Montenegro packs in more action per square kilometre than almost any other place I’ve ever known. It’s one of the reasons we decided to settle here! During the warmer months, kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, canyoning, para-gliding, wild-swimming, kite-surfing, zip-lining and trekking are all on offer in some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe, with stunning coastline, lakes and mountains as your playground. But what about when it gets colder?
I had never really been into winter sports before. Growing up in the U.K. in the age before budget airlines, skiing was an expensive and far-flung undertaking, something only the rich kids did in far away places I couldn’t pronounce. And that was before knee injuries playing rugby put skiing itself on the banned list before I’d even turned 20. The opportunity to hit the slopes learning to snowboard or ski simply never came a-knocking until I moved to Montenegro.
Now, as you may have seen from my last blog post, most often my winters are taken up with some absurd building project or other – but when a couple of years ago Son No:1 announced he would like to have snowboarding lessons at Kolašin’s nearby 1450 Ski Centre (2 hours drive from our door) – and after knowledgeable friends assured me that boarding was much less tough on the knees than skiing – I signed up to accompany him. Just to translate. You know, just to give him moral support.
And that, inevitably, is how I wound up a snowboarding addict.
Is it too late to learn to snowboard in your 40s?
I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t 45 a bit old to take up something so obviously designed with youngsters in mind? Boarding is the rock’n’roll to skiing’s classical guitar. It’s the punkier, slightly scruffier ne’er-do-well younger sibling, always in trouble but somehow way cooler, and therefore by most yardsticks not the kind of thing a terminally uncool middle-aged dad should be learning (I mean, check my beige Parka). And yet. As I went whizzing down the pristine runs of the new 1600 resort in Kolašin the other week, I had to consider that, annoyingly, I had discovered this awesome sport about 25 years too late.
Hitting the baby slopes…
Those in the know say that snowboarding is much harder to learn but easier to perfect than skiing. Having never attempted the latter, all I could ascertain from my first ever lesson was that the level of difficulty appeared to be directly age-related. I spent my entire first lesson slooowly “paralleling” (basically the boarding equivalent of the snowplow) down the gentle nursery slopes while Freddy and an assortment of other small children – I was the only adult – went “leafing” down the hill with ease (“leafing” is a beginner’s move when you zigzag from left to right, always facing down the slope). Early attempts to point directly down the slope resulted only in my gaining sufficient speed to neatly unbalance myself. And I’d fall on my bottom. If in my impatience I attempted to “leaf”, my back foot would swing round from underneath me, I’d end up pointing the wrong way…and I’d fall on my bottom. On your bottom, I found out, is where novice snowboarders do 99% of their falling (learners, invest in a bum pad). Or rather, adult novices. My son barely fell at all, so had plenty of good belly-laughs watching Dad “stack it” at velocities a tortoise would find tardy.
Gaining confidence and getting “goofy”
Now usually I’d have had a laugh and called it a day after such humiliation, but I was envious at how my son had so easily adapted to tricky acts of balance – not to mention instructions in a language that was not his own. The resorts at Kolašin and Vučje (equally close to us near Nikšić) have wonderfully patient, experienced instructors, so I was determined, Competitive Dad-style, not to be left behind by this over-eager squirt of a then-8yr old. It took a few more lessons, but bit by bit, I could feel myself gaining in confidence. We learned to brake and to turn on our heels (which involved a lot more falling on our bottoms). We learned to turn on our toes, which looked like defeating me completely until my canny instructor realised I preferred to ride right foot instead of left foot first, a stance that is apparently known as “goofy” (most left-handers ride this way, although interestingly, junior can do both). We learned, eventually, to flick quickly from one to another, until we learned to control our tipping points, a bit like the biting point on a clutch. And then, suddenly, it all comes together, you execute and…it becomes utterly exhilarating.
2 years later, I wouldn’t claim I am now a fully competent snowboarder. It is, however, just about the most fun I’ve ever had in -10C, and in a country like Montenegro, my new hobby hasn’t even worked out as expensive. It’s never too late to learn a new sport; when Covid has gone away, come find out for yourself on our Winter Sports Multi Activity holiday which runs January-April every year.
What does it cost?
£795pp for a week, with pretty much everything included right down to that bottle of rakija (Montenegrin grappa) by a roaring fire.
Watch our winter holiday video for inspiration!