All around was perfect like a picture postcard. I was in the beautiful ski resort of St Anton in Austria. It was everything I’d ever dreamt of. Skiing had always been there in my mind as potentially the ideal holiday. I was confident that I’d 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 I’m scared of heights! Yes, it was great, I loved that feeling of freedom and exhilaration on the downhill run but what I hadn’t planned on was………………….
The instructor of the beginner’s class was a kindly old wizened man with the patience of a saint. (He’d need it with me!) He said he’d never encountered anyone like me before: I had so many snacks, (I’m a foodaholic and have to eat constantly) and gear that I couldn’t 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 I’d 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! I’d 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t 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: He’d 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 couldn’t 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 I’m all in, the only thing I’m interested in from now on is the Après-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 wasn’t embarrassing enough, I ploughed straight into a prickly fence and ended up suspended in a star shape off the ground! Very embarrassing!
You’ll be glad to know that no one was hurt in this tale, (apart from me and my pride obviously!) and I’ve 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.