Magazine Nov/Dec 2012 Tsakhkadzor Tap Dance

01 November 2012, 10:00
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Tsakhkadzor Tap Dance

Yerevan has a real winter this year. Full of snow. Yet, I am heading to Tsakhkadzor. “What’s the point of wasting time and money?” wonder my friends. “There is enough snow in the city.” But as the saying goes, “Rabbits are not just precious fur...” Similarly, snow is not just a kind of precipitation, but also skiing, snowboarding, quadrocycling, snowmobiling, ski lifts, and many other similarly risky-sounding endeavors. And all that adrenaline is awaiting me in the Tsakhkadzor, the Valley of Flowers.

Which is the most delicious coffee? Parisian? Eastern? Arabica? Absolutely not. It is the canned coffee in my car. I am driving early in the morning on a frozen highway to the countryside, cursing everything in the world for the preposterously early hour displayed on the clock. But as soon as I take a sip of the coffee, I cheer up a little. Suddenly I notice a rather strange road sign on the way to Tsakhkadzor. It states “Kecharis” – a monastery in Tsakhkadzor – with an arrow pointing to a 180 degree turn. People. Ignore that sign and don’t side turn. A bit farther ahead, there will be another sign. And what kind of clone of Kecharis is hidden in the parallel reality there is quite unclear. So I finish my coffee. Maybe now things will come a bit to order.

My decision regarding the coffee was absolutely the right one. I can’t say
that all was clarified, but after entering Tsakhkadzor, I stopped worrying about anything else. And here is the ski lift. It ooks rather civilized and safe. It’s just 
the insurance companies’ billboards around that seem somewhat too relevant. Well, they can’t scare me. The ski track is clearly visible from the lift. Little figures are going down the slope at quite a high speed. What’s that? Has someone fallen down? Does it mean that it isn’t so easy 
to snowboard? Hmm... maybe at first I should take a sled ride. Sleds or tubes at high speeds would not be so embarrassing. They actually seem rather exciting – just another way of getting an adrenalin rush. The snowboards can wait for now. The sled slope is only 300 meters long – a fact that, frankly, takes my fears away. I just have to sit, slide down and get up. Heck, this is fun. However, as it turns out, the path back is not so pleasant; a simple mechanism is pulling me, sitting in the bottomless tube, up the snowy slope. After just one round of polishing someone’s footprints with 
my bottom, the tube-sliding fun is over. Nevertheless, I don’t regret the time spent; at this point I am done with my fear of the ski track, snowboards and skis.

A break for the night. Then up the snow slope again. You can surely drive or
walk around in Tsakhkadzor. But the most enjoyable way is to travel on a snowmobile or a quadrocycle. Every size and color of them are lined up for rent
by the Kecharis Church. If you can drive a car, motorcycle or scooter, you won’t have any problem operating these either. And if you don’t have these skills, don’t worry – the owners will accompany you and provide necessary instructions. First, I climbed onto a snowmobile, which was an experience of pure joy. For one thing, neither wind nor snow reaches your face and hands, thanks to the plastic shield; and secondly, snow or icy roads are not a problem. Besides, even riding at a low speed, you feel like flying. After returning to the base, I instantly switched to a quadrocycle. Riding a quadrocycle turned out to be even easier than riding a snowmobile – the wheel is less flexible, which leaves less room for mistakes. But take my advice: never turn away offered gloves, goggles and other accessories. There is no plastic shield on a quadrocycle. And if you don’t want to come back to Kecharis with a frozen smile on your face, you will need the right outfit. Riding on a snowmobile can be scored 10 on a ten-point adrenalin rush scale, whereas riding a quadrocycle will get an 11 and a half. The snow and the ice will not frighten you, but at the same time, you will get an immediate experience with them. You feel the speed, and it becomes harder to avoid various obstacles springing up on the road. And that, of course, adds to the excitement of the ride. After I paid my quadrocycle instructor, he asked me which ride I liked most. Of course, I answered that his ride was much better, and noted to myself that I participated in the ongoing contest for customer satisfaction.

After twenty-minutes of sharing the excitement of my snowmobile and quadrocycle rides, I took the ski lift again. The goal was clear: I had to stand on skis and a snowboard. It was the zero hour I was waiting for and feared most of all. “It is easy to learn to ski, but rather difficult to master it, while a snowboard will make you fall down for the first three days, but then you will become a skilled rider,” explained the instructor. “Easy” is not interesting. But standing on the skis together with my instructor makes it more attractive. Obviously, such a ride couldn’t last long. Soon enough my feet – I was the one behind – started splitting apart, and the man with ski poles (let’s call him the skier who agreed to such a crazy adventure) found it difficult to make turns with an extra fifty kilograms behind him. On the other hand, we entertained all the tourists 
and skiers around. I even noticed that we generated a small crowd of followers, who were clever enough to practice not on a steep slope, but in safer terrain. Old friends and married couples displayed miracles of mutual understanding, steering a single pair of skis together. Perhaps this will become a new kind
of sport one day – Armenian skiing. Happiness – no matter what philosophers say – is when there is plenty of clean snow around and nothing prevents you from experiencing it first-hand. However, the bonding with snow should be alternated by frequent and brief hot tea breaks in the ski lounge between the second and third ski lift lines. Most importantly, it is warm in here. As soon as my frozen extremities thawed out, I looked around. Black-and-white photos of skiers were displayed under the glass tables tops, and skis and snowboard boots decorated the walls. All this could have been great had they not resembled hunting trophies on display. I certainly hope that after a day of skiing, my skis won’t hang like this. The lounge was noisy and cheerful: cheerful because everyone was sharing their snowy adventures and heroic acts; noisy because everyone was walking in skis and snowboard boots. Each was beating its own rhythm, and taken all together – the Tsakhkadzor tap dance.


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