I fell in love with my ski instructor from day one, an Austrian twenty-none-year old blonde with blue eyes and big salapets, her feet meant for snow and ice like a fat hairy Frenchman's are pressing his grapes in Provence. I was determined to prove my affection for her by winning the slalom at the end of the holiday and with just seven short Austrian January days to go it would be a challenge, my first ever ski holiday, she as icy cool as the Alpine tundra. Matild's shy Lady Diana like smile and quiet instruction on the snow was all the encouragement I needed as I set about getting used to this alien environment, the sun no sooner hiding behind the imposing granite skyline as it was peeing over it. Sadly I was 17 and no ladies man though; packing two pairs of cords and a shirt that had the map of England on it for the Austrian nightlife, even bigger collars than Inspector Morse's!
Everything about a skiing holiday is slippy and you do a lot of falling over early on, be it on the ice and snow or from the local booze, confidence sapping when you're not used to it. The bars are as packed as the morning cable cars that take you up to the piste and you seem to wear the same clothing all day in the extreme cold. The Après Ski is not sex and debauchery but just getting home in one piece. Drunken antics in the Alps are far worse than on Croydon high street. Hummm, lets tobogganing through that forest at night with the snowplough clearing the road below!!
Once you're on the mountain and spent half your week's money on hiring ski kit and looking extremely uncool in what you thought was the latest skiwear you set foot on snow on skis for the first time, and immediately fall over. Once you have learned to stand up you form a circle in your ski class and then fall over again and take half of them with you, and that's before you have even learnt to use the dreaded button ski lifts, a device you have to slot between your legs to drag you up the mountain in full ski kit, You've Been Framed time if you get it wrong. You will get it wrong, the key to grab it early and don't lean back or forward. Make sure your skis are secure if you're getting on sit down lift because if you drop on it will find its own way to the bottom of the mountain without you.
By day two it's the same thing and you want to go home. But by day three you can move forward and turn (rather than backwards with a turn) and although your legs are tight and slightly wider apart than Status Quo you are actually skiing. By day four you get it and starting to enjoy the week, the afternoons free to go solo, your walkman on and fizzing down the beginner's slopes to Van Halen with a proud mighty bow wave, the bow wave, alas, being in front of you. That's why they call the beginners legs apart skiing style snowploughing! You're still likely to be mowed down by a snowboarded or the local kids though that put you to complete shame by swinging their hips around the holiday makers with no sticks at just 4-years-old like slalom gates, their obvious cuteness deceptive. But you're no longer that duckling trying to stand up for the first time and even skiing into the ski lift queue without skitiling them.
By day five your trying to chat up your instructor by skiing wit her with your les closer together, the sign of an intermediate skier. But she has seen it all before and waiting for you to fall over so she can keep skiing on. I fell over in a heap. She is employed because she is cute because she knows you will put your name down for the final day slalom race because she is cute, her objective the entry fee, commission to pay for uni, my start number well over 100 and so not one of her favourites in so many ways. But I am a tenacious kid and by the final day I was ready for the slalom with Matild watching on. We had the bleeping gate and sticks and everything and as I pushed off it felt good. I wasn't going as fast as I thought for the exaggerated streamline position I was taking but I was getting around the gates and not falling off after hitting the heavily rutted turns for such a poor start slot. I finished without falling and was stunned to learn I had finished in the top 25 out of 400, winning the gold medal for beginners that week.
At the awards dinner on the last night my ski teacher looked fabulous in her evening wear as she pinned the medal onto Oxford on my mapped shirt and kissed my cheeks as I blushed. I had no chance of winning the real prize but I had my victory. I had given all I had to be the next Conrad Bartelski and ready for my next challenge in life, which was the London marathon the following year; of which I didn't win the gold medal.
I was over the moon when I discovered there were reviews for skiing in general on Dooyoo. I love to ski and I started when I was about 12. My dad had already been away on skiing trips when he and my uncle decided to take me, my sister and my cousin for a lesson at the Snowdome in Tamworth. Even putting the ski's on for the first time I remember how hard it was learning to walk with them on your feet!
The lesson was really basic. Learning to ski in a straight line down a slope and stop at the end by ploughing (a skiing term for making a V shape with your ski's to stop). I remember thinking how talented these people were flying past me down the slope and skidding to a stop and thinking I would never get the hang of it.
After just that one lesson we were off to Andorra for our first skiing holiday. They say you pick it up much quicker when you have the full day to ski, and the mornings we spent in ski school which was a great laugh, with kids our age we met people from all over the world! In ski school we played games, had races and learnt invaluable skills on the slopes. In the afternoon we skied with our dads who took us all over the mountains.
Ski slopes are graded by colours and shapes. The steepest being a black, followed by a red, then blue, then green. Learners tend to start on the green slopes and very experienced and competant skiers on the blacks.
We very quickly picked it up and in my experience I'd say most kids tend to learn a lot faster than adults due to them being a little more fearless and of course closer to the ground!
Since that holiday we have been to New England and France on skiing holidays and I have to say they are my favourite type of holiday, I'd go skiing rather than lie on a beach any day! They are very tiring and you'll feel the difference in your legs after a week (even a day!) of skiing, it's very good for toning and you burn hundreds of calories every day.
I am a bit of a speed freak and you can't beat that feeling of flying down a mountain carving up the snow and weaving in and out of the trees, the scenery is amazing. It's also such a brilliant laugh going on a skiing holiday with your friends of family. The nights you spend all together discussing the days skiing and the funniest falls etc it's a very social sport!
All in all it can be quite an expensive hobby, you can hire your equipment but you'll still need your warm clothing such as fleeces, thermal underwear, salopettes, ski jacket, gloves, goggles etc. If you choose to hire make sure the place is recommended because it can ruin your holiday if you have bad gear. Make sure your boots fit you well as ski boots shouldn't hurt, if they do get them re-sized. Having the right skis is essential. They should be chosen according to your height and weight and whether you are a beginner or intermediate.
The holidays itself can be quite cheap it's the extra's that all add up such as lift passes, these can add a significant amount onto your total, the added baggage allowance if you are taking your own skis etc. Be sure to check out reviews on the resort before you book it up as some can be ridiculously expensive to eat and drink, we went to one where a jacket potato and cheese was £10!! They can get away with high prices as some resorts are secluded with no other means of food and drink around!
I have my own equipment but there is so much to carry that I unfortunately left my ski boots in Birmingham airport upon returning from France, I was very upset as these were £200 and they were not handed in.
The only thing about skiing is that in this country you are very limited. I do not ski at the Snowdome or Milton Keynes as it's just not the same so sometimes I have to wait years until I can go away on a skiing holiday to ski but once you have learnt you never forget, it's like riding a bike.
The only thing I'd say is make sure your hotel / apartment is situated very close to the slope as the worst thing is carting your skis whilst wearing your boots trying to keep your balance in the snow to get to the ski lifts! Some resorts offer free shuttle buses to the bottom of the slopes from your hotel but not all so check it out.
Overall I'd recommend skiing for everyone to try at least once, you may just love it like me! Be prepared for the token falls and stumbles, some of which can hurt A LOT!
Thanks for reading!
When I ski I feel like I am in the heaven eating vanilla ice cream, laying on the huge mattress while twin brunettes ... well, pour hot chocolate over ... well ... ice cream, obviously. Occasionally tension in my knees and surrounding muscles get me back to reality where I am surrounded by faster and slower bundles of fashionable clothes and various pieces of equipment which are in stark contrast with the pristine, white mountain. The freshness of air and cold temperature adds to the heavenly atmosphere. There is only one other thing on Earth which gives me so much pleasure as skiing but I don't want to bore you with the most overrated activity. (There are too many words written about football anyway.)
