Since the Eastern half of Scotland (just on the other side of the mountains that border Loch Ness) had a few days of snow, I decided that it was time to go skiing and headed off to the Cairngorm Mountain ski facility. This wouldn't be a big deal except for the fact that I haven't been skiing in almost 20 years, if you don't count the ill fated trip to the Villa Olivia hill a couple of years back where I spent more time on my hiney than on my skis.
Since it had been so long, I wisely decided to invest in lessons. You see, skis are shaped differently now than they were back when I was half way decent at skiing. They are a lot shorter and curvier now and you balance on them differently to get them to go the way you want. And I am 20 years older, which puts a whole different spin on it as well
Davey was a great teacher. I won't lie, he scared the crap out of me when he took my poles away about five minutes into the lesson. Much to my amazement, I ski better without them! I fell a few times, two of which were pretty spectacular. The first I didn't turn in time and went up some big rocks and was grateful I'm flexible because what my legs did would have resulted in pulled muscles for most people. The second was when I got cut off by some guy and I went arse over teakettle multiple times and landed on my face. I heard my nose crunch and was terrified that I had broken it. Luckily I hadn't. It was bruised and swollen, but not to the point where you'd notice if you didn't know what it looked like normally, so I figure I got off pretty lightly. When the ski instructor looks worried, you figure it looked like a pretty bad fall. He told me to just sit down next time I can't stop.
One of the things he did was point out skiers with good and poor techniques. He said "See how the men have no form? They don't care what they look like or if they get hurt. The blokes just want to go as fast as possible and beat their mates to the bottom. Now women, about the age of 13/14 start to care about what they look like. So watch how the woman go slow, work on their technique and go for the safer routes. They want to look good and not get hurt. I want you to be in between those two styles." I thought these were some very shrewd observations of the genders which it also ended up applying to my second snow sport enjoyment, dog sled racing!
Last Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the Aviemore Dog Sled Race. Aviemore is the town at the base of the Cairngorm mountain range. One of the race marshals told me that in thirty years they've only had snow around 4 times. They usually race on these chariot-esk wheely cart things, so people aren't as good on the sleds because they don't get to use them very often.
I didn't really miss my dogs until I saw the dog sled dogs. They were so freaking excited and happy!!! There was much wooing. howling and tail wagging. I teared up a bit once. Huskies are really friendly dogs so the owners let people come up and pet all the dogs. Only the Nordic breeds are allowed to race in the Aviemore Race, but a couple of teams brought their other dogs with that they have on the teams when not in the race. Once couple had two German Springer Spaniels. I commented that I had never seen a spaniel on a race team. The woman told me that one team has a Cocker Spaniel and then pointed to the end team and said they have a Bichon on their team!!! I thought it was just like Yukon Cornelius in Rudolf.
I was standing at a turn near the end of the race to take photos and thought it was really interesting how the men all went tearing around the curve, losing control and tilting onto one runner while every last woman racer took it at a nice, slower pace and had control the entire time.
The view from the top of the Cairngorm Mountain was truly spectacular, but I wisely chose to not bring my camera or phone with me on the slopes so most of my photos are of the dog sled race. My favorite was the guy in the goofy hat.
The first photo was a dog I seriously wanted to put in my pocket and take home. She was a miniture Husky, only about mid-calf high on me and the absolute sweetest thing ever!!! The moose next to her is a Malmute who acted just like Koda. He was hysterical. When I went on from petting him to the darling little one, he pawed at me and when that didn't work to get my attention, he threw himself on the ground and rolled over for a belly rub.
The third photo has a dog riding with the racer on the sled. The dog must have injured itself or was having a problem making it not able/safe to run. They call it 'bagging the dog'. The rest of the photos are of the race, Huskies/Malamutes and the Cairngorms across the loch.
My favorite is the series of 3 pictures w/a whole slew of huskies on their stakes willy nilly then when them all focused one direction. The final photo shows them staring in rapt attention at their owner, who I thought was either rather brave or totally stupid to say to them "What, you want my cookie? Yuuummmm cookie!" He must have been very confident that he had them well secured, because if nothing else, a Husky is extremely food oriented.
The last picture is of one of the wheely carts that they race in when there's no snow. That woman was so color coordinated that even her transportation crates in her truck were matching purple. She told me her husband had spray painted them to match for her. Because you know, it's better to look good....