Calamity on the Ski Slopes!

All around was perfect like a picture postcard. I was in the beautiful ski resort of St Anton in Austria. It was everything Id ever dreamt of. Skiing had always been there in my mind as potentially the ideal holiday. I was confident that Id love it and be good at it. After all, I could roller skate and ice skate, how hard could it be? No problem! So what if Im scared of heights! Yes, it was great, I loved that feeling of freedom and exhilaration on the downhill run but what I hadnt planned on was.

The instructor of the beginners class was a kindly old wizened man with the patience of a saint. (Hed need it with me!) He said hed never encountered anyone like me before: I had so many snacks, (Im a foodaholic and have to eat constantly) and gear that I couldnt ski with it all. He ended up carrying some for me!

The initial control and technique exercises were beyond boring, but I see now why they were necessary. After much pain and being completely shattered, I progressed on to a small slope with the dreaded hoist lifts. I mounted the hoist like a jelly trying to climb on a swing, only to drop my skis and have to get on again. I then proceeded to hold up the queue and the next hoist bashed me on the head! By the top of the slope, I was hanging on precariously and then slithered off like a drunken creature into a heap. Then I heard get out of the way! from the next skier as he prepared to dismount. I pretended Id meant to land like that and tried to slide across inconspicuously to the top of the slope.

By this time, I was starving to death due to my extremely high metabolism. I wearily followed my class and instructor to what appeared to be a hut-like restaurant half way up the mountain. I was feeling faint with hunger and collapsed onto a chair outside the hut for a rest. Suddenly it started juddering and moving! Id only gone and sat on a chairlift, which was a bench about to disappear down the mountain! I totally froze with fear and glanced at the girl next to me. She didnt speak English, but could tell I was petrified especially when I looked up and the safety bar was above us instead of across our laps. Down the mountain we went, I kept catching her eye and making a strange squeaking noise, as I still couldnt speak. I kept glancing up at the bar until she twigged and pulled it down, then she very kindly held my hand to calm me down. Eventually, I relaxed a bit and it really was breathtaking.

After plucking up courage and overcoming my cable car fear to get back up the mountain, I managed to cart wheel, then ski on one leg, most of the way down a slope, only to be propelled head first into the snow at the bottom when I crossed the other ski. The instructor was impressed: Hed never seen a performance like it or an amateur travel so fast! The bruises told their own story.

It was then I discovered during a left/right drill session that I couldnt turn right at all well. Every time I tried, I had to use my sticks to help get back on course. I managed to get down the rest of the slope somehow. At the last section, I thought, right this is it, last slope and Im all in, the only thing Im interested in from now on is the Aprs-Ski, much safer. Down I flew, expertly in a straight line to the bottom. Then, minor detail, how do you stop without swerving at this speed? Before I know what had happened, I flew through a bunch of extremely vocal tourists who were queuing for a ski lift. Then, if that wasnt embarrassing enough, I ploughed straight into a prickly fence and ended up suspended in a star shape off the ground! Very embarrassing!

Youll be glad to know that no one was hurt in this tale, (apart from me and my pride obviously!) and Ive not had the urge to go skiing again. Both my hips have now been replaced further to birth defects identified by the hospital after I visited as a result of this trip.

J McLoughlin

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