Asked if I have been skiing, I have to say that whilst I have, in the past, stood on skis… I did not move, either in the direction intended, nor at the speed I had planned, therefore I am not absolutely sure I can correctly call it… well… skiing.
I am not a natural at anything that involves balance and control on a frictionless surface. Many years ago I managed to bring five strong confident on-ice rescue type people down all at once when skating at an ice rink in Bournemouth. That’s somewhere I never dare show my face again. I should have let this be a warning to my better self.
I think friends have to be the root of the problem… they buy apartments in the French Alps, they talk about exotic holidays from which they come back with tanned faces and healthy snow drenched glows, they mention après ski, large crowds of good friends… and my weak spot… hot chocolate.
They don’t mention scare-lifts and lethal crocodiles of identically clad six year olds from ski school, nor do they mention hired two-ton ski boots and humiliation.
And my skiing friends always seem to be so affluent! I always wanted to be affluent… so maybe skiing is the way to achieve it? Please don’t talk to me about my twisted logic. I talk, in stern terms, to myself about my twisted logic.
Anyway, I went; I walked for miles in uncongenial footwear whilst carrying armfuls of argumentative equipment to the foot of a treacherous looking mountainside that I was reliably informed was the nursery slope.
Thanks to intensive tuition, I almost became comfortable on the nursery slopes, was promoted to a few green runs and even had a terrified bash or two at some lesser blue runs. I also had some embarrassing pile ups but then actually came to some form of agreement with the button lifts.
But I have never… never managed to get the hang of what I have come to know as the scare lifts.
For those of you who are not familiar with these devices, I have included a picture for illustrative purposes. The procedure is that you line up at the bottom of a mountain… skis on, ski poles clutched in one sweaty mitt, ski pass in other mitt, or in ski-jacket pocket (clever huh?). You shuffle forward to a point where a line of chairs are able to swing around the corner, and swipe you on the back of the knees, causing involuntary folding and seating. An arm comes down in front of you, rendering you defenceless and trapped.
This is my opportunity to try and get to know my neighbour. My neighbour will be a complete stranger, as anyone that knows me will already have contrived to ensure that they are nowhere near me.
The benign stranger I am now sitting next to will be a vastly superior skier, normally politely Dutch or German, and will be totally unprepared for what is about to befall them. They are like lambs to the slaughter. I tell him or her that I struggle to get off these things, and I apologise profusely for what is about to occur. I vow that I will do my best not to cause injury. I apologise again. We discuss what might be wrong with my technique. More apologies.
But nothing changes.
Before now, I have managed to take a whole line of us down… like dominoes. Then the ski lift will come to a clanking halt in order to give everyone a good opportunity to witness the extent of the destruction I have wrought.
With some assistance, I finally make it back on to my feet where I can collect up and re-attach my scattered equipment.
And I’m free. Free to make my way slowly and cautiously down to the bottom of the run, as friends, who were in the same beginners group at the beginning of the week, speed confidently past me, having been somewhere much more exciting and higher up the mountain than I could ever aspire to.
“See you at the bottom for hot chocolate!”
I guess I’ve got something right.
Now, where are those winter holiday brochures?