Confidently balancing on my board, gliding down the slope with all the grace of a gazelle, I slid for a few metres before finally landing on my chest. The last night’s fresh snow absorbed the hit every time I crashed, as I tried polishing my left and right turns on a snowboard!
A few weeks ago the lovely folks at NorthlandAdventures, in Manali, invited me to try a few days of skiing or snowboarding with them, at their ski hotel, Sethan Heights, in the town of Sethan, in Himachal Pradesh. As they mentioned it, my (first) reaction was ‘oh, bum … I can’t ski!’. Then I realised, this would mean learning something new, and I spat a Big Yes!
For the next few weeks, crashing, getting uncontrolled, and other hazards made me wince every time I thought about my decision. But To hell with it… I’d already said yes, and there was no chance I was going to say No later!
Located at 2770 metres above sea level, more than 700 metres higher than Manali, the village of Sethan, in Himachal Pradesh, is a perfect place to learn snowboarding, or skiing. Unlike the likes of nearby ski destinations, like Rohtang and Solang Valley, this is where you can practice while enjoying the exclusivity with nature.
During my 3 day stay, I saw no more than a dozen tourists in the entire town. The place where I stayed – the only ski hotel in the village Sethan, and for long distances beyond – entertained 7 tourists, out of which only three (from USA) came only for skiing, and didn’t do anything else but walk 2 hours uphill every day only to quickly slide down.
The rest of the tourist crowd was busy throwing snowballs and sipping coffee, leaving all the ski-slopes nearby the property at my disposal.And that will be the case, with you too!
Thanks to its exclusivity and unpopularity, I found Sethan just perfect!
The journey to Sethan started from the town of Prini, some 5 kilometres south of Manali. The route was itself visually stunning, if somewhat unnerving. We were welcomed with a heavy hailstorm, as soon as Prini started losing in oblivion. The hailstorm later turned into big size snowflakes. In the month of March, and with tempratures in New Delhi reaching over 30 I did not expect any snow anywhere near Manali.
But it turned out for the next three days, as I continued my stay in Sethan, only more snow followed, covering any patch of green or brown, that was visible!
Before the first day’s session, I quickly enquired my instructor, Vinod Bodh, about the difference between skiing and snowboarding. And I got an impression that I’d perhaps like snowboarding better.
For one, I realised that putting on your snowboarding gear was easier, and so was taking it off. My coach moreover sounded convinced that snowboarding is more fun – and he himself personally favoured it. Driven by the circumstances, I decided to give snowboarding a go.
Vinod went through the basics from the very beginning — from putting a snowboard on to how to slide, turn and stop. Next, I took it to tiny baby runs, a dozen or so times, under his supervision, until I was sure about handling it myself.
For the next few hours, I was on my own, experimenting with the ski and learning as I was pleased.
Unlike other ski schools often frequented by tourists, learning snowboarding or skiing was a different experience in Sethan, for in Sethan you have the exclusivity of being closer to nature and not bumping into other tourists looking hopeless with their ski.
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