On the joys of winter, and embracing nature and family on the slopes. "Oh my God, snow!", a first-year friend of mine shrieked at the first snowfall in early December. She then raced out of our flat as the rest of us looked on confused. Having grown up in Miami, she had never seen snow before. At the time, I was right to think the pathetic flakes had no chance of surviving, but it wasn't long before a blizzard hit New York and she was able to experience the true meaning of "winter wonderland".
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with snow. Actually, I pretty much love it, except in the city. That's because you don't really get to enjoy it in Manhattan. The snow barely has a chance to settle before snowploughs come out of nowhere to make sure that traffic can proceed as normal, while the sidewalks turn into a slush-covered disaster as pedestrians, bundled from head to toe, try to avoid slipping and getting wet while ducking head-on collisions with other pedestrians doing likewise.
I say be done with cars: why not let the streets get covered in fluffy, snowy delight so that there is one gorgeous blanket covering the city? People will just be happier that way. There must be a scientific study to explain why it makes people run around throwing snowballs, making snowmen and laying down in the cold stuff just to make snow angels, and, if you happened to be at Columbia University campus when the blizzard hit, using wooden planks and cafeteria trays as sleds on the main steps. Logic doesn't apply when everything is covered in snow. Nature has taken over, and people seem to remember suddenly that they like to play.
While to some people snow is synonymous with cold weather or Christmas, for me it signifies the beginning of ski season. Since I was six, the winter holidays meant that we took a family ski trip, and to this day, it's one of the things I look forward to most in the year. Although some people might consider skiing quite dangerous, I find it is the perfect antidote to a stressful semester. In addition to the childish glee I get from zooming down the slopes and yelling challenges at my sister to see who can get down faster, it's also a relaxing sport. There is nothing as comforting as swerving between evergreens with just the quiet swish of skis to accompany you. In ideal weather, the sun beats down against the white mountainside, causing it to glitter in the most beautiful way.
When you think about it, there is something reckless about skiing. I would like to have been present when the first person decided, "Hey, I'm going to attach two wooden sticks to my feet and hurl myself down a mountain." Someone standing by must have been thinking "what an idiot". There's no denying the danger - I know people who have torn knee ligaments - but it's still such ridiculous fun. I have many friends and family members back in the Emirates who take advantage of the cooler months to go away camping in the desert, to escape city life and spend time in nature. My family's skiing trips serve the same purpose. I willingly give up the internet and my phone (or at least leave them to a minimum), and it is the one time of year when my daily routine revolves around healthy eating so that I can take full advantage of my time on the mountain.
Every morning I pile on four or five layers (thermals, sweaters and T-shirts) just to make sure I can spend all afternoon, until the ski lifts close, out in the open. More importantly, I get to spend a lot of time with my siblings and my parents as we enjoy the mountains for hours, spending nights around a fireplace sharing stories from the day. So while my friends joke that it is unorthodox for an Emirati family to have a tradition that involves snow, skiing is possibly my favourite sport: after football, of course.