I have started skiing at 4 and although equipment was much less reliable and conditions were much less comfortable back then I have enjoyed those rare moments of going down the slope and being stable on both skis. Most of the time I was spending climbing up the hill, retrieving my lost ski or shoe, fixing the binding ... so those rare moments when wind was behind me were really precious and well remembered. Only other things I remember from my first skiing holiday were great omelettes I ate in the modest hotel and the beautiful girl who were in our group. She was already going to the school and she taught me few rhymes.
My parents were taking me to skiing holidays every year. Places were very modest but we were always together with the same group of children which was great. We all started training for the same ski club and started going to the youth competitions. We were so young that it took us some time to understand even simple rules of ski competitions. My sister was not watching sports on TV and on her first race she stopped at the finish line instead of racing through the invisible line which stops the stopwatch. You forget many things and some weird ones stay in your mind. One of the guys had a nickname 'omelette' as he was able to eat the biggest omelette in the morning. I also remember very well that we would take off our jackets before the race start to have better aerodynamic shape - like we were professional bikers or swimmers. Then you would wait for someone to bring you jacket down to the Finish area while shaking from the tiredness and cold. The beautiful girl from the previous paragraph became the best skier in her category and won all gold medals on all competitions. I was not that successful partially because there was much more boys competing and partially because I was not that strong and talented as she was. I won one silver medal in slalom in one of the competitions and it was a great boost for my self esteem.
During my student years I became a member of student ski club at my University. The club had mountain house which was always in need of extension or rebuild (after fire destroyed part of the building). I would be helping in rebuilding projects during the summer which would give me free stays during winter holiday. One winter I even worked as a barman in the house. Those memories are great and we did not want to spend much time sleeping. The days were spent on the slopes and nights around the fireplace. The ski equipment, slopes and lifts were much improved. Also I was able to understand that feeling I had in my stomach, while learning rhymes from the beautiful girl back then, when I was 4, is called love. All that made this period of my skiing career most enjoyable...
In the perfect story I would meet the love of my life on the slope and we would live happily ever after. It was not exactly like that but after 10 minutes of my first chat with the love of my life it turned out that we were both at the same time, at the same resort, skiing. Next year we went together on a skiing holiday and she was well impressed with my skills. Skiing skills, obviously.
Nowadays I spent more time as a 'daddy-lift' or retriever of various pieces of clothing or equipment my 5-year old son manages to lose while skiing down the hill. Although my skiing is slightly restricted by the financial and physical limitations you face when you are big daddy I still enjoy it very much. I still have those two imaginary brunettes around me + a real one. My pleasure is now on 150%. Although, seriously, the biggest pleasure is when you see that your children are having the same enjoyment from the skiing, nature, life, omelettes (got carried away there...)
At the end I have to add few lines on helmet debate. I never wore it but I will have them for my children. I don't think that they can help you much in the close encounter with the tree. Even odd landing on the softest area of your body can cause brain injury. Helmets can help but responsible skiing is the most important. Skiers should know appropriate slopes for their skills, the maximum speed they can handle and do some physical exercise before they hit the slope. If you are 21 safer skiing means that you have to take the condom with you but if you are much younger or much older you have to stick with the helmet. That's life...
... and now for something completely different ...
Skiing in general - A Review from a humble beginner
Before you read this bear in mind this is from the point of view of an ''unbalanced skier'' (as the wii calls me). It might just entice you to try it if you have never hit the slopes. This is about the wonderful world skiing is from booking the holiday and the resort to getting stuck half way up a mountain! If you are an expert you might just cringe and shout ''You Muppet'' and laugh at what us foolish beginners do! I'm sure everyone has made some mistakes when they first started out!
How do you get into skiing?
I must have jumped on the ski bandwagon late as I didn't attempt skiing until I was 22. Well unless you count dry skiing on Kendal dry ski slope when I was 8! Back in 2002 I was working at Manchester Airport and boy did it pee me off to see hundreds of passengers each day go off on their holidays. I got a bit addicted to holidays and took up holidaying as a hobby and went abroad quite a few times a year to make up for the pain!
One day in March I had the week off as I didn't like working my birthday and thought ohh its holiday time. Back in 2002 teletext was still the bee's knees so was having a little scout on it and persuaded my friend to go on a late deal. Where the heck can you go in March you ask me - winter sun or winter sports? Well the Canaries seemed nice but not at £200 for a week (I was looking for next day departure). But then Salz de Ulx popped up on the screen for £109 and before you knew it we had Peter Kayed it! Didn't know where Salz de Ulx was but thought & nights B&B would suit me down to the ground. Soon worked out Salz de Ulx was near Turin in Italy and a Ski Resort that linked to the famous Milky Way. (ohh I thought I like milky ways and malteasers!) My friend now was in her last year of Uni and should have been revising for finals but she couldn't resist a bargain. She lied to her poor mum and asked her for her week's food money before sneakily packing her case for her hols.
Were did my money go?
Well threw me case together with a mix of winter clothes and tops and off we trotted back down to Manchester. I used to see a lot of skiers come through the airport when I worked there and I always wondered why they didn't spend bucket loads at the airport. Turns out skiing is an expensive lark and it isn't just about having the accommodation but all the added extras on top. Ahhhhhh poop we gotta pay to get up the mountain and learn how to ski. The apartment we got was smack in the middle of Salz de Ulx but only Bed and Breakfast so that meant eating out in the resort. The resort itself was tempting lots of little bars to go drinking in and nice restaurants to eat in. Someone hid the toilets though and left a shower basin there instead! (Not easy if you have had a drink)
Well back to skiing soon realised we had no skiwear, no ski equipment, no passes and no ski school. So quickly found a shop and bought some cheap ski gear in the sale and the pants really were comfy and warm. Then found a hire shop for my boots and skis. By this point me credit card had been abut bruised to say the least. Next stop was a ski pass and went to see the trusty rep who was very smooth talking and sweet talked us into a 7 day pass and 3 days ski school! By this point think me credit card had been well and truly battered!
How do you get to the top of the mountain?
Well the apartment was in the middle of the resort so it was a mini hike o the hire shop and from there we got suited and booted and then tried to scuffle up another hill to get the ski entry point. By this point I needed a drink and a rest. To get up the mountain we had to get in a cable car - that sounds like fun I thought. So in we get skis off but boots on. The Italian was saying something to us warria warria so we politely ignored him thinking what a numptey. Then half way up the hill I thought were not strapped in yikes the guy meant barrier, barrier. Trouble was we had skis in our hand but after a frenzied panic and whopping my friend on the head with the barrier it was down. Then we got to the top of the hill and had to work out how to get out. We stumbled off the cable car before the thing whipped round and went back down. Never moved so fast in my life to get out of that thing. Funnily when we went back down in it I missed the exit point and the lovely Italian stopped the machine for me to rescue me. When my friend made the same mistake the next day he didn't do it for her so she fell off it! (Guess that what she got for lying to her mam!)
Who wants to go to the bar- Join Ski School?
Well I got excited about Ski School and learning how to ski after my £££money input. There were loads of people to begin with and they did little tests with us to work out what level we were. Naturally I was put in the beginner group but my friend got upgraded to the amateur's brigade. What they didn't see my ski potential and my friend got a tanned fit instructor and we got Italians equivalent of David Dickinson!
Well in the end I loved ski school as everyone was a poop as me and we are worked well as a team. We took baby steps learning how to use the ski lifts and stop and start etc. Our guide even let us half a break in the bar every hour where we would stay for at least half an hour to sup some drinks. On the other hand my friend was with the show offs and super fast ones and got put on the advanced runs pretty quick (he he I thought). We stayed on the Nursery slope and red runs. The instructor used to tell us off for sticking or bums out and smack us with his pole saying bottoms up, bottoms up. How odd we thought till we worked out if you stick you bum out you go super fast and lose control. Well in my group we were all as hopeless as each other and if one fell off the ski lift we all followed suit. Going round one bend thinking I had grasped this and was doing well I saw the instructor stood by the tree and thought what you doing you donk stopping for a pose! Well next thing instead of making a bend I shot past him at 100miles an hour and collided with the tree and fell into a heap. Then turned around to see 6 of my group on the floor in front of me laughing in hysterics. (only got a few bruises)
Attempt it on your own?
