Feature: The slippery slope of skiing
- Credit: Archant
MY relationship with snow-related activities has been a tumultuous one over the years.
The last time I took to the slopes on a snowboarding trip I ended up seeing a side of it not many do; on my back in a stretcher being towed down by two experienced skiers after I had tumbled off at the top of a ski lift just as it approached the ground – don’t worry I didn’t fall a great height, merely rolled in a heap with my fellow ski-lifters.
But a sore back apparently warranted an assisted trip down the mountain, leaving me with a tainted appreciation of mountain slopes.
Nevertheless this experience didn’t deter me from wanting to surf the snow again. No matter where you are – or if it’s genuine snow or not – there’s nothing quite like cruising down a big, white hill. So when I was offered the chance to go to the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, which has an indoor slope with real snow, I was raring to go.
I arrived with a fearless(ish) attitude and a hat, having been told to bring not much else. After I had checked in I was given my lesson ticket and told to wait with the other gaggle of daredevils in my team by bench one, quickly grabbing my rented skis, snow clothing and helmet beforehand.
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Our instructor, Robert Morris, was a suitably long-haired, relaxed looking snow-sportsman who probably would have no trouble back-flipping or doing several tricks mid-air while skiing.
He explained we would be going on the training slope to learn the basics and get started on our skiing journey. Like Bambi on ice in the Disney film, our group cautiously stepped out onto the snow, all big-eyed and nervously looking around, for fear of an indoor avalanche, or heaven forbid – falling over. Why there is so much fear surrounding falling over on the snow, I’m not quite sure, but we all felt it.
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Cue our brilliant instructor who came to our assistance. He instantly put me at ease as I shuffled around on the fluffy, white snow and was extremely patient as I learnt to become steady on my new feet.
There’s something quite refreshing about snow and the cold smell and dazzling brightness of the blanketed slope got me pepped up and ready to go. Once we had learnt to actually move on the snow with two big planks attached to our feet, it was time for phase two: side-stepping.
As it turns out this is very handy trick to manoeuvre your way around up and the down the slopes - second to actually skiing down it of course – but that was yet to come. But this little feet pattern of left to right soon became old hat and we were ready for more.
Before I knew it we were asked to test out our skis and glide down the fake mountain slope. With baited breath I pushed aside my doubts and edged forward to cruise down. I’m proud to say I only fell over once while we repeated these little trips down the slope, but I’m convinced this was because I was so eager to remember to look up and smile at our photographer. Or so I’m telling myself anyway.
The final stages of my two hour lesson involved us doing small jumps and also learning how to do ‘wiggly lines’ - in other words learning to move left or right when descending the slope - and then it was over all too quickly.
I came away from my lesson feeling invigorated; quite proud I had survived, and an image in my head of myself resembling a perfectly poised Kate Middleton on the slopes in Switzerland.
With my hair falling out of my hat, soggy snow-drenched ski trousers and stupid ginormous ski boots on my feet, I’m sure this representation in my head was incredibly far from the truth but it is testament to how confident and skilled my instructor made me feel on the snow in a very short amount of time.
On reflection I still can’t decide which method of snow transport I prefer - it was great having each foot be able to move independently, but I think I felt safer on a snowboard. Seeing as I was on the training slope which is only 100m, I didn’t have to go on the ski lift - that’s a challenge yet to come. I’ll try not to fall off next time round though...