Published: May 9th 2012January 22nd 2012
Even though my parents were trying to convince me to join them on their yearly skiing trip for quite a while now, somehow I always opted for sun holidays. Living in a country where I am cold most of the time, either due to no sun or never-ending winds, it always seemed like a logical choice. This time though the choice was made for me! Somewhere back in 2011 when we were talking with my family about my sister’s upcoming birthday (and quite a significant one for that matter!), she came up with an idea of a family winter holiday! Let me just start by saying that I haven’t tried any winter sports before, while my parents have been doing cross-country skiing the last few years, and my sister have studied on the Sports Academy and obviously she tried all kinds of sports there. Sooo basically I was totally unprepared! But excited at the same time! I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do – cross-country with my parents, snowboarding with my sis (she did skiing before so wanted to try something new), or maybe just skiing? Hmmm... Tough choice...
Choosing the spot for holidays turned out
to be pretty easy. My parents were skiing in the south of Poland and Czech Republic before and they said there were great slopes as well as routes for country-skiing there, which basically suited all of us, so after looking at some hotels we decided we would go to Harrachov!
I was planning to get in shape, at least a bit, before going (since I’m not fit at all), but as the days flew by and the trip came closer and closer, the plans stayed only plans after all. And before I noticed, it was time to get some skiing clothes, pack and go!
When we landed in Wroclaw I started having doubts if we were going to do any skiing at all, since there were no traces of snow around. But as we were getting closer to the mountains, snow finally started to appear and once we reached Szklarska Poreba all the doubts disappeared as it was white all around. And as we got further and passed the Polish-Czech border we saw even more snow! At some point we thought we would have to leave the car behind as there was so much snow that
the roads were simply impassable – we actually passed a few abandoned cars on the road to the hotel! Also more and more clouds were coming in our direction so there was even more snow on the way! But eventually we made it to the hotel with no problems at all. When we got to the hotel, it seemed as if we just entered a huge ashtray! A mist made of cigarette smoke spreading all around the lobby and the reception area didn’t exactly make a great first impression on us – looks like Czech Republic hasn’t joined the countries where smoking is banned from public places yet, I have to say I was quite surprised about that but then I never really looked into it but just assumed that all around EU smoking would be banned by now ... Silly me... Besides the stinky lobby, no complains about the hotel – the rooms were very nice and clean, the view great and it was located pretty close to the slopes.
The first evening we went for a walk around Harrachov, looking for skiing & snowboarding rentals/schools and some food. There was a bit of chaos all around
though – first of all, the clouds finally reached us and it was snowing pretty bad at this point, also due to large quantities of snow (basically there were walls of snow on each side of the road), there was only one lane available for the cars as well as pedestrians which meant the cars were getting stuck on the road trying to pass each other or people by and the unfortunate ones which stopped only for a moment, couldn’t go up the road anymore as it was simply too slippery all around. So walking seemed like the fastest way of getting around. But then since it was constantly snowing and the temperatures were dropping, we got wet and frozen in no time at all, so after checking the prices at one rental – the guy didn’t seem to be interested in making any money on us – we left and decided we would just ask at the hotel what they recommend. Instead we went searching for some warm place to eat and drink, as some of us (obviously not me ;)) were getting a bit grumpy from being hungry already. There were quite a few cosy places to
choose from, so shortly after, we were defrosting and warming up in a lovely restaurant, eating knedliki (bread dumplings – yum!) and goulash and sipping lovely Czech beer. Contrary to what might seem, I really don’t need much to be happy! :)
Next day, after breakfast, the moment of truth came to make up my mind and decide finally what I wanted to do… And so I went for the most logical option – snowboarding! My sister really wanted to go snowboarding and going skiing alone wouldn’t be probably as much fun as trying something new together, so snowboarding it would be then! We went near the slopes in search for a rental place which was recommended to us at the hotel. Harrachov is pretty small so we were there in no time. And half an hour later had our lessons booked, our snowboarding gear ready and were waiting for our instructor. In the meantime, happy that ‘the kids’ had everything organised for the day, my parents took their skis and went to Jakuszyce (Polish side) to start their country-skiing adventure.
Until lunch time, we were practicing all the basics – how to keep balance on
hmmm... sounds about right? :)
it's better to have a belly from beer than a hump from work!
the board, stop (the most important for me actually!), turn and all that. So basically it meant clicking the boots in and out – good for my six-pack (one day to be at least – still full of hopes!), sliding on the board (or in most cases falling on butt or face) and walking uphill with the boards. Since sliding takes much less time than going up, we did a fair bit of walking that day – to be honest I haven’t had so much exercise in quite a while! The whole experience was a lot of fun, that’s for sure!
