Not Too Old To Ski
March 12, 2017 | Jill Ladd
I was 43 when I went skiing for the first time - I had the opportunity to go with away with a friend and their family who were proficient skiers and snowboarders and I must admit I felt a little daunted by the idea. I had always been active and played netball and a few other sports since my early twenties and people kept saying ‘you’ll love it’ , ‘you’ll take to it like a duck to water’, ‘you won’t have any problems learning’ - isn’t it funny how everyone else always seems to have so much more confidence about your ability than you do yourself !
Being someone who hates ‘not being good at something’ and dreading the idea of holding everyone up each day whilst out on the ‘piste’ ( this is what people do on skiing holidays right ? ) I booked myself onto a course of lessons at my local dry ski slope ( this was before the ‘snowdomes’ and ‘real’ snow centres.
I went along to my first lesson a little apprehensive - because I realised that actually this hadn’t been my first time skiing and I had recalled memories of going to Crystal Palace when I was at school to their small slope in the park, unfortunately instead of this sudden memory recall filling me with confidence knowing that I had been before - it had the opposite effect. I had retained the feeling of my large size 7 feet in uncomfortable boots strapped onto the long skies - ( which of course didn’t help the comfort of the boots ) , then the pain of trapping my thumb under one of those lattice ( the pattern on the top of those posh apple pies ! ) bristly sections of the dry slope and then all of a sudden remembered the time that I didn’t ‘bend zee knees ‘ and went ploughing into the fence at the bottom of the run. I was lucky I didn’t end up in with the dinosaurs ! ( for anyone that hasn’t been they have some amazing dinosaur models that have been in Crystal Palace Park ever since I remember * ). If only I had had this sudden memory recall at the same time that my friends invited me to join them on their skiing holiday - I may have decided to just stay at home and soak in the atmosphere in my own lounge by watching ‘ski sunday’ with a nice hot cup of tea.
So anyway - here I was at the local dry slope with a few other nervous looking attendees. We were all fitted with boots ( yes - I was still the one with the biggest feet ! ) and given a pair of skis that suited our height. I was hoping that it wouldn’t actually get any harder than walking outside to the slope in these damn boots ! The course consisted of 6 one hour lessons over 6 weeks and I was quite glad of that as I thought I was going to need a week in-between each lesson to recover from wearing the boots - I had never thought if myself as a drama queen but I was doing quite a good job !
The first lesson was all about getting used to the boots and the skis and actually the very first thing we were asked to do once we put our skis on was to fall over ! Looking back, this was such a good idea as the instructor taught us the safest and easiest procedure to follow when getting up from a fall - I was imagining I may need to become proficient at this ! It is really important to remember these basics - the main one being not to leave your skis facing downhill as you get up - unless of course you want to mirror a comedy sketch of you zooming down the slope out of control or record a ‘you tube’ clip you'd rather not remember.
As the weeks progressed it was great seeing everyone in the class progress and gain confidence and gain a certain amount of skill with the turns and ‘snow ploughs’. The hardest part was mastering the button lifts to get to the top of the slope and this was definitely worth learning ‘ on the comfort of the dry slope’ - before being faced with one for the first time with lots of impatient skiers and boarders around you expecting you to not only know how to get this large plastic button whizzing round at you at speed, between your legs but also to keep attached to it while being ‘yanked’ up the slope while attached to your skies and with 2 long sticks in your hands !!! In my experience of skiing a few years in ( yes I have actually been about 4 times now - so there is a happy ending to this story ) I haven’t had to go on many button lifts - they are mainly chair lifts, ‘bubbles’ or cable cars.
I would recommend going to a drop slope or ‘snowdome’ before you venture for the first time, because even though it is quite different from ‘the real thing’ it is really useful in getting you used to the boots and the unnatural feeling of the skies attached to your feet and also gives you plenty of practice of falling over and getting up safely !
My first experience on the ‘real thing’ wasn’t as daunting as I expected and when I attempted my first run, I was pleasantly surprised how much easier it felt than at the dry slope. As I was in a group of already competent skiers and boarders, they convinced me that I didn’t need to go to ski school or have private lessons - they would teach me everything I need to know ! In hindsight I would recommend at least a few lessons, because I think that if you learn some basic techniques early on it probably progresses you quicker and gets you into good habits. However it all went very well and the first real instruction that I had was ‘ follow us’ as they all went zooming off down the first run - I think in the excitement of the first day, first run,withdrawal symptoms of a ‘well- pisted’ run since year ago, they had completely forgotten that I was taking in the atmosphere for the first time and was wanting to take it slow …..
I definitely think skiing is one of those sports that must benefit you the earlier you learn, because the ‘fear factor’ quite often kicks in as soon as you get into adulthood and especially as you progress into your forties ! However I would thoroughly recommend giving it a go as it is a fantastic holiday with breathtaking scenery, beautiful fresh air and certainly keeps you active !
Top Tips :
- Spend time choosing your boots and make sure they are a good fit ! They can be ‘comfortable’ it might just take a few pairs to get it right. ( don’t forget you can always change them if on the first outing they are not right ! )
- Have a routine for getting on and off the ski lifts - this is where most of the accidents happen - make sure your bag is done up - you have no loose clothing ( gloves etc ) and that your poles are in a safe place and held securely - concentrate and don;t get distracted by other people around you.
- Enjoy the scenery - One of the things I didn’t do on my first trip was just take a break and just appreciate the beautiful scenery and the lovely clean air - I did become a bit obsessed with improving my skiing and my determination detracted me from everything around me !
- Persevere - like anything in life - you have good days and not-so good days - skiing is no different - in fact I would say you have good 10 minutes and not-so good 10 minutes … it was definitely ( and still is ) a rollercoaster of emotions on the slopes :-)
* I just looked this up in Wikipedia and it appears the dinosaurs have been there slightly longer than I remember - “a series of sculptures of extinct animals (including dinosaurs) and mammals in Crystal Palace Park, now in the London borough of Bromley. Commissioned in 1852 to accompany the Crystal Palace after its move from the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and unveiled in 1854, they were the first dinosaur sculptures in the world, pre-dating the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by six years”.