05 February 2012

To Ski or Not to Ski

After many days of snow, we decided that we may as well just give in and go someplace where all this cold white stuff would feel like it belonged. Some place that would have more people. Some place in its on season. What better choice than Armenia's premiere ski resort? And on the weekend no less! Tsaghkadzor is only about 40 kilometers north of Yerevan, making it an ideal getaway for the capital city's weekenders.
Old taxis competed with four wheelers for the non-icy side of the main road. The big, loud toys were for rent, which meant that there were a lot of inexperienced people zooming around the struggling Ladas and beeping at the Land Rovers with deep tinted windows that squeezed through as the evening approached. Every now and again, a snow mobile would pass through the town square. We figured there weren't more of them because four-wheelers are a better all year round rental investment.
Somehow, the number of wheels on the road never seemed to translate into people. So, Saturday morning, after two nights of eating dinner in basically empty restaurants we followed a little cluster of people to see where they were headed. None of them were dressed for skiing. The young women wore high heeled boots and the men, slender toed dress shoes and shiny sneakers. Up a hill we followed them to a sort of bobsled run carved out of a hill's deep snow. Down they were sent on deflated inner tubes as Maroon 5 blasted on a speaker and back up they were pulled by a poma lift with a Christmas tree, tinseled and spinning, affixed to the top.
In the main square, an uneven ice skating rink and a few kids on runner sleds slipped around. Nearby, the people who were really not interested in any sort of snow sport visited the Kecharis Monastery. Before heading into a small mass, they would take pictures outside of the 11th century church. A bearded monk welcomed us in for the service, but we declined.
It was really very beautiful and, as any premiere ski resort's ancient monastery should be outfitted, a big crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling inside. It cast rainbow light glitter on the old carpets and paintings in the chapel. After a pleasant visit, we began to wonder not "To Ski or Not to Ski? but, rather, "Where the heck are all the skiers?" Aside from the small rack of skis and boots for rent in our hotel lobby, we had yet to see any signs of actual skiing.
They were all up on the ski mountain of course! The sun was shining and music blared. A big yellow building outfitted novices with equipment and coffee was had in a cafe decorated with photographs of figure skaters. There were foreigners ready to really go for it and teenagers all geared out, but it still felt like a new phenomenon to a lot of the locals around our age or older. Never have we seen so many faded jeans and tight leather jackets on a ski slope. One man led a young woman, struggling in stilettos and encased in fur back toward their Range Rover - one of many lined up in the parking lot. People with skis on looked like they were having a much better time. Teenagers were geared out and proficient.
Unfortunately, we were forced out of town before the weekend was over. Big banners hanging on all the central hotels alerted us to the "BRIDGE International Economists Forum" taking place. A mix of foreign accents descended upon Tsaghkadzor and scooped up every last hotel room. It's always exciting to see a small town at full whirl, readying itself for a big event. A local camera man was settling in as we drove out.

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