After a day or two the confidence set in and we tried to do a little independent skiing. So naturally I hit the nursery slopes first and still fell over a few times, lost my ski poles, fell of the bum lift and got one or two decent runs. So gaining in confidence we hit the beginner's trail I had done in ski school. Well we started on it until it turned out there was a kiddies Italian slalom going down the red run. The little 4 year old tots had hijacked the ski run. Crikes I had been upgraded to the next level. Well it all went belly up from there the next run up crossed over a black run and I got ski fright and got stuck on the black run. We hadn't learnt how to side step it so I stood there whilst the little muchkins kept shooting past me. Then ahoy someone in my ski school rescued me to safety. So I hit the bar to recover for a few hours to hide my shame after being rescued. Well I never made it across the Milky Way but it was only my first attempt so maybe next time!
Après Ski -what's that?
Well after a few days skiing I ached from head to toe and my legs were knackered. So we took up visiting the pubs and clubs in the resort to get a little light medicine. This worked a treat and we were still up bright and early everyday to hit the slopes.
Would I do it again?
Definitely I loved the whole experience and even though I fell a lot, made a fool of myself a lot I adored my little ski school buddies. We even had a photo taken at the top of the mountain! We worked together as a team (my friends group didn't they were all too busy trying to outsmart each other). I loved my litle breaks in the ski bar and the Italian instructor was simply comical. I still have my ski clobber so if I find another good holiday deal ill definitely go as I think I got hooked in. Only problem is I only get school holidays now so the prices are pretty steep!
I would definitely recommend skiing to anyone and say give it a go. Definitely join ski school and go out and about in the ski resorts. Skiing is an active, fun and energetic sport. The resort we went to is good for beginners as has a lot of the easier runs. You will laugh at yourself and friends when you make mistakes so take a camera! I have fond memories of this holiday and I am proud I made it to the top of the slopes even if I only did the beginners run! I came back a little bruised and achy but will cherish my first attempt at skiing.
The tragic accident to Natasha Richardson whilst learning to ski at the Tremblant ski resort in eastern Canada highlights the fact that skiing, for all its supposed glamour and glitz, can be a dangerous sport. Richardson is not the only high-profile person to suffer an accident whilst skiing; Sonny Bono, former husband of American singer, Cher, suffered a fatal accident whilst skiing, as did Senator Robert Kennedy's son, Michael.
Richardson is 45 and whilst this may be considered a late start in life for such an energetic and technically demanding sport, it is actually not much different from the age at which I first learned. It is to my eternal regret that I did not pluck up the courage to take up the pastime earlier in life, not because I believe that it is easier to learn when you are younger, it's not, but more because I would have had longer to indulge in what is to my mind one of the most exhilarating sports on Earth.
So, don't let Richardson's accident or that of other well-known personalities, put you off if you are seriously thinking about giving skiing a try. Serious accidents are, thankfully, rare, even for beginners, and with the right precautions even those accidents can be minimised. But, how to take those first "steps"?
Well, it isn't necessary to go out straight-away and buy every piece of equipment and clothing you think you will ever need. Whilst ski clothing can be relatively inexpensive, especially if you buy from outlets such as TK Maxx, renowned for great value outdoor wear, there is no denying that the equipment can be very expensive indeed. Until you are certain that skiing really is for you, it is far better to hire, and this goes for clothing as well as equipment.
Best of all, at least get a basic grounding in the techniques of skiing before you set off for your winter destination. It is perfectly possible just to head for foreign slopes, and here I count Scotland as "foreign" as well(!), having signed up for a week's tuition, if you do find that you really cannot manage to get to grips with the skills required, you are going to have a lot of spare time on your hands. Still, there will I suppose, always be the local bars in which to drown your sorrows!
Throughout the UK there are numerous skiing centres that will offer you lessons that will get you off to a good start once you have decided to take that first ski trip. Whilst they are mostly open-air dry slopes (you can find a list of them at ifyouski/dryslopes), there is an increasing number of indoor "real" snow facilities such as the SnowDome in Tamworth and Xscape in Milton Keynes, that offer a taste of the real thing. And there is no doubt that skiing on dry slopes is not quite the same as skiing on snow. That's the bad news; the good news is that the techniques you need to learn are the same for both.
We learned to ski initially at the dry slope ski centre in Rawtenstall. In the few weeks leading up to our first ski holiday we visited three times for a total of four hours tuition from qualified instructors in the basic skills needed to stay up-right, to be able to head more or less in the direction intended and, most important, to stop before crashing into anything. All we needed for these lessons was a sturdy pair of jeans that we didn't mind getting dirty, and a pair of tough gloves. The gloves are especially recommended as the surface on which you ski has large gaps in it and catching a finger in the holes if you should fall, and you will, often, can be quite painful without. I recommend mitts as better than gloves.
By the time we were ready to head for the slopes we had at least started to master all of these. Our first ski holiday was in the Austrian ski resort of Zell um Zee. We had booked a complete six day's tuition as a part of the package. Although we had gone out and bought skiwear we had bought nothing else. Boots, skis and ski poles were all hired for the week at the resort.
The ski classes consisted of a group of around ten people. The instructors were all English speakers indeed, our two instructors were Scottish and Canadian! It soon became clear that our pre-preparation had served us well. We were able to master the basic lessons quickly and were able to move confidently to the next stage. This was far from true of many of the others. Indeed, it was clear quite early on that there were just a few for whom skiing would always be a skill that they would never learn to acquire.
Now, don't think that we are especially competent sportspeople. We both do play other sports. I played football for years, not well but enjoyably, and we both have played badminton and squash. In my youth I was also a racing cyclist. However, none of these really prepare you in any way for skiing. I was never a good ice skater though I can make may way unsteadily around a rink. That's the nearest skill I can think of to skiing.
However, we both took to skiing like ducks to water. Most of our group had only booked three days of tuition and so we had our Scottish instructor more or less to ourselves for the rest of the week. With such concentrated tuition we were even on Red runs by the end, and mastering them with a degree of competence. Black runs still eluded us though during this holiday. If you aren't familiar with the grading of runs, Green is the easiest, followed by Blue then Red and finally Black as "challenging".
By the time we were due to come home we had enjoyed one of the best holidays we had ever had. It was absolutely certain that we would do it again, and we have, many, many times. We have now been skiing almost every year for the past 20 years or so. This year was our first miss for a long time, due to various reasons that I won't go into here. The sense of "loss" is palpable. Skiing gets under your skin.
Nowadays we have our own skiwear, several items in fact although I would by no means describe us as fashion victims. What we also have is our own equipment. We decided to buy our own boots first of all but for later holidays we invested also in our own skis and skipoles. The ski poles are still the original ones we bought. They have lasted exceptionally well, despite suffering some unintended bends through various crashes. They were soon straightened out again though. The skis are our second set and have also proved extremely good value.
Getting good fitting boots is absolutely essential. Go to a proper ski shop and take their advice. More than anything, take as much time as you need to be completely happy that the boots you are trying really are a perfect fit. My wife can testify to the pain and suffering caused by wearing boots recommended by a salesman who really didn't have a clue. This was in Andorra. At least we had the opportunity to take them back to be changed before the week was out but by then the damage had been done.
So, what about protective headgear, bearing in mind Richardson's accident? My recommendation is, definitely, especially for kids. Kids seem to have absolutely no sense of fear, and our two are testimony to that. Mind you both are natural skiers. That means that they take risks that the rest of us would probably see as reckless. A ski helmet is not seen as chic for adults but what would you rather, a skull in one piece or hair with rather fetching red streaks?
