Hitting the slopes in Bulgaria

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Have you ever experience an event that you felt completely redefined you as a family? A ‘life changing moment’ sounds like one of those horribly corny affirmations from the kinds of books that I make fun of Colin for reading. I cringe just typing it.

But that’s what happened two days ago when we all skied down a mountain together in Bulgaria.

OK well in truth Colin snowboarded … but you get the idea.

All ‘skiing’ together, all enjoying the same activity equally. To have found something that we can all do together and enjoy equally that doesn’t really have an age barrier that defines ability … wow.

We’ve enjoyed a lot of activities as a family but not quite like this. Not where we’ve felt like such a team. A few years yet until we’re not letting them win at races and sports. As much as we loved the Perhentian Islands, we can’t all scuba dive together for another six years. It will be a while before the kids can keep up with us hiking. Not that we want to hike! But if you’ve ever watched young children zooming around the ski slopes you’ll know that kids can hold their own when it comes to skiing. As adults we have more strength and finesse of turns but the kids make up for that with a singular lack of fear. No fear of speed, no fear of going off piste to explore the trees.

And in Noah’s case, no fear of throwing himself off a jump even after only a few days on skis. He won’t land it but he doesn’t care. He’s going to keep trying.

Finding a sport we can all do together that we all love has pretty much changed our entire plans for the next few years. Have we made any plans … well no. But our plans for plans … they’re changing!

That whole ‘lets move to Penang where it’s always hot’ decision was perhaps a little premature. Oopsy. I’m sure we’ll figure out a way to spend summers in Penang and winters at a ski resort. Luxury villas in Italy, Switzerland or Canada are out of the question but ski chalets in Bulgaria are really cheap. Anyone want to go us halves? Or do a house swap with us? There must be someone out there with Swiss or Italian villa rentals that wants to hang out in Penang right?

Hanging out in Bansko, Bulgaria

The past two weeks we’ve been in Bansko, Bulgaria’s most developed ski resort. And it really is well developed – the facilities are on-par with ski resorts in the rest of Europe at a fraction of the price. Of course in comparison to other Bulgarian resorts Bansko is really expensive … but then the facilities and runs are much better so there’s a reason.

I’m working on a costings/details post but in the meantime, since it’s Photo Friday here the photos from the past two weeks and what we’ve been up to.

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Week One

Colin is a snowboarder from way back so he spent the first week exploring the mountain. Noah, Hayley and I were still figuring out the whole skiing thing so we entertained ourselves with playing on the nursery slopes. Stopping, turning, getting ready for lifts and generally trying not to fall down.

I started out the week with a deathly fear of skiing after a bad experience 15 years ago when I had one lesson and crashed into the chair lift queue. Or more accurately, crashed into the gorgeous Austrian chair lift operator. For a self-conscious 19 year old that was pretty much a ‘scarred for life’ experience. Or so I thought. Three days of lessons with a great instructor and I’m cured! 

Our first ten days was spent with Theodora and Z from Travels With a Nine Year Old so the kids spent a lot of time finding the biggest pile of snow around and sliding on it. Sliding on bottoms. Sliding on skis, sliding on snowboards (even when they were supposed to be in a snowboarding lesson), sliding on sleds …

… and experimental “what happens if we dive off the edge of the run into the powder on our skis” sliding …

Did I mention that whole ‘no fear’ thing? It mightn’t look it but they were two metres down a fairly steep drop sinking into several feet of powder. Fun to get down there … even more fun to get out of again.

If they weren’t sliding, the kids were experimenting with a new diet of snow …

and chocolate …

Quality parenting right? I’m sure snow and chocolate are important parts of the food pyramid.

Week Two

After a week of playing around, we finally got the kids in private lessons with an excellent instructor Colin had met through snowboarding friends he’d made up the mountain.

Three days later, Noah and Colin were taking blue runs together. Hayley even managed a blue run with her instructor on the final day and mastered the basics.

Learning to ski myself and discovering that there’s actually a sport I’m pretty OK at after a lifetime of thinking I’m rubbish at … well just about anything athletic … is a fantastic feeling. Seeing my 6 and 4 year old zoom down the same runs that I’ve just mastered myself … now that’s truly amazing.

On our last day on the mountain … the aforementioned ‘magical’ day, Noah took a blue run from the top of the mountain to the base following Colin off the edge of the runs and racing his way around turns. In total, a 14km run from 2600m above sea level down to 1000m. Yep this is mum bragging! I’m not really one for bragging but I think that’s brag worthy.

The last half 8km we all skied together, including Hayley. She was so proud she even insisted on doing the last 2km by herself – much of it so flat she had to use poles. Which at 4 years old is a complete lesson in futility. But she kept trying. There were a few meltdowns (not only from her) as we inched our way along the last 2km but she made it.

15 days and we finished wishing we could stay longer. We would have except even at cheap Bulgarian prices, 15 days in Bansko was the limit of our funds. It was either stay longer and skip Paris and Euro-Disney at the end of our trip, or leave now and squeeze in a quick visit to the Eiffel Tower and Mickey Mouse.

As much as the kids loved skiing you can probably guess what they chose!

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