It turns out that we made a perfect plan. It was probably the last weekend that skiing could happen (and even by the end of the day it was starting to get a bit mushy) and it was an absolutely beautiful day. We rode up Mike's doctor friend Izufi, who along with 4 other semi-retired and retired men and their families run the little ski hill. There was the doctor, the professor, the coach and the commissar and they were all great. Based on Mike's referral they treated us like one of the gang. We arrived up at the ski hill at about 10AM and got started right away. It seems that they have pulled together a rather impressive collection of ski clothes, ski boots and skis, you just might have to search a bit to find something that fits. In all honesty, the skis and boots that I got were not really in any worse shape than I would expect to find at most rental places in the states (ok, a little be worse shape, but serviceable for sure). The ski hill is just that, a hill. They have rigged up two rope tows- one for the beginers on the little bunny slope and one that goes to the top of a pretty steep hill. The hardest part for sure is staying on the rope tow. Gloves or no gloves, your grip slips a lot and your arms start to burn about half-way up . . .
I was able to get up to the top only twice- once holding the rope, the second time using a canvas strap wrapped around my waist to grip the rope (much easier, but more dangerous). The view from the top of the hill was gorgeous, with the whole valley and the Prespa/Ohrid Lakes in the distance. The skiing itself was as to be expected- not exactly fresh powder like I'm used to in Colorado. I did a nice faceplant on my first run down, but I'll go ahead and blame that on the skis . . .
In the afternoon (after way too much food, of course!) we convinced the doctor's son to drive us into the village of Dardhe about 5km away. The village is exactly what you would expect a perfect Albanian mountain village to be. There have been recent efforts to get tourists to come to the village, including a new hotel and plans for another ski hill (there are signs for this ski hill, but it does not actually exist yet). We were invited in to the home of some of the villagers for a coffee (that turned out to be a raki) before we headed back up the hill. By this time (and a few shots of raki later) both Garrett and I were pretty exhausted, so we found a ride back to town. The rest of the family stayed for dinner and maybe some night skiing . . .
It was maybe one of the more perfect days I've had in Albania (except maybe the wipeout). Good food, good people, good fun and skiing- what else could you ask for?
For more pictures and a video of me crashing, check out www.flickr.com/photos/