Determined to hate it, I set off last week on my first ever ski holiday. I packed my knee support, back support, voltarol gel, painkillers and about 15 layers of clothes (which gives you a good insight into my ‘confidence’ in my potential skiing ability). I also swiftly upgraded my travel insurance to include winter sports cover before I went.
My destination was Soll, Austria. Soll is part of the “Ski Welt” area, the largest interconnected ski area in the whole of Austria. Great, I thought, a whole 250km of downhill ski trails for me to slide down on my behind!
Luckily, we’d had the foresight to book ourselves into ‘Ski School’ for the first five days. Our unfortunate instructor, Richie, did his best to impart the basics of skiing. But for the first two days we slipped, slidded, and generally struggled around the ‘nursery’ slopes (as kids of two and three whooshed by effortlessly). Even just getting the gear on and carrying it around took a Herculean effort. Our first mission – see exhibit A on the right (check out my groovy red skis!) – was to perfect the art of the snow-plough.
The main advantage of making a snow plough was that it allowed me to stop. This, I knew, would be a key factor in me surviving the week on the slopes.
As the week’s lessons went on, I noticed that snow ploughs were being abandoned left, right and centre as the need for speed became more of a priority. And as the speed increased, so did the chances of a crash – as we soon found out when a woman in our beginners group got mowed down on the nursery slope by another beginner who had just built up too much speed. As luck would have it, she was the only one in the group that was actually wearing a helmet, a fact that really struck home when she later discovered that the impact had actually cracked her helmet. Next day the rest of the group, myself included, all showed up wearing helmets (having decided that renting a ski helmet for €11 was money well spent).
According to More Than Travel Insurance, 92 per cent of people in the UK are in favour of introducing the kind of safety measures used for road safety on the ski slopes, such as ski patrols to cut down on speed, compulsory helmets and penalty points with fines. They believe this could help reduce the number and severity of accidents and injuries caused by skiers going too fast – almost half (47 per cent) said ‘speed skiing’ is increasingly becoming an issue. From what I could see on the slopes, I tend to agree.
After all my complaining, I have to say the last few days of the holiday were lots of fun – everything we’d learned in Ski School slowly came together and most of the group progressed to some more difficult blue and red slopes (including myself, amazingly enough). Even so, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering who ever had the first notion of skiing down a steep mountain…Pointing yourself down a mountain with two lollipop sticks stuck to your cement ski boots and what seem like two toothpicks in your hands just seems plain wrong.
So to answer the question of ‘To ski or not to ski?’ – the answer is most definitely ‘Yes’… but wear a helmet and get decent travel insurance!