There’s nothing quite like bonding with your team mates and I think the perfect way to do that is skiing. We went to Champagny in the French Alps, which is postcard picture perfect, a quaint little village with a cheese shop, very cute ski men in the ski shop (cheeky winks help tired muscles when you’re dropping your skis back) and a bubbling stream through the centre of the village.
Our chalet was absolutely beautiful and slept 19 people. We had fabulous food, copious amounts of booze (sparkling water for moi) and even a pool, spa and sauna to soothe tired and aching muscles. Before the trip I loudly proclaimed that I would NOT be getting into the pool, spa or sauna with the guys from work. I don’t need to see my male colleagues in their swim shorts, it’s not an image I want in my memory banks. I certainly don’t want them to see me in a bikini! I got there, sans bikini, and would have gone in naked my muscles were so sore. I couldn’t have cared less. I settled for some borrowed shorts and a bra and swam, spa’d and sauna’d my little heart out.
On the first day we took it easy and everyone sat at the pub drinking after skiing. I’m not drinking this year so that doesn’t hold as much allure as it once did. I went back to the chalet alone, as dusk was darkening into night and appreciated the solitude and stillness, with snowflakes drifting down covering everything in a beautiful, white blanket of purity. I caught them on my tongue and thought how lucky I was not to be in dirty, rainy, cold London. Nature is so raw and powerful and we forget that as we run around the hamster treadmill of life in a big city.
When you’re learning you need a couple of things. You need some buddies who are at the same level as you and you need a patient instructor. We were lucky enough to have both of those things. N, H and me were at the same level and took turns waiting for each other and assuring each other that we could do this, we could get down the mountain and we would get better.
Then we had S, who was our ski instructor for the day. Normally a funky ass snow board instructor, he gave up carving it up the mountain for a day to teach us, and to rest his knee which he’d mutilated in a snow board accident a few years ago. He was better than our paid instructor the day before and he patiently stayed with us, repeating phrases like “use your edges” and “follow the S down the mountain.”
S, our patient instructor for the day
Sometimes he’d tell us to stop whining and get up. You need that when you’ve given up and are lying in the middle of a busy run.
I don't wanna get up!
Skiing can be the most beautiful thing in the world, when all the planets seem to align, when the sun is shining, the wind is blowing in your hair and you’re gliding down the mountain, with snow flakes glistening in the air like diamonds.
Skiing through sunshiny diamonds
Then it can be the most frustrating activity in the world and you wonder why the hell you’re clumping about on a mountain at all.
I threw an almighty tantrum on an icy steep slope when I couldn’t get my ski back on. Sailors would have blushed at the shrieking curses I directed at the mountain, my ski’s and the snow that was trapped on the bottom of my boot, which was hindering the binding process back into the ski. I would have thrown myself on the ground and kicked whilst screaming, but unfortunately it had taken me about ten minutes to get up after I had fallen over, so I threw my pole down instead (and then picked it up). Thanks to my hero team of 3 people (N, A and D) who held me up and helped me back into my ski binding as we were slipping down the slope for TEN minutes. Thank you for not leaving me there to have my tantrum by myself. I might still be there.
After two hours of skiing I finally saw the end in sight and tucked up, ski’s under my arms and headed in a straight line to the bottom. I picked up speed. Too much speed. All the phrases I’d been fed through the day fled from my head in horror. I didn’t know how to turn, I didn’t know how to stop and I’m sure I was going 30 miles an hour. I threw myself into the snow to stop before I got any faster. What courage you can find when you need to go to the loo.
So until next year, when I’m sure I’ll finally be able to nail the parallel. For now, I’m still very ungracefully snow ploughing my way down the mountain. But at least I get down.
The Ski Squad