Whenever you talk of snow, you start fantasising immediately.
NO! Not that fantasy, you dirty mind. I am talking about slithering stylishly around on skis.
After a putting in the obligatory stint on the snows of Manali last week, I can confidently confirm two things:
If you are an amateur on the skis, you slide and slip down clumsily.
But if you are an expert, you acquire bursting speeds to crash down even more spectacularly.
As you can see, skiing is reliably built for falling. There is no escaping that.
But before you can get on to the skis, you need a few other accoutrements.
Snow Suite: This is like the typical fire fighter or F-1 driver overalls, where you unzip at the neck just to pee, something which you may need to do regularly on the dank, snowy surroundings.
This well-padded outfit also covers you from head to toe so that the residual iciness doesn’t escape at all and you are trapped comfortably inside an unshakable coating of cold always.
Snow Glove: The one sure thing that you need in extreme cold conditions is some feeling in the hand. Snow Gloves take away precisely that. If the chill numbs the fingers, the snow gloves further smother any sense of tangibility and flexibility. The helpfulness of this effect will be underlined when you crash your skis into a burly Sikh, who otherwise would slap you hard for your crazy antic, but with his snow gloves on he can only berate you colourfully in Punjabi, a language that is, er, Greek and Latin to you.
Snow Boots: They are comfortable, tailor-made footwear for snow that you have to remove when skiing, because there are specific ski boots for them.
The Ski Boots, on the other hand, are tethered to the skis, and are quite comfortable, if you overlook the minor fact that you can never move around on them. The ski boots ensure that any mobility you manage on the skis does not come from the courtesy of your leg and feet.
Ski Poles: On your skis, when you inevitably come tumbling down, you need something to poke or pierce the onlookers’ feet with so that they also join the merriment of wincing and shrieking in pain. So they have thought up the Ski Poles.
Ski Poles, sharp and precise, also help you to stay firmly rooted to a spot even while your skis are pulling you relentlessly away. This usually means: Another fall for you.
Snow Glasses: Large and stylish, they cut down on the enormous white glare from the snow, and colour the surroundings in an agreeable brownness, so that the snow looks to you like the everyday muddy slush, to escape from which you went to Manali in the first place.
(With the glasses on, the Manali in Himachal Pradesh and the Manali on the outskirts of Chennai look similar – all dusty brown).
Ski Instructor: He is the friendly chap who helpfully shouts strange expletives into your ears as you keep impaling the ski poles on his pitiful feet. Technically, a ski instructor’s shoes have more holes than there are on Swiss cheese. His main job is to literally provide a helping hand to lift you up to standing position as and when you fall, which is roughly every 3rd second on the skis.
With all the paraphernalia, you weigh around half a ton, and you still expect to swish around like a gazelle. Evidently, snow destroys the thinking faculty.
Ok, now we come to the real McCoy, the skis.
Skis: Have you seen the beak of platypus? Imagine that beak to be your feet. Well, you are on the skis.
The greatest part of being on skis is that none of the parts of your feet —- technically the ones that help you in actual mobility —- is in any workable or usable condition. Okay, the feet actually come into play at times of emergency, like when they have to suffer fracture.
The thing about skis is that they acquire operational ability only on slopes. Of course, you can slide easily on snowy downs even without the skis. But we will overlook this minor quibble.
The ideal body position when skiing is: The head and face slightly thrust forward, the buttocks jutting back only just, the knees half-bent, the feet firm but flexible and the arms steady but still supplying the momentum to the rest of the body. In other words, you need to be a Russian national gymnast to even attempt skiing. As far as I can tell, you are not even Russian, forget the difficult part of being a gymnast. So, you more or less end up attempting two bodily positions:
1) About to fall
2) Just after fall
As the philosophers said, the trick in life is not in falling down. But in getting up. No doubt they needed a stint at the Himalayan heights to find that out. And now I suspect, that could also have been after stirring attempts at skiing.