The higher you are, the easier it is.

ws-8I’ve never been to an indoor ski slope. The last time I went skiing was 20 years ago and it wasn’t exactly successful. I can remember going far too fast straight down and hill and having literally no control whatsoever. I remember I was pretty scared.

I wanted snowy pics and the chance to be on skis at least once before I go to Austria for my weekend’s touring. I realise downhill isn’t the same but there may well be times when I do end up needing to go down hill and I didn’t want my friend having to spend the weekend teaching me the basics.

I borrowed a jacket and snowboard trousers from my friend Mike’s wife, who is roughly the same size as me. I loved the black jacket with multicoloured spots, and I had some purple snowboard trousers that looked warm and waterproof.

We arrived a bit early and spent half an hour in the cafe watching the slope. I was really scared. It looked pretty steep and there were plenty of kids younger than ten who were whizzing down with no trouble at all. Then there was a girl more my age who was having a bad time of it – falling over at every turn and looking very fed up. That was going to be me, I was sure. I asked Hugo about a million times ‘so which foot do you lift, to go which way?’ How do you stop?!

The biggest problem was that if you can’t ski, or haven’t for ages, you’re supposed to have a lesson, which is three times the price of just going in for an hour. I was sure they were going to find me out within the first five minutes. I got some short skis (the shorter the better for beginners) and some boots. The boots were super-comfy – I remember them being awful to wear, more like ice skating boots, but these seemed good.

I didn’t even remember how to put the skis on, but I got them on and got poles (which I discovered after an hour were much too short) and pushed off. I was wearing far far too many clothes. It was about -6 and felt fresh but not unpleasant.

I was supposed to be able to use the button lifts, control turns and stop. I could do one of those things (the lift. Just about). We’d agreed to go half way up and start with a gentle snow plough. I let go of the button lift and pretty much started to fall straight back down the hill, as there was quite a ridge between the edge of the slope and the lift area. Hugo managed to drag me up and over but they’d stopped the lift on my account and I was sure they’d come over and throw me out! No such luck. It wasn’t too high but I really had no idea what I was doing. A YouTube video quickly cribbed the night before was not going to cut it.

I don’t really understand why a snow plough makes you go slower. I certainly had no idea how to turn as I set off and Hugo saying ‘you sort of shift the weight with your hips’ helped not one bit.

God knows how I made it down to the bottom (all of about 10 metres) that first time. Somehow a huge wide snow plough did slow me down and there I was, legs shaking, at the bottom of the slope. I hadn’t fallen over. So time to go again.

Pretty much the same thing happened – get half way up, get off button lift, try to get over the ridge, fall backwards. Snow plough down to the bottom. I was sweating already. After three goes like this, I suggested going to the top might be easier. It was a hell of a lot easier. But it looked steep and a long way to the bottom the first time. People were arriving, tipping over the edge and gliding to the bottom, one after the other like well-insulated lemmings. ‘After you’ I said about half a dozen times before I talked myself into plopping over the edge as well. This is it now, now I’m going to fall over and break my ankle. This is when they’ll realise I don’t know what I’m doing. But slow snow ploughs and turns got me to the bottom in one piece. I’m still not sure what I did to turn, only that I did it.

After half a dozen goes I was even starting to enjoy it, to push it that little bit more – can I turn twice in that space where I only turned once last time? Can I whizz right down to the bottom and half way up to the ski lifts again without getting told off? I found myself grinning from ear to ear as I let the lift carry me up each time.

I spent a lot of my payday cash on gloves and wrist supports in Snow and Rock. They were expensive so I’m hoping they’ll be suitable for to wear underneath mitts in colder temperatures. They’re goretex with liners and a leather palm. I figured I ‘needed’ them….

I only confessed to work colleagues afterwards that there was a snow-cam. They could have spent an amusing Friday lunchtime watching me. I still can’t work out why I didn’t fall over. No one has a natural talent for skiing, as it’s not a natural thing to do. And there was this time I fell off a skateboard…
But, after such a disastrous first attempt twenty years ago, it’s given me something as well as skill or experience. It’s given me confidence.


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