As I look up into the clear Polish sky, I’m able to confirm those are definitely my feet making an arc through it.
Mid-cartwheel, time slows down, and I hope my instructor is still heading downhill.
Perhaps he missed this spectacular display of snowboarding incompetence? Maybe I can jump back up and he’ll be none the wiser?
Winded, I discreetly scan around me from my low-profile ground position. He’s 10m away, watching me intently.
Oh well. Luckily, Gaz is a professional, and he spares my blushes by keeping a diplomatically straight face.
I think better of claiming it was a ‘trick’, and we crack on.
I take comfort in the thought that even if I break an arm or a leg, at least I didn’t sacrifice one to get here.
This is Zakopane — as low on cost as it is on the tourist radar.
Outside the Euro-zone, the prices mean it’s very much within my low boarding budget.
Zakopane is located in a national park in the High Tatras in the very south of Poland, part of the extensive Carpathian mountain range that straddles the border with Slovakia.
We’re only a two-hour bus ride from Kraków, but despite this proximity, the town remains relatively undiscovered by foreigners.
Later, over a cheap and delicious fondue in the Little Switzerland restaurant, I ask Alan Garcia, ski holiday specialist Sunshine World founder, why the ski scene in this part of Poland isn’t more developed?
“Prior to 1989, and the fall of Communism, they had no private enterprise,” he explains.
“Compared to western Europe, they’re still relatively inexperienced here.”
Several years ago Garcia saw a niche in the market and started to bring travellers over from the UK:
“Now we bring the most foreign tourists here, but it’s still not actually that many.”
While the outside temperature creeps towards -17˚C, we twirl our pieces of meat in hot bubbling cheese, and wash it down with pints of piwo (beer) for 6 złoty (about £1.30).
It’s a welcome treat after a lunch that was filling, but plain.
The national dish is bigos, a hearty winter stew, mainly comprised of cabbage. A generous portion is only 11 złotys on the slopes but — as you might expect with a cabbage-based dish — it is a bit bland.
Back in the restaurant, we dip a platter of fruit in melted chocolate.
It’s heaven. Just when we think things can’t get any better, the bill arrives: it’s the equivalent of £12 each.
“Imagine what this would cost in the Alps!” says Garcia, who has at least £1’s worth on his face.
The only sour note comes when I mention to another guest that I’m writing about Zakopane, spreading the word.
“I’m not sure I like the sound of that,” she says.
After her first week as a skier she’s already feeling protective towards the town.
Everyone I talk to has some sort of Polish friend or contact who suggested Zakopane, and we all feel like we’ve stumbled across a little secret.
Post-dinner chat turns to the euro and price rises. History has been cruel to Poland, and we agree we can’t begrudge the Poles making a bit of money.
And for now, we have great food, cheap beer and good company.
Despite the afternoon’s aerial antics, both my legs are in full working order; so with 10 bar-clubs to choose from it’s dancing next.
The fondue calories justified, we waddle happily into the night.
Beyond the Euro-zone
The rise of the euro means ski favourites like Andorra are becoming too expensive for many snow-lovers.
But there are other resorts where you can get that downhill rush without your savings following you.
The Slovak Tatras are worth a look, though the nightlife is quieter.
Eastwards along the Carpathian mountains, Romania’s Poiana Brasov recently topped a Post Office value-for-money poll.
It’s a couple of hours outside the capital Bucharest, which is served by Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air.
“Bansko in Bulgaria has some hi-tech lifts now and enough terrain to keep you entertained for a week,” says Garner.
Plus, good package deals can be found here.
For other cheap deals, she also suggests Kranjska Gora in Slovenia.
It’s worth remembering that these locations are cheaper because they’re still developing, so keep your expectations realistic.
But if you still can’t bear to turn your back on the Alps, minimise overheads with cheap ski equipment rental, Ski Republic offers 2-for-1 deals when pre-booking online.