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.

A snowy hillside with skis propped up in the snow and a skilift overhead
Morzine, the view from lunch

Day One

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.

Snowy mountain tops of the French Alpes on a sunny day
Incredible views on a beautiful weekend

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.

Ski pre-school

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!

Chalet Apres

A flat lay image of small victoria sponge cakes
Apres cake

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.

Even if you can’t ski, you still need to look the part. Read about my Snow Boot Decisions….

Day Two

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.

Three women on skis half way down Piste B at Morzine
Julie, me and Deepa tackle Piste B

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.

Apres Apres

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.

A number of plates laid out for dinner at Chalet Catherine, Morzine
Big nights in at Chalet Catherine

Day three

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.

Flay lay picture of cappucino, Sorel boots, bee brooch and Morzine piste map
Coffee needed apres the Apres

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…..

Snowy hillside in Morzine, France, Alpes
Au revoir Morzine

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.

Chalet Catherine, Morzine
Chalet Catherine

We booked our private skiing lessons with the excellent PDS Academy.

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…..

10 Comments

  • Loved reading about your forray into the world of skiing, it sounds like you had a good experience overall! I have the utmost respect for anyone learning to ski as an adult, it takes some guts. It really does make a great family holiday too…mu parents still ski so they get to ski with all their grandchildren now which is pretty cool. We’re currently on the M25 heading out to the Alps…a long drive ahead and we are packed to the gunnels, but we have Pringles and winegums and I’ve downloaded Fire and Fury audio book to keep us entertained! All good fun. X

    • Waah so exciting Melissa, I hope you have a great time! Do you know I am actually quite jealous and could do it all again this weekend? Although the skiing was very challenging at times, we laughed and laughed and laughed. I do think that if I could give the children the opportunity to learn I’d be doing them a massive favour. Then they’d never have to go through what I did!!! Lots of love and best wishes for excellent skiing xxxxx

  • You are so brave Helen and it sounds so exciting! I have never been on a skiing holiday, the nearest experience we have had as a family is a taster afternoon at the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, Herts. It has real snow so it’s great for getting the feel of the real deal. We went for a family session and as we have no ski equipment of our own we had to hire all our gear from the ski centre, which was all fine apart from the fact that I remember having the most uncomfortable ski boots which actually rubbed the front of my shins by the end of our session!! That said, I would definitely go again for practice if we decided to go on a ski holiday! And for you – that’s one adventure down, 11 more to go!!

    • Believe me, I was not very brave when I was standing on the slopes weeping!! I did have lots of good intentions to make it over to that place in Hemel beforehand for a bit of practice but never managed it. In spite of the fear factor, it was a really brilliant experience Juliana, if you ever get the opportunity to go then take it. Lots of love, H xxx

  • I can so relate to everything you wrote. I tried skiing a number of times, took lessons, fell messed up a knee then gave it up as not for me. I don’t like cold in the first place and rolling around in the snow while small children laugh when they are zooming by is not my idea of fun.

    • Oh no Victoria! Once you get the boots and skis on it is so easy to see how you could hurt your legs, if you twist the wrong way then….
      We were extremely lucky with the weather. I don’t think I would have been as game if it had been raining or snowing. The kids are so good, aren’t they? That’s when you need to learn. Thanks for stopping by, it’s lovey to hear from you again. Hxxx

  • Hubby and I used to ski every year before kids – haven’t found the time, energy or money since to take the whole family!! Would love to. It’s one of our favourite things. I used to laugh until I cried and also just cried sometimes (!) at the escapades we’ve got ourselves into. But one things for sure the toffee vodka is AMAZING!! Glad you found it and managed to re-fill your new boots Helen!! Xxx

    • Hi Sarah, I didn’t know this about you! Ed and Lucy would love it. That was my one big feeling, I would really enjoy watching the children fly down the slopes. The kids are all so good at it!!! And you are right, we laughed and laughed and laughed. Thanks so much for popping over for a read. Hxx

  • The more I read, I think you’re my new girl crush! haha
    I was just talking to my husband Max the other day (spurred on by all the London snow) that I really want to go skiing as I’ve only ever snowboarded and I was cack at it!
    While it looks hard work, there’s something magical about it – or perhaps that the ‘sitting with a GluWine’ watching everyone else, which to be fair, is what I’d probably do!
    Good for you though for ticking it off the list!

    • Boarding looked so difficult to me, they all seemed to be spending half the time on their bums. In general, I found it easier than I expected, so long as I didn’t tackle slopes I wasn’t ready for. We must try and take the kids, they would love it. Thanks for reading darling x

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