of ice, really. It’s a beast, and I love it.

ACCIDENTS: This is what you were really reading for, isn’t it – to find out who’s had a horrible accident so far. Well, here’s some of the best:

1. On my first attempt at The Wall, I took a turn a little sharply and flipped over. And began to slide. On my belly. Head first. Now I’ve been in this position before – it’s a natural state for a skier who’s just pushed themselves a little too far. So a started working on stopping myself all the ways I knew how, but after about 10 seconds of accelerating I came to the realisation that there was genuinely nothing I could do to stop this slide, and instead positioned myself in the best way possible to minimise the risk of damage. Eventually I ran onto the next ski run (still belly-sliding at about 40mph) and was able to regain my balance and right myself. No injuries except my pride and some friction burns, but this hundred-metre ride – well, FALL – is easily the most fun I’ve had here so far.

2. A few seconds later, I was hit by a runaway ski. My sister, Sarah, had a similar slip but had been able to keep her balance at the sacrifice of half her equipment, and had to sledge the remainder of The Wall on her other ski.

3. Claire panics when she sees a cliff some 10 feet away and swerves into a tree, with no serious injuries. Photos to follow. Everybody starts making jokes about Claire loving trees, which become even funnier when…

4. Owing to out-of-date maps and a bit of bad guesswork on my part, Claire found herself on a short run somewhat above her capabilities. And, realising that snowploughing wasn’t enough to bring her to a halt, sped up (because THAT’s a sensible alternative)… right into a tree. She caused herself a mild concussion (earning herself a day in bed) and a series of nasty-looking cuts and grazes across her neck.

BOOZE: It’s been hard to find drinking establishments that don’t charge excessive touristy rates, but now we’ve found a few I’ve been trying out the local beers. Zagorka is great, and Kamenitza is pretty good too. Vodka’s cheap, and a “small” vodka is 50ml (what we in the UK would call a “double”). It makes me wonder what a medium or even a large is – a quadruple or sextuple, presumably. It’s also hard to persuade bar staff to provide mixers – the pervading attitude seems to be that vodka should be drunk neat.

RINGOS: While Claire was bed-bound, the rest of us went ringo-ing. We’d done it before in Canada – sitting in a rubber ring and sliding down a ski slope – but it’s still good fun and a fabulous violation of health and safety law. By the end, my sisters and I were strapping our ringos together and spinning our way into the walls that marked the edge of the slope.

COMING SOON: Later this week – Skidoos? Snowboarding? Pub crawl around Pamporovo? As usual, you’ll read it here first (if I can be bothered).

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