Sian goes skiing

So after trying pole fitness at the beginning of the summer and absolutely loving it, I decided that I’d like to try some more new sports. So to end my 2014 with a bang, I thought it would be cool to give skiing a go for the first time in my life.

I’d never been skiing before – mainly because my dad has a very physical job, so he couldn’t really risk any kind of injury or it would put him out of work. So after a few of my friends mentioned that the Warwick Snow Ski Tour was incredible, I thought I’d go for it in my final year at university, as it was my last chance plus I hadn’t had a proper holiday in a year and a half. As I’d never even tried skiing on a dry slope before (the closest I’d got was tobogganing on a plastic sledge down the Ridge when there was enough snow, back in the day), it was safe to say I was nervous!

Ski Tour 3I booked ten hours’ worth of beginner lessons on the slopes in Val d’Isere, as I really had no idea where to start. As I was getting dressed on the Sunday morning in a padded ski jacket and clunky ski boots which were horrendous to walk in, I wondered exactly what I’d gotten myself in for… Especially after a gruelling journey up to the top of the glacier (as there wasn’t enough snow to learn on the nursery slopes) which involved carrying my skis and poles on a bus and two chairlifts in said horrible ski boots.

Anyway, we were split into groups and introduced to our instructors – ours was French, super cool and had a serious ski tan going on. The first thing we were taught was how to climb up the mountain wearing our skis, and I suddenly realised how much leg work skiing would require. Standing on the very edges of strips of metal to make sure you don’t fall over is pretty tough! After slowly and painfully climbing to the top of this tiny hill, we were then taught the snowplough, which is basically opening your legs into a wedge shape (like a “pizza slice”, my instructor helpfully added) to make you stop. We practised this until the end of the lesson, and my thighs hurt a lot. I am so glad that I run often, or I feel like I would have really struggled!

After skiing down the makeshift nursery slope over and over again, we all became confident that we could take on a green slope (the easiest level of difficulty) after the end of our very first lesson. How wrong we were. Every single one of us fell over roughly halfway down the first slope, took off our skis – if they hadn’t fallen off already – and miserably walked up to the top of the slope to go home. After that disaster, I made it my mission to conquer the green slope by the end of my week in France.

I thought the next day we would be spending more time on the nursery slope however, our instructor decided to plunge us straight in at the deep end and took us all down the green slope together. And actually – it wasn’t that bad! I fell over a couple of times, but I’d quickly conquered the green slope by the end of the second day. I must admit though, it took a tad longer for me to conquer getting on and off of those chairlifts without falling off…

From then on, my skiing got better and better. Our ski instructor taught us parallel turningSki Tour 2 and side slipping, and then took us down a blue slope which I originally found extremely challenging until I decided to tackle it on my own. One of the most memorable moments of the trip was when I attempted the final stretch of the blue slope, and tumbled the entire way down it, leaving my skis and poles at the top (I later found out this is known as a “yard sale”…). A very kind man in his 60s rescued me by returning my equipment and helping me get up, and then gave me some advice a Norwegian man had apparently given him back in 1969: “Never turn your back on the slope.” After that I tried my best to follow his advice, and I believe I improved!

The final day of the trip was my absolute favourite, as we decided to take the Solaise Express to the top of the mountain, and ski the whole way down. The slopes were mainly blue, and after trying a red the day before, which was a tad too challenging, I knew that the blue slopes suited my ability best. The slopes were mainly rolling hills, meaning that you had to gather a lot of speed down one slope to have enough momentum to get up the next – and as I was much braver going quickly by the end of the week, I actually managed it. The feeling was exhilarating and I left the trip on a high.

So overall: I loved skiing and can’t wait to go again. I think it’s fairly easy to pick up but hard to get really good at – I know that I certainly would need a lot more practice! You get a great adrenaline rush though and it’s great for exercise, so I couldn’t recommend it enough. And if you need any more convincing, the views are stunning. But I’ll leave you with this tip: don’t ski too hungover, or your instructor will have to pull you down the mountain…

Published by Sian Elvin

Journalist and editor from the UK.

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