Having said that, I confess I don't wear one, nor ever have, but then ski helmets were not common back when I first learned. I have had many crashes but I can honestly say that I have never hurt myself whilst skiing even so. The only serious injury I suffered was when I was brought down on hard ice by a stupid and inconsiderate ski lift passenger whilst exiting the lift.
Now (March 2009) is not too late to go skiing this year. Europe has had some of the best snow in decades and the current global economic woes have resulted in a shortage of visitors. Now some absolute bargains are on offer for late-season holidays and the snow is still generally excellent at the time of writing. If you have been thinking about giving skiing a try, there is no better time to take the plunge.
Oh, and don't forget your helmet, and your insurance.
As a qualified ski instructor... my review is totally biased as I LOVE SKIING...
First of all one of the main preconceptions we need to clear up is that of people that don't ski or have never been and when thinking of an excuse for why they haven't previously is usually something along the lines of "I don't like the cold so skiing isn't for me". Believe me the temperature may be -10C and 30cm of fresh snow has just fallen but one thing you won't be is cold.
It's so much fun as a beginner, an intermediate or even an expert. The adrenalin rush is amazing and the scenery is beautiful.
Resort do get busy and package deals are quite expensive. You are looking at around £600 at least per person for a weeks skiing holiday. However the ski areas are well looked after , there are a lot of high altitude resorts so snow is guaranteed and the après ski is VERY GOOD! Val Thorens, Chamonix and Les Deux Alpes are my preferred resorts.
Good snow conditions. Some of the resorts it is necessary to get a cable car up to the ski area so its not possible to "Ski to the Door" so to speak. Prices for holidays are around £500 so slightly cheaper than France, Austria and Switzerland.
Some resorts are lower altitude so if there is a lack of snow, large areas of the ski resorts get closed. Fantastic skiing and scenery. Austria is definitely the picture perfect ski holiday. Recommended resorts would be Kitzbuehel, . Austria is also favoured by the British Royal Family so how is that for a recommendation!
Similar prices to Austria / France for a holiday. Resorts benefit from high altitude and good snow, also Glacier skiing at Saas Fee so all year round skiing is possible.
Andorra boasts some of the most reasonable package deals for a good skiing holiday in a decent standard of accommodation. The resorts are generally very good for beginners. However there is some snobbery in the skiing world and Andorra is seen as slightly "chavvy".
Can't comment really as I have never been however its cheap, but some criticisms I have heard are that hotel accommodation is very poor and transport links can be rather inconsistent. But overall package deals are usually at least £200 cheaper per person than resorts in France , Italy and Austria.
If you are looking for a slightly longer trip i.e. 2 weeks head to the USA or Canada. Once in these resorts the generally the ski pistes are wide and are less crowded. The USA and Canada are definitely the place to go. Obviously because of the long haul element from the UK these holidays do cost more (typically around £850 per person for a two week break) however once you get to the resorts the cost of food and drink is a lot cheaper and restaurants and bars are more tourist friendly. USA my recommended resort would be Vail, its boasts the largest single skiable mountain in the Colorado Rockies and suits all abilities from beginners to advance. If you want to go star spotting then Aspen (Colorado) is the place to go. Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz are regulars here.
If you are considering Canada Whistler (British Columbia) would be my first choice. It boasts beautiful hotels, and a great ski area for all abilities. For more advanced skiers it gets excellent snowfall so if you love skiing in fresh powder snow you will definitely get that here.
Before you go my advice would be preparation is necessary especially if you have never been skiing before. Even if you are getting lessons in the resort, getting lessons at a ski centre in the UK is a good idea. Learning the basics about how to put the equipment on, walk about, balance and controlling your speed makes your job when you get into the resort a lot easier and doesn't make your first day seem so daunting . There are both outdoor "dry ski slopes" and indoor artificial snow ski slopes across the UK.
Even if you are of a reasonable level of physical fitness, learning to ski is extremely tiring and your legs do burn through tiredness at times. Before you go make sure you do plenty of exercise. Squats and other leg exercise two weeks before you go are a good idea.. It sounds excessive but you will be pleased you have done it once you get out there.
Layers are your best bet as it means if you get warm you can take layers off. Waterproof sallopetes and a waterproof jacket are essential. M & S, Topshop and TK Maxx have some excellent ski wear for reasonable prices. Long ski socks are also essential, a hat and at least two pairs of waterproof skiing gloves. A pair of googles and or sunglasses are needed due to the glare from the snow.
Unless you plan on skiing more than once a year don't rush out and buy skis and boots as this can work out really expensive. Hiring in the resort also means you don't have to transport the equipment out there, the tour operators offer ski hire and in all ski resorts you will find plenty of equipment hire shops. If you really want to buy your own, just buy your own ski boots, as ski designs change so regularly meaning that hiring lets you try out the latest equipment.
If you do have knee or back problem to quite a serious degree skiing may not be for you. Like any sport skiing does have its risks but it's a case of being sensible and using your judgement to whether you feel confident and safe.
All I can say is if you have never tried skiing then give it a go. Its so much fun and really good exercise however once you have caught the bug you will be addicted....
Skiing *sigh*, my favourite thing in the whole wide world......bitten by the bug after a school trip in the 80s, I have a secret yearning to take a gap year and become a ski bum for a season.
So why do I love it so much? Well, there is the little matter of the incredible adrenaline rush you get - whether hammering down a fairly easy red run, or bashing the moguls on the black that every sane skier avoids, or the amazing powder that ou know you will face plant into if you go just that bit too fast....that heart racing moment just cannot be beaten.
But it is not just the adrenaline.......the beauty of the snow is just amazing - when you get off the lift and you take a moment to look around and remind yourself that you really are on top of the world. Where pollution is nowhere to be found, and the air is as clean as it comes. Where the sky is blue (hopefully) and the snow is pristine. Where the food is basic, calorific and truly delicious, where the vin chaud is the best you have ever tasted at the end of a run.......
My list of why it is so fantastic would go on for ever!
Of course, it is not a cheap sport, but if you are sassy with your money and are happy to spend time surfing the net for accomodation etc, you can get a week on the slopes for a lot less than the package holidays would have you believe. The strength of the euro against the pound is obviously causing our ski trips to be more expensive, but it is also putting others off going altogether, so leave it til the last minute and you may well get some super bargains which will offset the drop in the value of sterling.
Me and my kids are all ski buffs, so for us it is a great time away from the realities of every day life.
Why not give it a try!
WHY PRE-CHRISTMAS? Well, it isnt just that greedy snowboarders & skiers such as myself are too impatient to wait until the season proper, which traditionally begins after Christmas
or not entirely, anyway. But theres nothing lovelier than a White Christmas, in a scenic location, and few locations are lovelier or more scenic than some of the worlds best ski resorts. A long weekend spent on the slopes in the lead-up to the festive season can be incredibly satisfying, especially if you can manage to squeeze in a nights stay in Geneva, Zurich or Vienna en route, and visit one of the continents more charming Christmas markets into the bargain. Speaking of bargains, there are more than a few to be had before the Peak-Season officially begins, when prices generally skyrocket, and pre-Christmas slopes are often very pleasantly under-crowded.
1) Zermatt: When compiling a list of this sort, it seems impossible not to begin with Zermatt, a resort that, quite simply, ticks all of the proverbial boxes Firstly, theres guaranteed to be enough of the white stuff to satisfy even the most discerning of snow-buffs. To illustrate the point, Ive skied the Matterhorn-Glacier at the very height of Summer (ie late July) and even then was impressed with the powder on offer! There are very few certainties in this world, but Christmas snow in Zermatt is most assuredly one of them. Secondly, the village is as pretty as a picture, or failing that, a jigsaw puzzle full of traditional, wooden, converted farmhouses, and set beneath the iconic, towering form of the Matterhorn. The entire village has been classified as an official Cure resort (a glorified spa-retreat, in laymans terms) and pollutant-emitting vehicles (thats cars to you and me) have been forbidden from entering its pristine parameters. Consequently, the resort is accessed via a charming little red train, which winds its way up and around the mountain from Tasch Finally, Zermatt has some really exquisite restaurants, from simple, wooden fondue halls to far more extravagant affairs.
