While my exchangee John was learning to cope with a cottage on Wombat Hill in Daylesford without air conditioning in summer, with flies, tarantulas and other insects, I was learning to cope with snowy footpaths and icy roads, learning to understand and dress for chill factors.
My beloved leather soled boots were completely inadequate. I still remember slipping and falling on my bottom as I first walked up the icy footpath towards the front doors of ‘Kam High’, much to the amusement of mingling students, many of whom arrived, cowboy hat and boots commonplace, in family pick up utes from nearby cattle ranches.
Another adjustment involved driving, not only on the right side of the road, but on icy winter roads. John had left an old car, complete with snow tyres, in the basement garage for me to drive. My early attempts at driving on icy local roads featured the car slewing from side to side and my valiantly trying to put it back in the basement garage without wrecking it before phoning a local driving instructor for some lessons in managing to drive on icy roads.
It wasn’t long before some friendly staff members, keen for me to enjoy my time in Canada, invited me to go with them to Harper Mountain while they were taking their children there to ski.
I agreed, however was quite worried – I had never skied in my life! I had also completely failed at ice skating, which apparently would have helped me to snow plough. In fact, I was quite remedial at sport altogether!
Feeling terrified, but trying to look confident, I was measured for skiis. Skiis on, I plodded towars the fairly primitive hand held pulley system which pulled up the learners hill to a pole containing the other end of a pulley mechanism at the top of the hill.
With encouraging words, my well intentioned friends disappeared to watch their children. I think were so used to snow, to skiing, to managing icy conditions, they didn’t think anyone would find it difficult!
Before I knew it, I was valiantly clutching on to the steel rope and whizzing up the beginners’ hill. Suddenly the pole at the top was looming. Then, a ‘freeze frame’ moment during which I realized that I needed to ski off, pronto! How could possibly I let go of the cable I had been valiantly clutching for the past few minutes to ski on to the ski field? I didn’t know how to ski!
Still in ‘freeze frame’ mode, I found myself wrapped around the ski pole, winded and disoriented, gratefully accepting bystander help to get up. Not only was I wrapped around the pole, but my skis had become tangled and – where were my poles!
Another challenge loomed. I was in no condition to keep skiing and needed to get down the mountain (beginners hill)… But, I couldn’t … ski!!!
What was I to do….??? Fortunately someone gave me instructions about how to free style down the hill, knees bent, ski poles tucked by my side.
I pushed off fearfully, free styling towards the first aid centre at the bottom of the hill. For a fleeting moment I felt the adrenalin rush which leads others to become addicted to skiing, then managed to slow down without disgracing myself!
If I had my time again, I would have gone on to take lessons, as I had done to adjust to driving on icy roads.
However, I never had my time again. Wrapping myself around the pole had led to cracked ribs! I endeavoured to keep teaching during the six weeks they took to heal, however by then the snow season was over.
Although I never learnt to downhill ski, when wintery conditions returned later that year, I learnt to cross country ski. While,never truly confident, I did enjoy following trails through snow covered pine forested areas near Kamloops.
I still have vivid ‘post trauma’ memories of the ‘summer’ I tried to learn to ski on Harper Mountain. Almost a year later, after having experienced late winter, spring, summer and early winter of 1982 in Canada, I left the snow topped Rocky Mountains for a month in sunny Mexico before heading back to summer drought and the new school year in Australia.