To say I went skiing yesterday would be an understatement.
“Skiing” is a thing I do a lot at home in New Hampshire. It usually involves frigid temperatures and scratchy turns and familiar trails and old friends. I know where the lodge is and my helmet plays my music through the earflaps and all signs on the mountain are in English, which is a convenience I’d never really noticed before now. Skiing is home.
Yesterday my friend Hunter and I took a bus to another bus to the Sierra Nevada—a ski resort tucked into the mountain range of the same name. You can see the peaks of the Sierra Nevada from almost everywhere in the city. They’re one of Granada’s most striking features, and the skyline makes for a pretty magical walk home from class.
Skiing those peaks sounded like something out of a Warren Miller movie, so Hunter and I (mostly Hunter) researched bus prices, ticket prices, and rental prices. They were totally reasonable, so we did a little jig, packed our bags, and headed into the snowy unknown.
We had no idea what the mountain was going to look like. We didn’t even know how to say “ski lodge” or “helmet” in Spanish, which we didn’t realize until we got to the mountain and tried to rent helmets/find a place to put our bags. The ski lodge was nowhere to be found, which was a problem I’d never before encountered at a ski resort. There were restaurants, there were tourist centers, and there were rental shops, but the small town at the base of the Sierra Nevada seemed completely devoid of plain-old ski lodges. I started to wonder if lodges were exclusively an American thing. (But where do people pee here? Do they all just carry their sandwiches in their coats?) Every sign we followed that claimed to lead to a “cafetería” actually led to a parking garage, and everyone we asked just kept saying “arriba! Arriba!” while pointing upwards. Did they want us to lug all of our stuff up the gondola? Did they want us to jump off the roof and stop asking them dumb questions? It was tough to tell.
Finally we decided to leave our bags with the friendly dudes who worked at the rental shop. They laughed at our confused American-ness, but in a nice way.
And then we were off! To the Telecabina Al-Andalus!
The Telecabina Al-Andalus is what we in New Hampshire would call a gondola. In New Hampshire, the gondola line is a pretty tame, boring ordeal. You wait in an organized fashion. Your hands get cold. You turn a corner realize you probably should’ve just taken the regular chairlift because the line is so damn long. In the end a dude scans your pass, gives you a nod, and directs you into a gondola with a number of people that has been deemed safe by the mountain powers that be.
Boarding the Telecabina Al-Andalus was absolutely nothing like that.
There were no lines. I don’t mean the place was empty—the boarding area was packed, there just weren’t any lines. We were all one crowd of bundled people funneling towards the gondolas as they passed. People pushed and cut in front of other people. As we got closer to the gondolas themselves, we realized that there was no dude with a scanner to load us calmly into the vehicle. The number of people per gondola depended solely on how many could squish in before the doors closed. This was an every-man-for-himself kind of situation. The locals didn’t seem bothered.
Hunter and I pushed and perdón’d our way onto our first Spanish gondola ride without losing each other or our limbs. When the doors closed, all we could do was beam at each other from across the crowded cabin. We made it! We’re here! This is happening! I would’ve taken a picture, but there wasn’t enough room to reach into my pocket.
And then, we were here.
Skiing is squarely in my comfort zone. To be doing something so familiar in such an unfamiliar place was jarring at first. Hunter and I were blindly adventuring through an enormous foreign mountain on equipment we’d never used before, surrounded by people who spoke only Spanish. It was a little scary at the beginning. But around midday, the wind on the upper mountain let up, the sun came out, and the skies cleared.
And we figured it out.
We rode this pommel lift up to an ungroomed trail that still had a few inches of powder left over from the last snowstorm.
We found burgers and beers for lunch. (The burgers had guacamole on them. As if the day wasn’t incredible enough already.)
We skied until 5pm, because the sun actually shines on the Sierra Nevada until then. The snow was soft.
And then we après’d.
Neither of us could stop smiling. Holy crap, this is still happening! And there’s hot chocolate! And more beer!
When our bus left at 6:30, we were tired and euphoric. The bus route from Granada to the Sierra Nevada is a lot like the train route from the regular world to the North Pole in The Polar Express—you’re on this narrow road built into a mountain pretty much the whole time, and every turn feels like it could be your last. On the way home, we got to watch the sunset.
I looked out over the city and thought of something my host mom had said on the first day I arrived in Granada. Poco a poco. Little by little you’ll learn the city, she told me, little by little you’ll understand the language. The brown-eyed old man who worked the desk at the Centro de Actividades Deportivas had told me the same thing a few weeks later, when I tried to register for a yoga discount that didn’t exist. Poco a poco, he’d laughed.
Before, we’d only seen the mountains from the city. Now we’ve seen the city from the mountains. And it’s a pretty damn nice view. #hannahandjulieabroad