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Slovaks were born on skis

MANY of my Slovak friends tell me they were still in diapers when they first stood on synthetic planks and braved the slopes of the High Tatras. Now they glide down the snowy hills so fearlessly and gracefully, it makes me want to exclaim, "Wow, it's as if you were born on skis!" And the truth is, they almost were.

"Skiing dwarves" are among the scourges of the slopes.(Source: SITA)

MANY of my Slovak friends tell me they were still in diapers when they first stood on synthetic planks and braved the slopes of the High Tatras. Now they glide down the snowy hills so fearlessly and gracefully, it makes me want to exclaim, "Wow, it's as if you were born on skis!" And the truth is, they almost were.

As someone who grew up in mid-west America, renowned for its plains, I considered skiing an exotic sport for rich people to show off expensive equipment: matching pants, jackets, glasses glinting in the sun, high-tech boots, and state-of-the-art (najmodernejšie) skis.

The element of showing off (machrovanie) exists in Slovakia, but skiing is not prohibitively expensive (neúmerne nákladné), so the exclusivity is not as pronounced.

My special costume for skiing adventures is pieced together from discarded elements of worn clothing and equipment. My ski pants with built-in pads are from 1979 and were a hand-me-down (zdedené po niekom z rodiny) from my mother-in-law. Despite having the gear, I haven't become a great skier while in Slovakia, but I do make progress and have moments of grace.

I fall into the category of beginner, but there are several distinct groups of skiers, not necessarily based on skill, worth mentioning.

The smallest of them, the 'skiing dwarves', or child daredevils, have a centre of gravity so close to the ground they zoom down the slopes like lightning.

The teenage snowboarders huddle (zhlukujú sa) in giggling groups and show off their skill and coordination.

The ageless skiers are among my favourite. They're about no frills, competent skiing. Beware, though, that sometimes these turn out to be drunken skiers in disguise.

Here are some useful phrases I have picked up on my skiing adventures:

Spadla som, ale som v poriadku. (I fell, but I'm OK.)

Čakajte! (Wait!)

Kde sa stretneme, ak vas stratím? (Where will we meet if I lose track of you?)

Nepredbiehajte sa, prosím! (Don't cut in line, please!)

Jeden čaj a dva rumy si prosím. (One tea and two rums, please.)

Nič nevidím! (I can't see anything!)

Má to bolieť tu aj tu aj tu? (Is it supposed to hurt here and here and here?)

Nemôžem ešte lyžovať. Som opitá. (I can't ski yet. I'm drunk.)

These may not be the most useful phrases for all the experts out there, but, perhaps, when you hear someone yelling "Pomóc!" (Help!) with a strange accent, you'll take pity on them for their plains upbringing and ski to the bar with them.

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