Where to stay: The last time I visited Zermatt, about five years ago, I stayed at the Schweizerhof Residence, which was superb, but very pricey. A double room is CHF 500 before Christmas, but CHF690 afterwards Best Run: Triftj for its spectacular moguls Nearest Airport: Geneva.
2) Solden: Bafflingly, despite being one of the most glittering jewels in Austrias winter crown, Solden, in the Tyrol, still remains relatively unknown. Like Zermatt, Solden has year-round skiing on two glaciers, and it hosts the first Slalom World Cup of the season on the Rettenbach. All the same, I must confess to having mixed feelings about the place. I spent a week here over Christmas in 1981, when I was six years old, a holiday which culminated in a very nasty car-crash, and went down in the family annals as a particularly calamitous experience. Ive been back since, and was very impressed by the snow conditions, but the resort is by no means the prettiest in the Tyrol. However, when it comes to early-season skiing, its the reliability of a resorts snowfall that really counts, and on this score, Solden comes up trumps. Furthermore, the resort boasts a massive 150km of groomed trails, including one run which extends over almost 13km.
Where to stay: Sonnenhotel Hochsölden, located above the village at 2,000m, and set right in the midst of the slopes. Half-Board Doubles start from 150 Euro. Best Run: Any of the trails around the Gaislachkogel. Nearest Airport: Innsbruck.
3) Val Thorens: Ah Val Thorens another resort blighted, for me, by a personal disaster but I digress! Val Thorenss high altitude, with the attendant reliability of its snowfall, makes it frankly impossible to ignore as an early-season destination. It is home to the longest access-trail in all of Europe, and represents one third of the impossibly huge skiing area that is Les Trois Vallees, along with Courchevel (Europes most expensive resort) and Meribel. Its worth mentioning that while the latter two mightnt have enough skiable terrain to be reliable pre-Christmas propositions, Val Thorens certainly will. Just dont make the mistake of indulging in the more expensive, multi-resort ski-pass. There will be enough to contend with at Val Thorens itself, so its best to save yourself both the expense and the disappointment, unless, of course, snow-conditions are exceptionally good. The village at Val Thorens is purpose-built and relatively new, and can seem a little bleak and soul-less, especially in contrast to its two more picturesque sister-resorts in the valleys below. Its comprised of a large number of grey, high-rise, apartment and hotel complexes, which appear especially stark against their pretty alpine backdrop. However, it does boast some pretty good nightlife, and as said, is situated at a very favourable altitude, presenting some of the most reliable skiing in Europe from November through to March, or even April. I felt keenly aware of the resorts high altitude the first time I visited, in January of 1991. The first Gulf War had just started, and British fighter planes routinely & boomingly sped overhead en route to the Gulf, seeming so close that one almost felt compelled to duck!
Where to stay: Theres a large selection of self-catering apartments in Val Thorens, at reasonable prices. The Novotel Coralia is a very pleasant hotel, with half-board doubles starting from 160 Euro.
Best Run: Combe de Caron, an unforgettable, death-defying dive! Nearest Airport: Geneva/Lyon.
4) Engelberg: Now I simply adore Engelberg, and not just because of its chocolate-box perfection. Located less than hour away from Lucerne, its another Swiss resort best accessed by a trip in one of those little red trains you sometimes see on Dentists calendars The train departs from Lucerne, winding around the towns beautiful lake before nudging its way up into the Alps. Engelberg itself is charming. The village dates back to the 12th Century when Benedictine monks founded a monastery there. Many of Engelbergs buildings are constructed in the traditional, regional style, covered with overlapping little wooden slats that resemble the scales on a fish. The best skiing is up on the Titlis, which boasts the worlds first rotating gondola, featuring spectacular 360 degree views. There are well over 300km of groomed trails.
Where to stay: The Hotel Bellevue, set in a grand, turn-of the century building, has cosy rooms, serves up a fabulous breakfast buffet, and is exceptionally good value for money. Doubles start from 80 Euro.
Best Run: The trail which leads from the Kleine Titlis all the way down to the Truebsee, which offers some of the most stunning views youll find anywhere in Europe. Nearest Airport: Zurich.
5)Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada: Although my list has an obvious European bias, there are so many superb options for early-season skiing in North America that it would be churlish not to include at least a one of them My younger brother, a fanatical skier, lives in the States, and he swears that Whistler has the best snow in North America from November onwards. Whistler, set to host the Winter Olympics in 2010, is a resort on a massive scale, spread out over five separate village areas. It is located in a spectacularly lovely valley, and has a very friendly atmosphere, despite the crowds. Whistler attracts enormous numbers of skiers from all over the world, especially from Australia and Japan. The resort is almost as well known for its Apres-Ski as for its skiing, and has some very lively nightlife indeed. I was there on Australia Day one year, and there were long queues to get into the Longhorn, a bar hosting the Australia Day celebrations from 9am in the morning The skiing is fantastic, with thousands of acres of skiable terrain, and on powder days, which are common here, you can get up early and go out with the ski patrol for first tracks if you pay a little extra. Saudan Couloir, Whistlers best known trail, is where extreme skiing was popularised, and not for the faint-hearted. The resort also offers heli-skiing.
Where to stay: If you can afford it, the Pan Pacific Lodge, a beautiful boutique hotel with fabulous out-door hot tubs and a really good restaurant. Doubles from US$240.
Best Run: Saudan couloir. Nearest Airport: Vancouver.
ANYWHERE ELSE? Other great destinations for early-season skiing include Val DIsere in France, St.Anton in Austria, Verbier in Swizerland and Jackson Hole/Steamboat in Colorado.
Recent Met Office predictions of an unseasonably cold winter this year brought joy to my heart. Great! I said to my husband, Well be skiing by December! My celebratory mood was dampened somewhat by his reply Ok, he said, pipelines will freeze, industry will be crippled, and thousands of pensioners will shiver to death in their homes but at least well be skiing! This was something that had never even occurred to me at first. And in my defence, I really do feel guilty about it. : (
I moved to Denver Colorado 29 years ago. My wife and I were living in Ohio, where we were both originally from. For some reason, we always thought living in Colorado would be great, even though we had never visited there. In 1971 we took up skiing. The next year we took our first ski vacation to Colorado. The following year we took our second trip, but this time we went to Snowmass (at Aspen). We moved to Colorado the next year and we have been going to Snowmass every year since. Snowmass is excellent for a number of reasons. First of all, it is far enough from Denver, that you don't get the Denver day skier (like you do at Vail). This keeps the crowds down since you only have destination skiers. Second, I have never found an area that does a better job at grooming the snow. Snowmass, does a great job grooming and does a lot of it. Of the intermediate and beginner's areas it probably grooms 30% or more each night. Snowmass also does a number of little things well. They have a daily map of grooming which you can get at most of the restaurants. They also offer (you have to sign up--there is no charge) "first tracks." If you like to get out on the slopes early, you can sign up and get out before anyone else is on the slopes. It's fun! You will also find them handing out free cider on cookies at the top of the Coney Glade lift. Snowmass is one of four resorts in the Aspen area. The four areas are Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. Aspen Mountain is the most challenging ski area. It's blue runs are like black runs at most ski areas. Aspen Highlands has a lot of vertical on it. Buttermilk (like the name implies) is the easiest area, one designed for beginners and early intermediate skiers. Snowmass is basically an intermediate mountain although it has it's share of black runs and double black diamond expert only runs. With over 3000 acres, Snowmass longest run is over 5 miles long. Some sta
tistics. Snowmass is 55% intermediate runs (7% beginners, 18% blacks, and 20% double black diamonds). The highest peak at Snowmass is 12,510 feet and it has a vertical drop of 4,406 feet. Snowmass has 20 lifts of which 7 of them are high speed quads. On average, there are 2 people per acre on the slopes. Snowmass is actually four mountains in one area. The mountain right by the village is Sam's Knob. The front side of this mountain has a lot of the beginner runs. The back side of this mountain (Campground) has a more challenging area with black and blue runs. This area has a lot of vertical. The blue runs tend to be relative mogul free, while the black runs have a lot of moguls. The front and the back are quite different beyond the type of skiing. The front side is very crowded with people coming and going to the village. The back side is like being in a different ski area. It doesnt have near number of skiers as the front side and is quiet and almost seems remote. If you catch the front side lifts, you can ski down from Sam's Knob to the quad chair lift on Big Burn (the Big Burn lift). Burn is my favorite area and not surprisingly it has my favorite run on it. Early in the morning, right after they have groomed it, Sheer Bliss lives up to its name. I love to cruise down this long challenging run. Burn in general is a wide open mountain with trails that can be up to 100 yards wide. Burn generally is blue, but it also has access to trails that go down the side of the mountain which are both black and double black diamond runs. At the top of the Big Burn Lift, you can take a poma lift up to this area (Hanging Valley Wall). It snows a lot on Burn and you can get a lot of wind and cold up there as well. The top of Burn is over 11,000 feet. It has two lifts on it. One (Big Burn lift) is a high speed quad that will take you up the mountain in about 8 minute. The other is a double that takes 14 minutes (the Sheer Bliss lift).
