Every year, in search of unknown terrain and powder, we go snowboarding to a country we’ve never been to before. This year it was Macedonia.
The crew were three eastern Europeans, who were kinda ready for the Balkan adventure ahead of them (me, Basa Stevulova and Rene Gallo) and three civilized Europeans (Conny Bleicher, Julia Baumgartner and Carlos Blanchard Nerin) who didn’t have a clue what they were about to experience.
As soon as we arrived to Skopje airport, a young taxi driver approached us and told us he would drive us to Popova Sapka (mountain we were heading to) for less money than the others but we had to wait for him in the back of the airport. Since it was midnight Basa was going over worst case scenarios but I was pretty sure it would be ok, so we sat in his car and drove to the resort.
In the morning we realized how big and nice that place was. We soon found the first spot to ride and spent the day shaping and enjoying Macedonian food. Turned out that a full lunch for 6 people, with literally everything we could eat would cost us about 20 euros, so you can only imagine what the eating/snowboarding ratio for the trip was.
The next day we got our own snowcat from the Eskimo freeride guys and went up the mountain. After a half hour drive we found ourselves in the middle of an untouched playground and the show was on. We were riding our lines and the cat would pick us up every time and take us to a different place. Although it was -20 and we were freezing, that was one of those days when we knew we were living it to the fullest. We came back home with the sunset, looking forward to another day in the mountain, but mother nature decided we had enough fun and put us in the middle of the biggest storm I’ve ever witnessed.
We spent the entire next day in the hotel with no electricity, cut off from the rest of the world since the road was covered in snow, wondering if the wind would ever stop. After one day, the storm was gone but so was all the fresh snow from the mountain. We had no other option than just to blend in with Macedonian people and do what they do: ride a horse if the road is closed and you can’t drive! We snowboarded all the way down to the nearest town, Tetovo, passing all the cars that were stuck in the snow and laughing how we probably wouldn’t be able to return home. The horses were waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain and after a short lesson on how to handle them we were all sitting on our new friends, ready for a two hour ride up to where we could find snow again.
Seeing all of us in our snowboard clothes on horses might have seemed funny, but I sure was happy to still be wearing my back protector. The thing is that I was the lucky one who got a horse that was just a bit stubborn; at least that’s what they told me. It was a lie. That horse was crazy and didn’t care about anything and a lot less about me riding it. As soon as we got out of the stable it started galloping in a completely different direction from the rest of the crew and I was just trying not to fall off, thinking how I imagined my first horse riding experience to be just a bit different. Somehow they got me back on track and we rode up the mountain, occasionally galloping together, pretending we’re in a movie, enjoying this new surrounding and experience. My horse had its moments every now and then and would take me somewhere unknown which would make the ladies laugh, but I wasn’t feeling confident riding an animal that wouldn’t listen to me at all. We returned to the stables and were happy to hear that the road to our hotel was clear and we could go back home and finally relax.
Since we didn’t get any fresh snow, we spent the next few days building quarters, wallrides and different jumps around the town, wondering how Conny, at the age of 33, is still trying everything first and loving it.
Another funny thing that amused me for a week was Julia telling everyone ‘Thank you hotshot’ in Macedonian cos I told her it meant ‘Thank you very much’. Guys were giggling around her but it took her quite a long time to figure out something was wrong.
We spent our last day sightseeing in Skopje and we all agreed it was one of the weirdest cities we’ve visited. It looked like somebody was having fun putting random buildings from any architectural era in one place, not to mention there were more statues than people in the city. We mingled a bit longer with the locals, had the last Sopska salad (which was the meal of the week), celebrated a random b’day of the hostel we stayed in and headed home.
All in all, hospitality of the Macedonian people was something we won’t forget and this trip was another memory worth saving. I guess I could travel with this crew anywhere in the world and always have an awesome time. Thank you guys.