The joys of travelling and other topics

How did I end up punching myself in the ribs causing weeks of pain and a trip to A&E? Well, it all began with the simple plan of going on a snowboarding holiday, something I had wanted to do for years but hadn’t got round to. Three friends and I decided to go on a boarding holiday so firstly had to decide where to go.  We decided to stay in Europe mainly for financial reasons, but also to keep it a bit simpler so we didn’t have to bother with international flights, time changes and other things related to heading out of Europe. So, where in Europe? We decided we were looking at more of a beginner/intermediate level as my friends had been a couple of times before and this would be my first time. We were still keeping budget in mind so ruled out the Alps and the rest of Switzerland and France as they were only a little more to get there and for the board, but the food and drinks prices were vastly more. Therefore we opted for where my friends had been before as it is one of the cheapest options available – Andorra. For those of you not really in the know about Andorra, here are a few facts:

Capital: Andorra La Vella

Population: 84,864 (approx in 2010)

Size: 181 sq miles / 468 sq km

Language spoken: Mainly Spanish (officially Catalan)

Located: Land-locked between France and Spain

Estimated annual tourist visitors: 10.2 million

Fun facts: It is the 6th smallest nation in Europe and has the 4th highest life expectancy in the world, with 82 years

Arinsal from the ski lift

We chose Andorra as my friends had been there before and opted to play safe and head to Arinsal, the resort they had been to before as they were sure we would like it, we also decided to take some lessons instead of just turning up and expecting to be pros (like they had the previous year). Now, as I mentioned before I hadn’t snowboarded before, though I had done a little dry slope boarding, one day at Tamworth Snowdome a few years ago and sandboarded in Chile (which was really cool and will be discussed in a later post). My friends had, however, been before so we booked on to the intermediate lessons and I figured I’d soon catch up and be fine – I was sort of right!

We had booked the lessons (and indeed the whole holiday) through First Choice, though when we arrived in Andorra the company looking after us was Crystal. The lessons were great, taught by a really knowledgeable and skilful boarder and they organised some great nights out, but when we needed them for help they weren’t at the arranged place at the arranged time so that wasn’t great – as with all reps I think they were there to enjoy the ski/boarding season and not to do much work, though I suppose you can’t really blame them.

Achilles

We booked the holiday as a package which included the flights, apartment, gear hire, lift pass and the lessons, of which there were 4 hours on the first day and 3 hours on the following four days, so a total of 16 hours of tuition. The package worked out as only around £40 more to include the lessons than if we’d booked everything else separately, so you can’t really complain at £40 for 16 hours of tuition! We did, however, miss two lessons due to getting up late one day and venturing to Achilles (a nearby resort) another day, though it was still great value for money.

Arinsal was a great location for us as there were mostly blue runs (which are more beginner runs) and they were very wide runs with no terrifying cliff edges which is always nice, so they were perfect for us to repeatedly head down to improve our skills. We got the ski lift to Pal one day which we found a little beyond our level as they were mostly thin runs with sharp drops at the sides which when you’re still learning are a little intimidating and tended to hinder our progress. On the fourth day, on my last but one run of the day I was getting very confident and as such my concentration let me down and as I was coasting down facing downhill (on heel edge) I encountered a large build up of snow, my toe edge dug in and I went flying forward, and in the brief moment where I was air-born for some reason unknown to me I lifted my left arm out of the way but lowered my right arm into my body and made a fist….this meant that as I landed flat on the very compacted snow (virtually ice due to the lack of snowfall and it being late in the day) I effectively punched myself in the rib with the force of my own body weight which hurt, a lot! I did manage one more run but decided to finish the day there, which is a massive shame as I was just getting my confidence up and feeling comfortable on the board!

The next day, after taking a while to get my gear on as the pain was still very much there, we decided to venture away from Arinsal and headed to Achilles, which took about 45 minutes on the bus to get to. We were unlucky with snowfall in Arinsal (as in, there was none except for on our last night after we’d returned our gear!) but as Achilles was 500m higher it received a decent snowfall so we got to experience landing on soft snow, instead of compacted fake snow, which was a lot more forgiving on your body. If only my fall had been there I may not be writing this blog a couple of months later while still being able to feel the pain in my ribs! Despite the pain we had a lot of fun at Archilles and it was a great place to spend the last two days of our holiday as the slopes were a little more challenging and as we’d spent the first few days learning in Arinsal it was great to show how far we’d come in a week and to try a few mad skills on the more demanding slopes. Overall it was a fantastic holiday, I would definitely recommend Andorra, and Arinsal in particular, as a holiday destination as I fully intend to head back there next year to work on becoming a pro-boarder!

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