Sunday, 23 December 2012

High 1 Skiing

When I first came to Korea I had no idea what the weather was like, apart from the fact my friend Dan had lived there for a year in the past and assured me that Busan had beaches and in summer it was a good place to be. That probably explains some of the atrocious decisions I made when packing. I imagined a summer like in Europe, pleasantly warm and dry with a mild winter. One fur leopard coat is proving not to be warm enough against the winter winds that blow around every crook and cranny of Busan's jiggledy buildings and the shoes I brought for summer are all but ruined now after the monsoons and the humidity. With all of these things unthought of, I definitely oblivious to the fact that Korea would have a massive ski season here.

One morning while we were shivering at our desks (it really is that cold inside) when the principle walked in, said something involving our names and walked back out again. It wasn't until we probed a little with our co-teachers that they told us that we would be going on the annual Ski Camp with the 4th, 5th and 6th graders.

It wasn't until another teacher explained that it meant we got free ski hire, a ski pass where we would be free to roam to our hearts content on any slope, would have an apartment literally three minutes walk from the slopes, all our meals paid for and nothing in terms of teacherly duties would be expected from us in return that I realised how lucky we were.

The days crept closer and I got a little apprehensive. The only skiing experience that I had was a handful of lessons when I was about 10 on a dry ski slope in Sheffield. Because of the apparent lack of promise I showed then, I was never given, or never let myself be given the chance to try skiing again. That was until it was time to ski in front of a group of about 10 of my 6th grade girls on the first day of ski camp.

It took around 5 hours to get there from Busan on a coach of 4th grade kids that uncharacteristically didn't fall asleep, the skill to fall asleep anywhere must develop in older Koreans. We checked into our amazing two bedroomed apartment that we were to share with the school nurse and a female home room teacher, we dumped off our stuff, had lunch and started to get fitted up.

I hired ski pants and a jacket from the shop at the High 1 resort, which when they first explained it to us they said it was going to cost 200,000 won a day. That's like £120 and left Tash and I nearly in tears. It was only when we realised that he had added an extra digit and it was actually 20,000 won that we realised it was pretty reasonable. The next day we went with a coteacher who arranged for us to keep the suits for two more days and the price was reduced to 15,000 won per day. Amazing that that was the only cost of our skiing trip.

I decided to start of modestly and go with my 6th grade girls who were having lessons. As soon as i got up to them 2 of them started wailing 'Teachaaa help me! I want to go home!' that i realised that i wasn't the only one that had reservations about skiing. It turned out that in comparison I was pretty average at skiing and we stealthily snook off from the lesson when the instructor wasn't watching us.

High 1 seems like a really good place for beginner skiers as there are lots of runs to do. The first day I got brave and decided to take the chair left (which i then gracefully fell off at the top) and went down a larger slope. Half way down I realised I may have been a little too ambitious as I was starting to go uncontrollably fast and had to do a dramatic fall to stop myself!

That night we were invited to a teacher's gathering where we were forced to drink red wine and eat beef with salt that the other homeroom teachers BBQ'd while sat on the floor, laughing.

The next morning we were up bright and early and the head of English who turned out to be quite a pro on skates took us on a mini lesson, then satisfied with us as students, he took us right to the top of the mountain, where he proceeded to tell us over and over to just 'enjoy the speed!' I felt like explaining that I had enjoyed the speed a little too much the day before and my shoulder was paying for it, but instead i did what i was told and had a few more dramatic falls. It's great that there is a beginner's slope that starts right at the top. It took us about 20 minutes to get down, and takes alot longer to get back up on the lift. We went Monday to Wednesday so didn't have to queue for a thing, but someone has been at the weekend and said that there can be a wait of upto 30 minutes, which must be frustrating when you get down to the bottom so quickly afterwards.

I couldn't help but love all of the Korean snowboarders a little. Their outfits were all amazing, I saw one in a dragon kigu who went down the slope at an amazing speed with his arms nonchalantly crossed over his chest, but I doubt i am ready to try the snowboard yet.

That night we had an earlyish night, and i helped the nurse with the vast amount of sick children that gathered in her room. Her cure for everything seemed to be blowing them with the hair dryer, miracle cure that I might have to try! Either that or they were being hypochondriacs!

The last day the teachers marvelled at our stamina as we set off for one more ski after breakfast. Tasha, with slightly more experience intended to do an intermediate slope, but because of a mess up with the coaches back we didn't have time and grudgingly had to hand in our equipment.

Luckily the ski season in Korea lasts until February, so I'm hoping to get some more practise before the season is over.

A room with a view
Room with a view

Our apartment
Our apartment

Festive lights
Festive trees

At the top of the mountain
Ready to descend from the top

A well deserved bun
A well deserved bun

Freezing faces
The ski lift before i fell off it

If Ronald McDonald designed a ski suit...
If Ronald McDonald was a ski suit...

4th graders waiting to ski
4th graders ready to go!