After lunch we were meant to go up the slope to practice some more turns… This time it wouldn’t be walking up the hill but using the T-bar lift, easier right? It would definitely seem that way. My sister managed to go up the second time, it was a bit worse for me though. The track on the T-bar lift was pretty icy at this point, so unfortunately after falling a couple of times and quickly getting off the track to let the ‘professionals’ pass by, I gave up. Lida (our lovely instructor) was trying to convince
me to try again but after seeing 10-year olds passing me by, having no problems whatsoever with keeping their balance, too embarrassed to be falling over and over again I told Lida to go practice with my sister and went on the side to practice on my own a bit. I know I can be stubborn at times! Ah well… I decided to give the T-bar lift a try another day with new energy and spirits! Still it was a great day and really enjoyed it! After lovely hot shower at the hotel, it was time to get some food and wash it down with some beers again! Tough life!
Next day, with aching body, we went to Szklarska to do some winter shopping. We walked a bit around shops, bought a couple of things and later on stopped in a restaurant to have some warm soup and an apple pie – quite addicted to apple pies on this holiday! Straight away we saw difference in prices – being much cheaper on the Czech side obviously. Still it was totally worth it to taste some lovely barszcz again! There were no plans for skiing or snowboarding today,
but that changed in the afternoon as we went to check out the rental places and it turned out it was cheaper to rent the snowboards here than on the Czech side, so we took them for the rest of the week. And since we had the equipment and were close to the slopes, it would’ve been a shame not to practice a bit here! Soon after we bought the ski passes from a couple that was just getting off the slopes – couldn’t get a better deal! And what’s even more important, there was a normal ski lift here (with chairs), so a big relief for me… we managed to go twice down the slope before it was closing time, and have to say it was great, not too steep, perfect for beginners. It still was quite embarrassing seeing 5-year-olds sliding with the speed of light next to me while I was slowly zigzagging down the slope, actually trying not to gain too much speed as that would only mean even more painful fall was on its way. Great fun anyhow!
The day after we booked half a day with Lida again, hoping we would learn a few
more tricks. We got the ski passes and the fun begun once again. It wasn’t snowing today and it was around -10C so the visibility was great, but the slopes were a bit icy because of that. Still we felt a bit more confident today after practicing the day before so it didn’t bother us at all. We tried the slopes on both sides of the mountain, even the red one! Was pretty steep at some spots, so my knees were in bits from breaking all the time, but there were definitely less falls that day – but then I guess one fall made up for all, as I hit my head so hard that I almost saw the stars (thank God for taking the helmets at the last moment!), I just heard Lida was saying something to me but couldn’t make out what was going on. I managed to get up after a while though with pounding head, sat on the side and after a while was ready to slide again. Lida said that she had thought at some point that I had a concussion and would need to go to a hospital cause I wasn’t reacting to anything
she was saying. But all turned out to be ok after all. After saying goodbye to Lida and having a cup of coffee we went up the slope again to make good use of our passes – me being even more cautious at this point and just taking it easy for the rest of the day.
Next day we went on the Polish side again. Since it was the last day of snowboarding for me, I gave it all my best. It was quite hard cause at this point all my muscles and bones were way beyond sore, I basically couldn’t lift my arms anymore, but then it felt good at the same time as I actually had proof that I did some exercise…
Our last day my sister went snowboarding on her own, while I joined my parents for some cross-country skiing… I thought I might try it as well, to see which one I liked more! It looked like it was going to be a pretty cold day as it was -17C when we left Harrachov, but thankfully it became a bit warmer later on and stayed around -10C. We went to Jakuszyce as many routes
start from there. After we rented the skis for me, I decided to practice a bit around the rental place with my mom, while we waited for my dad to drop off the car. And of course in this short period of time I almost broke my elbow! First of all let me just say that cross-country skiing looks much easier than it actually is! So thinking I was a pro, I started pretty fast, not knowing how to break… which obviously means that the first fall was really painful as totally not being used to using the ski poles I actually forgot I had them in my hands, so once falling I was still thinking I could save myself from total embarrassment and gently touch the ground with my hands first, but then one of the poles got stuck in the ground, pulling and twisting my elbow (and the rest of my body followed soon after that) in such an awkward way that once I hit the ground I just fell this pulsing pain coming from my arm and really thought that was the end of skiing for me… but it seemed that luck was on my side again
and all turned out to be just fine. Besides there was no time for lying in the middle of the skiing tracks and moaning from pain as a bunch of skiers was coming fast in my direction so I could do nothing else but pick up my stuff and quickly move far away from there! Anyway… pretty stressful start! But thankfully that was the only drama that day (not even counting the 2 more falls that followed later on) and it turned out to be a truly rewarding experience - I was tired as hell (good workout that’s for sure!) but made it to the end in one piece and on top of that saw some amazing landscapes on the way - just great! I enjoyed it so much that I actually might try it again in the future!
Overall we had a great time that week – snowboarding and skiing until the late afternoon, hot shower or relaxing in the sauna later on and all that followed by lovely food and beers in the evenings! I say both, Harrachov and Szklarska Poreba, are great places for winter holidays – totally recommended!
Just a small note for
anyone who would like to visit this place, English is not very common here as people rather speak German in this region. Using your hands or smiling is a great way of communicating as well (worked great for us), so as the saying goes: dla chcacego nic trudnego (nothing is impossible to a willing mind)!
There are more photos below