Not everyone looks forward to seeing the snow melt. Spring is often the best season to hit the slopes, what with the warmer temperatures and longer sunny days. It's a time of year when a wide range of travellers share Canada's hills and mountains, from students on spring break to families on March Break to couples embracing that frisky energy in the air.
Being outdoors and enjoying nature is one of the happiest parts of my life. Cross country skiing is in that category of happy experiences. In fact, it is probably at the very top of the list. It is an amazing way to be outside, get some fresh air and make friends. Best of all it is really easy to learn.
The French Alps are on many avid skiers "bucket lists", but the expectation that the price is prohibitive prevents many from even exploring the possibility. Extra costs for lift tickets and lessons can escalate quickly. But in Valmorel France, the all-inclusive Club Med ski resort makes managing the cost easier than ever.
Next to true sportsmanship, my other passion is people watching on the ski hills. Trends have changed since the 90's when bright neon prints were seen everywhere on the mountains. Then, in the new millennium the clothes became oversized and hanging off of skiers and snowboarders alike. Now the clothes are more refined and dare I say even chic.
I am slow as a sloth, ripping up the green runs and regularly have six year olds yelling at me to get out of their way. These four foot skiers publicly shaming me in front of their peers. Despite this, I still have a smile on my face. I love being outdoors, trying new trails and meeting wonderful people in the outdoor community.
During the wait, I had probably asked my coach, Toben, about five times what I should do about the speed. He shrugged, "You'll just have to feel this one, Kaya." Well, I felt it. The flow was there. I wasn't competing for anything or anyone but myself and instead of having the weight of the world on my shoulders, I was carrying everyone along for the ride.
I continue to be quite content to travel on my own to a town a few hours away or on a long flight around the world. It is always invigorating for me to venture out solo. Now instead of others being shocked by my willingness to travel on my own, there is a look of sympathy when I share with them that I will be going on vacation by myself. I can imagine the thoughts running through their head, "Why would a woman in her early 40s be traveling on her own? Is she newly divorced? She must be lonely."
At the beginning of my rehabilitation process, I had to find various ways to comfort myself. If the knee was or wasn't going to get better in time for the Olympics, at least I would know it much sooner than later. It was so easy to get discouraged, to give up, to wonder why I would return to skiing after it took so much from me already. So I made myself focus on what mattered.
For decades, I avoided skis, until last month when I figured I'd go for it, believing I had matured enough to avoid any reckless danger. Worst-case scenario? I'd fall a few times on a bunny hill and have a silly, self-deprecating travel article to share with you. Instead, this story is about the thrill of victory.