Ski mountain. From the base of Chopok (second highest mountain in the Low Tatras 2,023 meters), Olympic ski slopes descend from the clouds.
Daniel J. Stoll
To a beginner the explanation of how to sail up the hill by grabbing a pole (but not to tight) and than sticking a round piece of metal between your legs so that it rests on your behind (but not sit on) seems simple enough. Indeed up that first slope at Jasná, Slovakia's great ski resort, the trip up was easy enough. Parallel skiing down, back and forth, this skiing thing was a piece of cake.
But one doesn't learn skiing by going down the bunny hill all day. From the first tow rope it is necessary to walk a steep 300 meters in boots that crush the blood out of your toes and whose main purpose is not for walking.
Inside a wooden house that generates the next T-Bar up the mountain, the buzz in the air from excited skiers warms the frost off your cheeks. All around - Slovak, German, Hungarian, Polish and English skiers swap stories.
After 20 minutes the line thins out and the ski tracks funnel pairs to the lift. Same instructions as before, but this time the lift navigates angles over 45 degrees. Rushing in place, the T-Bar clanged around and a little black rod triggered by the right leg brought the bar for take off.
Grip this thing tight and disaster strikes. Your body will lurch forward head first crossing skis generally dizzying you as the whole lift stops at your expense. Next time around, sitting on the bar and muscles you didn't know existed will strain, keeping you in line up the mountain by sure strength until the steepness knocks you off. The third time around, terror of this wild swinging bar settles in, but before you know it, up the mountain you go.
Ready to ski. With snow only a storm away, prepare to attack the slopes.
Coming down, gentle slopes are sought after but are hard to come by. But there is a rhythm to skiing that a beginner gets the hang of: fluid, swift, in control. But inevitably ice takes your ski in a different direction or your pole jams into a mogul slapping back into your face, or a tree appears out of nowehere, creating a formidable obstacle. Skiing is also humbling.
At the bottom, the pride of accomplishment, and the memory of your battle with the mountain causes your eyes to wander back to the ski lift and another adventure upwards.
Skiing near Bratislava at Baba
The only real possiblility to take advantage of a snowy day and go skiing near Bratislava is to head 40 kilometers north along the Little Carpathian mountains to Baba, located in a snug ripple in the mountains between Pezinok and Malacky. The fresh air and pleasant view make it hard to imagine that the capital is still close by.
Once there, head for the sole lift and the lines that can get extremely long. It's as if all of Bratislava and Trnava converge on this hill on the weekends when there is snow.
Still, catch the right conditions on an afternoon weekday and the frequently icy hill can take care of that ski fix. It is a short run for experts but has its share of moguls to show off. Beginners will want to be cautious on the slope's first past, since it is steep. Baba provides enough dips to keep your bottom bruised. But it is not an intimidating hill.
Outdoor stands provide hot wine, klobasa and other items to warm the stomach and the soul. There is also a small stand from which to to rent skis. For more information about skiing at Baba call the travel agency Satur in Pezinok at 0704 / 412 348.
S&S Travel tips
Liptovský Mikuláš Information Center - Center of Liptovský Mikuláš, tel: 0849 / 514 449, 0849 / 224 18, 0849 / 514 48.
By car- From Bratislava, take E 75 heading north to Žilina for 198 Km. Switch to E 50 going east at the traffic circle in Žilina following signs for Liptovský Mikuláš (88 Km). Once in Liptovský Mikuláš take Rte. 584 south to the supberb Demänová following the road into the mountains where 15 Km later is Jasna.
By bus- There are hourly buses from Liptovský Mikuláš to Jasná. They are usually pretty packed.
The following hotels listed all offer ski equipment for the day. Prices for a complete set range from 170 - 230 Sk. For one night, prices range from 800 - 1,000 Sk for Slovaks, 1,200 - 1,400 Sk for foreigners between Christmas and New Years; 600 - 800 Sk for Slovaks, 1,000 - 1,200 Sk for foreigners the rest of the winter season.
For less expensive lodging call the information center in Liptovský Mikuláš for them to arrange a stay in a penzión for 150 to 600 Sk a night.
Hotel SNP- M ski, Jasná, tel.: 0849 / 916 61.
Hotel Junior- T Ski, Jasná, tel.: 0849 / 916 34.
Jasná- Biela Púť - Stánok nad Expressom, tel.: 0849 / 916 15.
Hotel Ski- Záradky, Jasná, tel.: 0849 / 916 02.
Hotel Repiská- Demänovská Dolina, tel.: 0849 / 915 26.
SB Šport- Bellova 4, Liptovský Mikuláš, tel.: 0849 / 514 626.
Liptrade- SNP 9 Palúdzka, Liptovský Mikuláš, tel.: 0849 / 541 140.
ITOCA Šport- Nám. osloboditeľov 3, Liptovský Mikuláš, tel.: 0849 / 246 19.
Hotel Maj- Liptovský Ján, tel.: 0844 / 263 169 ext. 89.
Jur Sport- Hlavná 260, Závažná Poruba, tel.: 0849 / 272 49.
18. Dec 1996 at 0:00 | Daniel J. Stoll