If you skill Sheer Bliss you will need to take the Sheer Bliss lift up, or ski down the mountain taking the Coney Glade Quad up the mountain to ski down to the Big Burn lift. If you ski down Sheer Bliss you can go back up the Sheer Bliss lift, ski beyond it bearing left and take the Coney Glade Quad back up to the top and then ski down to the Big Burn lift, or ski to the right going to the third mountain, High Alpine. High Alpine is also a fun area, but frequently very crowded. There are four lifts up this mountain, but often only two are open (Alpine Springs and Naked Lady). A third lift is High Alpine that starts at the top of Alpine Springs and takes you up to the very top of this area. High Alpine has the most personality. The runs here have a lot of curves and bumps. In fact, one run is named "Naked Lady" because of all the curves and bumps on it. Naked Lady is my favorite run on this part of Snowmass. There are a number of places you can do jumps on on this run. Taking that final lift to the very top is also fun. All the runs are black, but if they have groomed any of the runs, it becomes a long steep blue run that is a blast. You can ski from High Alpine to Elk Camp using a run called Turkey Trot. Make sure as you get toward the bottom to get up a head of steam, because it flattens out at the bottom. Elk Camp is the prettiest of all the mountains. When you take the lift to the top, you will have the most magnificent view. You overlook an area known as Maroon Bells, and when I first saw and hiked it in the summer, I decided that if the Garden of Eden was in the Western Hemisphere, it would have been in the Bells. The runs down Elk Camp can be both wide and flat and narrow and steep with lots of personality. There are a number of places you may want to stop for a while and enjoy the view. It is from the top of this mountain to the base village that you get the longest run in Snowmass. Restaura
nts. The mountain itself has a number of cafeterias and a couple of sit down restaurants that are noteworthy. Finestra (Italian for Window) is found at the top of Sam Knobs. The downstairs cafeteria is call Sam's Knob although it is relatively small is pretty good. Finestra is upstairs and has the most magnificent view of any of the restaurants on the mountain. It is a sit down restaurant with good food and service. Finestra is open only for lunch. At the top of High Alpine is another lodge with a cafeteria and a sit down restaurant called Gordon's. Gordons is open for both breakfast and lunch. Gordon's has a wide menu with everything from Venison and Buffalo to Salads, egg dishes, etc. At Elk Camp there is only a cafeteria, but it is rather charming. Called Cafe Suzanne, it has checkered tableclothes, etc. I enjoy the sit down restaurants. You will pay only a slight premium for a much more relaxed meal. At the Snowmass Village itself are a number of restaurants. The Tower Restaurant is a nice restaurant which is open for both lunch and dinner. In the bar they have free magic provided by their bartender. The Stew Pot is a very reasonably priced restaurant that specializes in ....stew. Hearty meals that hit the spot after a long day on the slopes. There is also a wonderful bakery restaurant named Paradise Bakery. Paradise serves muffins, bagels, coffee, orange juice, etc. in the morning. These are really good. I especially like the low fat rasperberry muffins while Jackie loves the Zucchini Nut muffin. For lunch they have salads, sandwiches, cookies, cakes, etc. They are located in Snowmass Village across from the ticket office. There is also one in Aspen on Hymen Street. In Snowmass you are about 6 miles from Aspen. In Aspen there are many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs for evening entertainment. Three restaurants we really like in Aspen include The Cantina (mexican), Little Ollies
(chinese), and Der Weinerstub (German). Der Weinerstub is only open for breakfast and lunch. The biggest drawback to Snowmass is the cost. It runs approximately $65 per day for an adult. Fortunately, living in Colorado, there are a number of discounted programs, and we have been Aspen Classic Passholders for about four years. This gives us discounts everytime we ski. The bottom line is this is a wonderful ski area.
Now what I am about to do here is write about skiing. Writing about sports is always a bit of a grey area for me and rarely will I write on topics in sport that affect me in any way, for example I do not see what is so wonderful about football. But forget about football, this is a completely different section, lets all learn about the strange and rarely written about world of snow sports. What is a snow sport? Well they involve some physical or recreational activity on loosely packed ice crystals arranged into a manner by hydrogen bonds between the water molecules. Now forget about Chemistry and concentrate on what the sports are. Usually you will hear about the big international skiers at the big events such as the Slaloms or the incredibly fast downhill events usually shown on television in the winter. What is also being included in these winter events is snowboarding. Snowboarding has come a long way over the past ten years and I believe it is now considered an Olympic sport. These two methods of going down a slope both have the slalom and downhill categories plus they also have the trick contests, which are certainly a sight to see. Self -explanatory as to what they involve, basically the competitors show off and are judged on their performance. Remember thought that skiers and snowboarders do not really get on very well. Rarely will you find a skier who also enjoys snowboarding and vice versa. Skiers will say that “snowboards are too slow and they are always landing on their rear end or dragging their knuckles along the ground”. Sometimes snowboarders are referred to as “Knuckledusters” (a kind of insult) or “Shredders”. A female snowboarder is sometimes referred to as a “Shredbetty”. Snowboarders will say that skiers “look stupid” and complain that “those ski poles they carry can put someone’s eye out”. Also sometimes the good female skiers are referred to
as “Skibunnies” but I don’t know where that came from. But anyway, enough of that. Myself? I ski. I have skied since I was in primary school (about when I was nine or ten years old) and I have been on a total of five or six ski trips. I have been skiing in France, in a place called Valloire, The Extreme North of Italy in the Alps, and to America several times, once to Breckenridge in Colorado (famous, big events held there regularly) and twice to two small resorts called Bretton Woods and Loon , which are near to Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Skiing is like riding a bicycle, once you learn, you never forget. At a basic level all skiing is involves keeping your legs together and keeping the pointy things strapped on the end of your feet facing down the slope. The problem with this is that you tend to accelerate at a violent velocity down said hill. Most people don’t appreciate travelling at this speed, so firstly you will need to learn how to stop. Aha! Stopping! How ya do that then? There are two considered methods, the first involves skiing until you fall over, and the second involves moving your skis into a “wedge” shape. This is commonly referred to as a “snowplough” as beginners tend to drag half the mountainside down with them whenever they perform this manoeuvre. From this shape the skier then digs their heels down into the slope which applies more pressure to the skis which in turn makes said skier slow to an eventual halt. From this basic method of stopping comes the basic method of turning, the snowplough or “wedge” turn (latter more commonly said in America). To do this the skier applies more pressure to one foot than the other, thus causing the skier to turn slightly. Think about it, push harder with left foot and you will progressively turn right and vice versa. Ahh complex? Think not. Really it’s a lot simpler than it sounds. But from
this initial silliness of looking like a complete tube going down the hill with your legs spread out in front of you, follows the best part of skiing. Learning the “proper” method of turning, “Parallel” turning. This is a rather tricky method of turning which is an advanced form of the wedge turn. Basically you don’t spread your legs “akimbo”, you keep them together. What you do instead is rather hard to describe. If anyone knows anything about skiing, the way you travel is to turn your body downhill (“tits to the valley as they say”). Though trying to tell someone to do this on a black diamond slope will quickly get a reaction from that person, usually somewhat profane. Fear not people, skis are designed nowadays for this type of thing. What I mean by that is next time you see a pair of skis, look where the ski boots clip in. Now you will see that the distance from the toe of the feet to the end of the ski is much longer than the heel of the feet to the heel of the ski. This ensures greater balance and better steering. Also if your skis are that far forward, you can really not fall over them. Try it someday, maybe you’ll thank me. But back on how to parallel turn. Really what occurs is three things, and I’ll try and put them in order. Firstly you are traversing the hill, this means that your skis are “edged” into the hill and your knees are bent. Pressure is put on the downhill ski i.e. the ski that is further down the hill. If you put pressure on the up hill ski you’d push yourself downhill, we want to keep ourselves upright so we push “uphill”. Pushing the uphill ski will make you fall over, and we don’t want that. Next as you approach the place you wish to turn, you straighten your legs, take pressure off the downhill ski and stop edging, make sure you’re facing downhill and apply the pressure on the uphill ski midway through the turn so
