Learning to ski in your forties
I have set myself a challenge of trying twelve new things in 2018. I think it will be good for the soul, and give me some interesting experiences to write about. When I came up with the idea I knew exactly what the first adventure would be. Skiing with the girls in Morzine in the French Alps.
In my 41 years, I have never skied or even been up a mountain. I don’t come from a skiing family. My dad had been turned off by a school trip (where instead of salopettes, he’d been sent in a pair of corduroy trousers). My husband doesn’t enjoy it either, and instead, prides himself on being a vocal anti-skier. I’ve never before had the money or opportunity to go on my own either.
Although truthfully I’d go pretty much anywhere for a girls weekend (I don’t care whether it’s to the beach or BASE jumping), when this trip came up it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try skiing without spending a fortune bringing the whole family along.
I travelled to Morzine with a bunch of 20 girls, most very experienced skiers. The others split off into groups depending on how fast and adventurous they fancied their skiing. My friend Julie and I were the only beginners, so we organised lessons by ourselves.
Skiing Challenge One is the equipment. I mean, rented ski boots are the most uncomfortable thing that I have ever ever ever put on my feet. And grappling with skis and poles? Ugh. So I whinged my way up to the top of the hill (lingo) where we met Stu our instructor.
The weather gods had smiled on us. Fresh snowfall followed by clear skies meant that we were greeted by the extraordinary beauty of the Alps in all its glory.
First, Jules and I rode the Magic Carpet (a very slow ski travelator) up to the top of the nursery slope to learn the basics. We were very motivated to get out of skiing preschool and after lunch took on the gentle green runs.
This meant we were able to go on the lifts, which were one of my favourite parts of the weekend. It is so quiet and serene as you sit and drift across the mountaintop. Although getting on and off them is a hysterical tangle of skis and poles.
By mid-afternoon, to my mind, I was gliding around like a total pro. We ended the day giddy with the glow of success. I chose to believe Stu when he said that we were completely brilliant. ‘Skiing looks hard, but it is actually easy’ I thought!
I’m not sure anyone can out ski the calories in an Alpine diet. After a lunch of potatoes and cheese, we had cake waiting for us back at the chalet. Dinner was delightful, and alcohol consumption moderate. I had an early night because, you know, I take my skiing very seriously.
Expecting continuing success, I strapped on my skis once more only to discover that I had forgotten everything that I had learnt less than 24 hours earlier. I did very little falling over on Day One. Day Two was the opposite. I lost my confidence early on a steep slope and started to feel genuine terror at the prospect of skiing down the mountain.
We tackled our first blue run, Piste B, and there were tears. When you lose your confidence on a ski slope, you look down and think ‘I do not know how to do that’. You feel that you cannot control your speed, or your turns, or your stops. Other skiers, including four-year-old children, are flying past at speed. There is one particular corner of Piste B that has been re-named Road Kill Hill in my honour because I spent 15 minutes on my side in the middle of the run flailing around like a fish out of water. It is SO difficult to get back on your skis when you fall over. However, there is not much you can do but ski down the bloody mountain. I did eventually make it to the bottom, with a little help from my friends.
Saturday night was designated our ‘out-out’ evening. So after dinner, we put on our best snow boots (this is my kind of dressing for a night out!) and wandered into the centre of town. We found a bar with a DJ and set about clearing its fridges of prosecco. I danced on a chair. Lucilla invented a move called the ‘Funky Sperm Whale’. Good times. I did notice that evenings in Morzine are quite a blokey affair. Skiing obviously tends to attract groups of guys and families rather than girls like us. But we had strength in numbers.
After the double dramas of Piste B followed by a very ill-advised Toffee Vodka Challenge, proper coffee was needed to survive the last morning in Morzine. As I took in the natural beauty of the Alps for the last time, I reflected that I would love to do this as a family holiday. It must be an amazing experience to share with your loved ones.
But I am not fully convinced that skiing is for me. For one, I’m daunted by how long it will take me to become a fully proficient skier. I’d estimate that I will need four or five weeks of lessons and practice before I start to feel comfortable. I need to persuade Matt to give it another go. And there is already talk of a return with The Girls in 2019…..
We stayed at Chalet Catherine. It sleeps up to 20 people and I cannot fault the standard of accommodation and food. Breakfast, cake, dinner and wine are included. It is a 15-minute walk from the Pleney cable lift.
I would love it if you shared your ski stories. Have you been going all your life, or are you a late starter like me? Or still waiting for the opportunity to give it a try…..