Let me just say upfront that I was never from one of those fancy families who went skiing every December. Our family went to Port Alfred. Or the Kruger Park if we were feeling adventurous. So skiing and snow were always something very foreign to me.
And then I did a season in Vail, Colorado after I finished university. I thought I’d be cool and snowboard but I was so terrible that after a particularly awful day where small children laughed at me as I fell off the ski lift and I had to get down a hill in a blizzard sliding on my bum, I just gave up. Instead, I focussed my energies on the snowboard INSTRUCTORS and on eating and drinking and I was quite successful in all of those spheres.
So when we were invited on this skiing trip with friends (one of them got a good deal on a chalet in Verbier), we just said yes. My husband had never skied before and we both wanted to give it a try. Because of my Vail experience, my friends signed us up for an INTERMEDIATE skiing lesson. Er, um. I didn’t have the heart to put my foot down and tell everyone how terrible I was at balancing on snow, because I wanted to do this with friends.
The trouble began on our first day as soon as we’d journeyed all the way up the hill with the instructor and he asked us to put on our skis on and make our way to a lift. I didn’t actually know how to put on my skis. And then I fell after the first metre. Tears in my eyes I asked the instructor if I could please be downgraded to the beginner class?
I spent three days on the bunny slopes, learning how to snow plough, turn and eventually parallel ski (albeit not very well). I then joined the rest of the crew on the mountain (where my beginner husband, who was a natural, had been from the start) and we had two good days skiing together.
Anyway, this is what I learnt along the way:
- Skiing is very much in your mind. If you’re fearful (which I am), you will struggle to learn.
- As Freddy our French instructor told us: “you have to lean into it”. Even when all your instincts are telling you to face away from the mountain for safety’s sake, you need to lean into your fear, face down the hill and only then will you master it. A lot like life I suppose.
- Ski boots are instruments of torture. My wide feet struggled to find boots that fit properly and I lost all feeling in some toes when my boots were done up too tight. My one big toe is still blue/black.
- I like skiing more than snowboarding. I got the hang of it faster and could at least get from A to B (which I never managed with snowboarding).
- I am a hillbilly. I knew Verbier was fancy but I didn’t realise HOW FANCY. You could just feel the money and the privilege in the air. Botox, real fur, posh accents – the who’s who of European society were there and we were completely out of place. It was hilarious.
- We think out the box. Us Africans are not used to conforming the way that Europeans are. At one apres ski bar, our friend tried to drag two small empty tables together (so we all could sit down) and the bar owner was most upset. “The bar had been designed in a certain way and we must not attempt to change it”. It was like that scene from Men in Black 1 where Will Smith is being interviewed and he drags that noisy table across so he can fill in his application form and all the other candidates stare at him.
- There’s something about group exercise that’s good for the soul. I know now why runners or cyclists enjoy exercising together. There’s something to be said for getting outdoors, achieving some physical task together and then enjoying a drink or meal afterwards. A camaraderie that you used to get from team sports at school, but which many of us adults miss.
- That I bruise easily. As one friend said when I showed her this: “That’s not a bruise, that’s a galaxy!”
Do I LOVE skiing? Not really. But I quite like it. And I may just do it again, if I’m lucky enough.