it becomes the downhill ski. Your downhill ski will no longer be the uphill ski so stop applying pressure to it otherwise you’ll fall over. Due to this method it is possible to traverse hills on one ski. That is of course if you understand a word of what I’ve just said. Once you’ve got the intermediate parts of skiing learnt, there is only a few other methods that you really can learn. These methods are a bit show-offish and I’ve really never had the need to use them. One in particular is called the “pole plant” method. It ties into the “turn” portion of the parallel turning that I have previously mention. It just basically gives you a place to balance or “a point of reference” to turn with, so you don’t slide too much down a steep slope. Depending on where you go in this world to ski, there are many schools of thought. Instructors in Breckenridge in the middle of America will put more emphasis on the pole planting for example, whereas the East coast New Hampshireans will be more concerned with the edging technique. Enough of my lecturing on skiing. Time to talk about the good things about skiing. Skiing is a great sport to try and learn, because after you learn you will never forget how to, and you will want to go again. At least I do. Skiing is also a brilliant source of exercise as most skiing takes place up high mountains, a few thousand feet in most places. This means that the slight drop in oxygen levels means that your body will grow extra blood capillaries to your lungs, hence you’ll take in a lot more oxygen and by golly you’ll notice it when you get back to ground level. Plus, when you go to any decent resort you are guaranteed some great scenery of some mountains if you’re into that sort of thing. I prefer to ski and take little notice of the breathtaking views. This sport is also a great thigh burner, those leg muscles will get a superb workout every t
ime you do a run of the mountainside. Though after an initial day of skiing those legs can feel a little stiff, so be sure to do some stretches before and after you ski down a hill. Doing so will reduce the chance of you injuring yourself. Oh my god this is turning into another one of my rants. Ah, injuries. Hmm, hard to say really. I’ve never really injured myself badly at all. I’ve fallen countless times going down slopes at terrific speeds but I have never damaged myself badly. One example I will recount, I was in the French resort of Valloire. Now it was the first day and we were coming down a “Blue” slope. Europe has a lot of grades for slopes, from green, blue, red, black and any other colour that can fit in. The Americans have simply Greens, Blues then Black Diamonds. Anyway, I was coming down a narrow blue slope and I was having a terrible time trying to get my skis to stop. I was trying everything, wedge turns, snowploughs, parallel turning. I just could not slow down, I was convinced my skis were waxed by a previous owner (rental skis) and were buffed up to too good a shine. The group I was with had stopped ahead and I was approaching. Fast. I had three choices. The first was the ski into the group, possibly injuring myself as well as others, the second was to ski off the mountain, which would certainly injure me but no one else. My third choice was to ski into the safety net beside the group. I chose the latter, and headed for the plastic safety of the red chevrons. I can’t really remember what happened next, I tumble a lot, got slightly tangled in a net, lost my skis and one of my boots.. My hat and goggles had flown off and one ski-pole was lodged somewhere in the snow behind me. Nevertheless I got straight up without so much as a bruise. Strange no? The only time I have injured myself badly is quite recently over the Christmas holidays. I went off a fairly large ski jump, or “kicker”
and attempted a trick for the first, and possibly last time in my life. I attempted a 180 degree turn, which is where one tries to spin and face the other way in the air. I spun perfectly. Shame was that I landed right on my rear end from a height of seven feet after flying about ten feet. It hurt like hell and I thought I had broken something. All it was, was a badly pulled leg muscle that took a month or so to heal properly. One month of leg stretches later and I was as fit as a fiddle. Finally, it’s over. I’ve been writing this sermon on and off for the past two months or so. Anyway people, I hope my pathetic source of wisdom instils something within you that’s useful. Hopefully I’ve encouraged more people to take up this sport, or at least educate them on it. Be sure y’all try it sometime in your life now.
Many thousands of us are packing our bags, as I write, and are about to embark on the annual trek to the mountains for the half term skiing week. Unfortunately we will have to contend with the worst snow record for 40 years. February is normally reliable for heavy snowfalls, but not since 1964, have the pistes of France, Switzerland and Italy been so bare. This spells disappointment for many skiers and financial chaos for many low-lying resorts. Only Austria has escaped unscathed this year. Andorra and the Pyrenees also have adequate snow depths to keep most happy. More Brits go to the French Alps than anywhere and there the season has started badly and seems to be getting worse as traditional resorts are basking in temperatures of 14 degrees at 1500m and the freeze line is at 3200m. This is unprecedented in mountain climate and probably reflects the effects of Global warming. At present resorts are experiencing a thaw more commonly associated with May than February. This contrasts greatly with the Arctic conditions that skiers experienced just after Christmas. Visitors to Val d'Isere and Meribel have been surprised at the extent of skiing available to them, but this is due to the hard work of the pisteurs and snow cannons. In today's conditions, though it is too warm for these cannons to work and it must be heart breaking for the average pisteur to see hours of grooming and snow care washing down into the valley. Worst hit is Italy who has experienced only a slight dusting of snow before Christmas and there is none forecast on the horizon. To make matters worse rain is forecast for next week. Climate specialists forecast that global warming will shorten the Ski season by as much as 40 percent, and suggest that alpine snowfalls will only occur for three months of the year. At present the snow season lasts for five months. This means that average snow depths will reduce from the present 100cm to about 60cm
and many resorts will not be able to open as a result. The present unwelcome state of the snow certainly seems to add weight to these reports. Doom and gloom if you are a skier or boarder. But fret not; there are just as many reports that claim global warming will add to Europe's snow record. Because of the various climate models some predict Europe will soon experience record levels of snow and will be cooled by an alpine ice cap. Meanwhile this is good news for those looking for a bargain. A weeks skiing next week, if you book today, can be purchased for a massive 40 percent discount. American resorts too have no such snow shortage troubles and skiing is near perfect at resorts that are quite far south, such as Lake Tahoe. But if Italy takes your fancy I think that you may be lining up a week of hill walking and dairy animal gazing. You may not even have to pack your thermals. If you ask your rep the perennial question of "what is the snow like?" You may get the answer "green" instead of the usually dry and witty reply that usually comes ? "white". The current conditions also spell good news for ski technicians throughout most resorts. Most pistes are hard and have worn thin. Rocks are strewn about and edges are in constant need of repair. The going rate for an edge repair and wax is double that of last year and the sight of many skiers limping home with broken gear is common. Milton Keynes and other indoor ski centres also have never looked better. There are some who feel that the world will end if they don't spend at least a week a year brushing up their skills and techniques and many have abandoned their annual break in the mountains and opted for a few weekends indoors instead. I presume in the hope that better snow will fall next season. For many, however next season is just too far away and I, for one, need my fix of mountain air. My tip: A great week can still be had in Fra
nce. Any resort above 2000 meters is still skiable. The pistes are hard but well covered and holidays are cheaper than ever before. Another bonus of the unusually warm weather, is that it is also keeping European nationals away and even though the range of skiing is less there are many fewer skiers and the queues are not too bad. Last week I was in Val Thorens in the French alps and we had a great few days up high on the glacier and just below it. We waited no more than fifteen minutes for a lift and we even found a little skiable powder on some north facing slopes. Skiing is still a great holiday. For those of you who fear the cold, I am willing to bet you will not experience as much sun on any other holiday, and in today's conditions you will never feel cold. I spent all my time skiing in shorts and gloves only and my torso has never been so tanned. Despite the pessimism that global warming imparts to all of us who love this sport, a good time can still be had and at a cost that is affordable.
