Sol y Nieve Part 2
The sunsets and sunrises in the mountains during our mini ski break were glorious. Our cupboard of an apartment looked right out onto Veleta and the ski slopes and the early and late sun cast dazzling light on the snowy peaks. It really did feel surreal that we were in this winter wonderland of a place just a short drive from our very traditional Andalucian village and, in the other direction, the Mediterranean sea. On clear days, such as we had, from the top of Veleta, you can see the Rif Mountains of north Africa.
We had all caught the sun from our first afternoon of skiing, but despite rosy faces we were keen to get out as soon as we could. I was delighted that Lucie and Hannah were both loving it. I had worried that Lucie might not have enjoyed herself, but then she is very different now from the schoolgirl who had such an inauspicious start. It helped both Hannah and Lucie that they had each other, and I was pleased that I also had company on the green runs.
Company notwithstanding, I kept falling off the bloody chair lift. Everyone else dismounted with apparent ease while I found myself splayed constantly at the foot of slope. Mind over matter! I had decided that the chair lifts were my nemesis, and had to be conquered.
Andrew, James and George, meanwhile, were distant dots on mountainsides who, every now and again, would carve their way down to join us at the busy cafe at the bottom of our slopes.
I had a slight meltdown on the Friday of our trip. Once again, we got up early to beat any rush, although during the week there really doesn’t seem to be any rush. We decided we’d do the first run together, all six of us. so Andrew came up on the chairlift for moral support. I fell off at the end. I then proceeded to fall down twice as we tried a new green run and my sense of humour just vanished. I was probably tired and I was also annoyed that I was not enjoying myself as much as I should have been. So, I admitted defeat for that day and let the others enjoy the stunning weather and the great skiing conditions as they improved with every downhill run. I had a few drinks and we met up for lunch before I trotted back to the apartment for a snooze. I should have gone off to the little nursery slopes again, just to rediscover my confidence, but I didn’t; I just got a bit grumpy. I took solace from the knowledge that one of our friends had a similar experience recently, with an equally ‘off’ day made worse by being left behind by the rest of the party.
The next day, our last, I started off on my own and quickly got back on the proverbial horse. It doesn’t take much to regain confidence; you just have to do it by yourself sometimes.
In the meantime, James and George had tackled an horrific-looking black run - a steep slope that you cannot see, apparently, until you are actually staring over the lip. Lucie, Hannah and I were sitting in the bar as we watched what turned out to be the pair of them hurtling down this almost vertical run. Andrew explored as many of the surrounding red runs as he could find and our WhatsApp group was alive with photos from various locations. On the afternoon of my ‘off’ day, the girls had decided to place their trust in the boys to try out a new green run and they all got on the chairlift to sample the new challenge. They took the wrong lift and ended up at the top of a fairly challenging blue run. Hannah wept and Lucie had a fit - described by both James and George as possibly the worst fit of Lucie’s they had yet witnessed, so that is saying something. Andrew thought it prudent to ski off momentarily. The solution was to remove skis and bum shuffle down the steepest part of the slope, so the fit was quickly forgotten. The One-Slope-Wonders were back on safer ground.
Despite my off day, we had a fantastic time. One of the prime reasons for our moving to Spain was so that we saw more of family and friends, and this week was exactly what we had hoped for. We loved seeing everyone have such a great time. The Sierra Nevada is perfect for beginners and good intermediates. The varied runs provided plenty of scope for James, George and Andrew to get back into their collective strides; they are all very good skiers. For Lucie, Hannah and I it gave us confidence to enjoy the sport. I overcame my wobble, and I was hugely proud to see Hannah and Lucie getting better and better and loving it all. It was extremely gratifying to see James back skiing and so excited about it, after one or two ghastly injuries suffered whilst playing rugby a few years ago.
On our last day, Hannah, Lucie and I took the gondola lift back down to Pradollano after our final run (the slope to the town is a fairly steep blue -intermediate level- run) and we could see our three excellent skiers making their way downhill on the long slope, and they made it look so easy. Towards the bottom of this homeward slope, there is the little Veuve Clicquot bar, the place we had all hoped would be our stop-off point at the end of every day. From our gondola cabin, we saw Andrew slow down as he approached the bar, hoping that James and George might slow down too, to join him for a celebratory cup, but they had already gone. We saw the longing look towards the tables on the terrace and the resigned shrug before Andrew took to the slopes for his final descent.
Our last day was a Saturday and we certainly noticed the increase in human traffic from Friday afternoon onwards. The queues for the ski lifts which had, up until Friday afternoon, been short suddenly grew in size to become one merged mass of people. The green slopes that had been our constant friends were now dotted with many more people - snow-ploughing learners, falling snowboarders, groups of children with their instructors like little lines of ducklings. It had taken on a new dimension and was much more frenetic. I don’t think any of us minded letting go at that stage, knowing that we would certainly be back.
As we drove away from the resort, the queues of cars heading to where we had just left were staggering. I am not sure I would have attempted that drive on a Saturday or Sunday just to be stuck in a queue for the best part of the afternoon. Some drivers had decided to park up anywhere they could see snow and valiantly tried to entertain their children by throwing snowballs as some consolation. Within an hour, we were once again in the sunny countryside surrounding Moclín. In the near distance we could see the white mountains where we had just been skiing, and it just didn’t seem real. As we enjoyed the second part of our holiday with the children, we all realised just how lucky we are to have all of these stunning places on our doorstep.