Although our blog is called “Almost Adventures”, my weekend of skiing in the Pamporovo forests might as well classify as a real one. I mean, ski slopes are cool, but woods, teeming with knee-deep snow are on a whole new level. Having been taught to ski by my father when I was 4 years old, I have always been rather confident that I won’t, like, die or something. Yet, since I went from slopes to powder, I have had my doubts on that statement.
Safety? What safety?
First of all, a little something about off-piste skiing in Bulgaria: it’s not like many Western countries, where you could hire a qualified teacher, just like for the slopes, in order to guide you through the rudiments of skiing in unmarked terrain and teach you how to keep yourself safe. Here, when you go off the beaten track (quite literally), you just do it at your own risk. There are no freeride ski schools, nor instructors you could hire – it is basically “illegal”. As much as something could be truly illegal in Bulgaria, of course. In other words, no one follows this rule, and no one expects it to be followed.
However, Bulgarians do have a strong off-piste skiing culture (one which builds up about 50% of my national pride) and precisely because of its lack of commercialization, it is just what it’s supposed to be – you get to put your signature on the snow with your tracks and experience the purest form of skiing, without the restrictions and preparation of the groomed slopes.
Another thing that marks our off-piste culture is the tendency to deny any other form of skiing once you have tried the forests. Well, frustrating though it could be, there is certain amount of tension between racers and freeriders. Are you even a real off-piste skier if you don’t make fun of those losers on the slopes every time you’re hovering above them on the ski lift? Personally, developing kind of allergy to ski slopes is a bit too extra for me. And yet, once I went off the tracks, I found this new path to be undeniably cooler and more exciting.
Without further ado, here is how things went down for me last week in the Bulgarian ski resort Pamporovo.
Falling in love with skiing…but for the most part, just falling
“No, no – I’m fine. You don’t need to wait for me!” is what I’m yelling to my friends, while trying to dig myself out of the powder in the middle of f*cking nowhere with one of my skis staring at me unabashedly from three meters away. Clearly, I was not fine. However, by that time I still hadn’t come to one crucial realization – there is no shame in falling.
As I said before, I’ve been skiing since early childhood and at that point, I thought the days of falling and losing my skis were long over, but na-a-h. In the forests everybody falls and the quicker you learn this and leave your ego behind, the better.
So here I am, after my I-don’t-want-to-say-the-number-th fall for the first two hours, shamelessly continuing to ride, fall, get up, lose equipment, find it and so on. My friends and I were constantly losing each other or waiting for one another (not so fun, but worth it). I learned not to care so much and that, hey, there is a certain amount of charm in falling on your derriere, being stuck in an offbeat terrain or in just hanging around, waiting to make sure your squad survived.
Getting a bit too close to nature
A thing I love about skiing freeride is that the forest may have 10 000 trees, but once you have hit one in particular – it becomes special. It becomes your tree. The places where you fell, the ones that have bruised not only your body and skis, but also your self-esteem – these ones you remember. At the end of the day you find yourself knowing the woods to perfection and your “landmarks” have become sort of insider memes that would frequently come up in conversations. Take for instance – “Where are you?! I just passed Kali’s pine.” or “Be careful, Svilen’s cliff is on your left!”
For the time being, a significant amount of my craziest memories are not only of me being drunk, but also of me skiing off-piste, so despite the fact that my back still hurts like hell and I got a cold, it was so freaking cool. We were a bunch of awesome people, blessed with a miraculous powder combined with a flawless blue sky, just having fun and forgetting about everything else. So now, with one of my friends’ skis irretrievably lost, another one’s severely scratched, but everybody none the less hyped, we are all telling stories and waiting for the next time we get the chance to ski off-piste… Our trees and bumps will be waiting for us, too.