I think it’s fair to say that most people decide within the first couple of days of their first ski holiday if skiing is going to be for them. Throwing yourself down a mountain on a pair of what are effectively slippery planks of wood is not for everyone. I believe there are many reasons why you may not want to ski, (but really should) here are my top 10
- Ski Wear.
Salopettes, ski socks, base layers, fleece layers, thermal layers, ski jackets in hideous colours, goggles (never fetching) and gloves that turn your fingers into squashy sausages rendering them useless and incapable of even minimal dexterity. Of course all of these items of clothing have to be put on when inside your overheated hotel / chalet, so by the time you leave your place of residence you are already hot, sweaty and about to expire. Once fully attired the time comes to wrench yourself into a pair of ski boots, or ‘footwear of torture’ as I like to affectionally refer to them as. Which leads me nicely onto the second reason you may not want to ski.
2. Ski Boots.
I do not know which mean spirited person invented these but ski boots are an unfortunate, albeit essential part of being able to call yourself a skier. So, before you attach your self to your skis you need to be fitted for a pair of boots. The aim of ski boots is to ensure your feet are so firmly clamped into them that no matter what accident befalls you on the slopes, your feet and ankles will remain in tact. To achieve this you must sacrifice all feeling from the ankles down and cheerfully accept the searing pain from your protesting toes. The only relief is to release your self from said items of torture at every of possible opportunity. Sadly these opportunities don’t present themselves very often because ‘real skiers don’t take breaks’
3. Ski Off
For the uninitiated, the ‘Ski Off’ happens on the first day of your holiday and will likely be the first time you have been near a pair of skis for at least a year. It’s aim is humiliation. It is designed to insight fear and trembling into even the bravest heart. All the lemming skiers are directed towards the top of one of the slopes where in turn they are expected to ski down showing off their best turns as they shimmy towards the ski instructor. He will then decide their fate, or which ski school group they will join for the rest of the week. It is at this point, bands of previously loving generous friends are ripped apart as one by one individuals are swept off to different groups leaving their friendships in potential tatters somewhere near the bottom of the easy blue run.
4. Ski School
Once you have survived the horror of the ski off, its time for the ritual embarrassment otherwise known as ski school. You soon realise it is the primary role of the rugged, sun tanned ski instructor to wear sunglasses, sport designer stubble and at regular intervals shout “bend zee knees” whilst skiing backwards.
5. Carrying Skis
All those pictures of perky skiers with skis casually tossed over their shoulders as they skip towards the first run of the day are false. Skis are heavy and unwieldy and awkward. They are in no way designed to be carried whilst wearing ski boots, and walking on ice. Many a seasoned skier has met their fate or the fate of others, whilst attempting to manoeuvre skis onto their backs before getting anywhere near a slope.
6. The Ski Lift
Where to start? The Ski lifts without exception, strike terror into all new skiers. (you’ve seen Bridget Jones, you know what I mean). A skier who hasn’t fallen over when getting on / off a ski lift is a rare skier, or else a lie telling one. Ski lifts are broadly divided into button lifts and chair lifts. The button lift is a particular nemesis for many. Trying to wedge a cold metal pole between you legs with one hand (the other is grasping your ski poles) whilst trying to stay in charge of your feet which are inconveniently attached to large planks of wood, of which you have zero control can be a challenge too far for some. Even if you somehow manage to load yourself safely onto a button lift, there is no guarantee you will remain fully loaded until you reach the end. Falling off the lift and into the tracks of your fellow skiers is a truly dispiriting thing.
7. Snow Boarders
Snow boarders are basically the bain of the skiers life, particularly the novice skier. They are a liability on lifts. If lifts are trying for skiers they are worse for boarders who generally have one leg attached to a broader plank of wood, the other leg is used for hopping or barring the way of other lift users. When on the slopes they roar along, mostly out of control, and with no spatial awareness as they skim past skiers, whooping and hollering as another poor skier is left helpless and sprawling in their wake. Snow boarders also have an annoying and unnecessary habit of sitting down en masse in the middle of the piste causing general pile ups and carnage.
8. The Weather
Too little snow you can’t ski, too much snow you can’t ski. There are many times during your ski holiday when you may feel out of control (see points 3,5,6,7). But perhaps never more so than when mother nature is not performing as you would like. Cloudy, and the light is so flat its impossible to see any undulations in the snow, leading to regular crashes. Too sunny and your pasty British complexion will be burnt to a crisp. Too hot and the snow will turn to slush. Too cold and the slopes become frozen and icy. The weather is the absolute essential to a successful ski holiday and the one thing you have even less control over than actually skiing.
9. Novelty Ski Hats
At some point the fellow skiers in your group will suggest you all wear novelty hats, because ‘it will be fun’. It won’t be. You will look stupid. No one wants to see a rotund sunburnt Englishman with a skewiff cockerel on his head careering down a black run on one ski because his couldn’t read the signs from underneath his novelty hat. Ditto novelty onesies.
10. The Cost
Where else would you pay €8 to sit outside with a mug of luke warm hot chocolate adorned with squirty cream and believe you are ‘living the dream’. Skiing is expensive. For the price of a lift pass and ski hire alone you could feed a family of for for a fortnight very nicely thank you.
And yet….despite all of the above I keep going back. In fact I think I have been back around 15 times in the last 20 years. Thankfully I no longer do ski offs or ski school and proudly mastered the art of disembarking the ski lift with ease some time ago. Whatever traumas skiing may have given me at various points along the way, and there have been a few, I am here to tell you that all of the above pale in to insignificance when the sun is shining, the snow is sparkly and plentiful and you and your skis are at one. The thrill of arriving at the top of a steep red run feeling the fear but knowing you can take it on. The joy of racing with abandonment and on the edge of control from top to bottom of a mountain in minutes. Winding along tree lined runs when the trees are heavy with snow, with no one in front of you and no one behind, and the sheer exuberance that comes after a day of pushing yourself physically and mentally with of course some over priced hot chocolates thrown in for good measure is unbeatable. Food and wine never tastes better than after a day in the mountains. So despite the many reasons not to ski this is why I do, and why I hope I can for many years to come.