The day a grown woman, born and raised in a tropical country, gets to go skiing is one for the books. So it was for me on one of my business trips to Sweden. Having gone through a rigorous technical training week, a few geniuses in my Business Engineering class decided it would be fun to take an impromptu ski trip. It so happened I was the only black-haired never-been-on-a-snowy-mountain-top south-east-asian in the group.
I should have smelled trouble early on. Before we left, I saw a TV report on a dead snowboarder found with his feet in the air and his head in the snow. An even worse omen was the pink skiing outfit a Swedish friend lent me to use. At 5’9″, she was the shortest Swede I knew; but since I’m 5 feet flat, her clothes were still a bit … hell, you do the math. I looked at myself in the full-length mirror on my hotel door for hours — that didn’t change the fact that I looked like a huge pink gasul tank.
During the road trip, the guys promised me our destination was a quiet place for locals, not frequented by foreigners. Translated: if I fell on my face, people there will not ridicule me in a language I could understand. A few hours later, we reached Lill-Babs’ Krogg — a small out-of-the-way skiing lodge in Järvsö owned by a Swedish singer from the 1960s known for her outrageously high heels.
The first thing that struck me as I stood on that hill was how painful my lungs were. Apparently, the air had zero humidity and was at minus 10C. My lungs were used to near 100 percent humidity and 30 degree weather. But I had to push aside the stabbing pain in my chest to make room for the joy of sliding down a hillside on a pair of wooden planks I was going to feel in a few hours. I have reached the point of no return — I was going to ski or die trying!
The next day, I arrived on the slopes in time for the beginners’ class I signed up for. In keeping with the trip’s theme of shaming me, I learned that the only people in that part of the country who didn’t know how to ski still wore diapers. I was the only novice taller than three feet. To make matters worse, skiing came naturally to these children — they didn’t even use their little sticks! I hung onto my ski poles like they were glued to my hands, while I watched these Swedish kids zoom down the slopes like Olympic midgets.
When I finally mustered enough courage to go up the hill, I breathed in the gorgeous view around me and I began to appreciate what I was about to do — it was an experience perhaps many of my countrymen will never share. I looked down on the slopes and understood the feeling of peace that makes skiing a passion for many. Of course, that was before I actually started moving down the slope. I would slide for a few seconds, my eyes staring at a point below where I want to end up; then I would fall on my back and I would be looking at the sky, praying I would stop before I crash into the trees at the base of the hill. Donning my mother’s persistence, my father’s pride, and my Pinoy resilience like a badge, I climbed that hill over and over again for about three dozen times. I was lying on my arse when I reached the bottom, every single time.
On the drive back to Stockholm, I remember resting my sore back side, my throbbing ankles, my wobbly knees and my chafed ego in the van, and thinking: “Snowboarding is fun.”