Having recently moved to a litll known town Idaho State, USA, it soon became apparent that between november and april i wouldn't see a blade of grass, period. When i moved away from my home town in the north of england on the 11th Dec 2001, and arrived at my new home 25 hours later, i was amazed at what i saw, there was about 2 feet of snow everywhere, except the roads. The snow, i was told, had fallen over 4 weeks earlier and hadn't even started to melt. So on finding this i soon realised that soccer, rugby and outdoor basketball was going to be put on hold until after march at the very earliest. So what could i do for the whole winter? My dad has already lived here for a year and last year he went skiing with some of his work colleagues to the ski resort just down the road at "Kelly Canyon", having recieved only 2 lessons and one individual day on the slopes he took it upon himself to introduce me to the finer art of downhill skiing, haha. So off we go, with more clothing on than ever before we went up the slighty icy road to the ski resort, we hired our equipment from the little shop and got or ski passes so we could use the lifts the top of the mountain. But first things first, to the bunny slope, the training ground and target practice for the more experienced skiers among us. So there we are waiting in line, with all our gear on, for the rope tow. The rope tow is an invention only an American could come up with, you manouvere yourself into the grooves in the snow, easier said than done, and then grap hold of a legthof rope that will pull you up the bunny slope. So you grab the rope and nothing happens, its going so fast that you cant grip it tight enough to go anywhere, then BANG your off, and in my case flat on face in the snow. So i try again,this time however i manage to stay upright and shoot of up the slop at a fair old pace, at the top of the slope, obviously you have to get off the rope and onto t
he main slope to make sure your not in anyone elses path, but remember your feet are embedded in the grooves of previous skiers, again easier said than done! This time though you only have one chance, so i literally throw myself to the ground, and i've done it, i'm clear, i have no broken bones and my ski's are still attached to my feet. Now problem number 2, how the hell do expect me to get up again? the slope isn't steep enough to give me any help so its all manual labour from here, i huff and heave for about five minutes and fall back exhausted, with my dad in pure hysterics at my obviously lack of talent. So i push my ski's off and start again. Down the slope, starting to pick up speed, starting to freak out a little, "how do i stop" i yell to my father whos flying down the slope in front, "do the pizza" is the reply. The pizza is the beginners technique to stopping, you point your toes towards each other and force your heals outwards, remembering that all skiing is done on the edges of the ski's i try to dig my inside edges into the snow and sure enough i'm slowing down, down, down and manage a reasonable stop at the start of the rope tow again, the joy on my face must have made a pretty damn funy picture. So most of the morning is spent going up and down the bunny slope in the pizza positions, slowly learning to turn through the position of pressure on my ski's. After lunch, dad decides, not me, that we should go upto to skiers lane, the beginners green slope. so up the rope tow to the top of the bunny slope and then sidewards walking to the ski lift, problem 3. Getting on the ski lift was easy, quite enjoyable actually, but the other end wasn't quite so simple, dad told me to push myself forward as we got onto the off ramp, little did he tell me to lean as far forward as possible, i shoot off down to the off ramp and not leaning forward doesn't help, i start falling bac
kwards and then put pressure on my right foot as i trow myself forward, so i shoot off to the left and ultimately into a pile of snow, and dad takes of to the right gracefully going down the mountain. So i begin my decent, what should take around 3/4 minutes takes about 30 minutes, every time i go to turn i go flying on my ass or my face. But i make it to the bottom, sore and bruised, but not giving up. SO we get inline for the ski lift again, and the lift breaks down. These things are over 40 years old by the way. So the lift operator says to go use the number 2 lift and traverse the mountain from the first exit ramp and we will end up on the green slope again, fair enough, so we ski down the bunny slope to the number 2 lift. We get on and everythings fine, as we approach the first exit ramp on this lift the people in front simple dissapear, when we get closer to the off ramp we know why, i'm not joking the thing was vertical, so we quickly make the decision to stay on board the lift, a costly decision we later learn. So off to the top of the mountain where the double black diamond and hard blue runs appear. We get off the lift and make a beeline for the nearest ski patrol to guide us the easiest way down the mountain. He agrees to help us down as we are basically useless at this point. Dad ski's down quite well, i fall down quite fast, falling roughyly 30 feet on each fall seen takes its toll and by the time we reach the bottom of the mountain i'm in severe pain in every part of my body and ready to go. Now most people would give up when they find that they cant move for the following 3 days, but no i percivierd and have been 6 times now, and no longer need the bunny slope, no longer need the green slope and both me and my dad are fairly competent at most of the blue runs, we even managed to do the slalom run last time we were there. So after probably the most painful day of my life i am now a fairly able skiier, a
ble to do parrellel turns and hockey stops on a pin head and i am now enjoying every minute of my skiing, until i break something that is!!!
Skiing is an excellent sport that does not actually have to be partaken in during the winter, as we know it. You see, in places like Andorra and the French Alps, the mountains are good for skiing until around late March time, but I would recommend you go between December and March, but February is a good month time. Skiing isn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but if you have never been before then I would strongly urge you to book a holiday where you get a skiing lessons, they’re worth the money, you learn how to do the basic turning, slowing down and recovering, and most travel agents do package holidays where accommodation, lessons and ski hire is included. Another thing, if you have never been before there is no point in purchasing a really decent pair of skis, as you may as well just hire them until you know whether you like this extreme ‘winter’ sport. Buy all the appropriate gear, like a skiing jacket (although sometimes it is too hot for them), get the skiing trouser things and make sure you have lots of sun cream and a decent pair of glasses. I have been skiing to Andorra, the most reasonable place to ski in Europe outside of the dry UK ski slopes, and I would definitely recommend this country to you for skiing. It’s situated in between France and Spain, you’ll have to fly to Toulouse in France then take a coach up to Andorra, staying in one of the lovely resorts. Skiing is fantastic. It’s one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done in my life and I would love to do it again, and hopefully will do. I believe that Andorra is a perfect place to learn how to ski, it’s the most reasonable place to do so, and the slopes in most resorts are not that daunting, i.e. it’s not as dangerous. Take care, enjoy your skiing and remember to seek lots of advice from travel agents. I would give skiing 5 Stars.
Skiing spread to other parts of the world and is now done primarily at ski resorts on specially cut trails. A variety of lifts carry skiers up the hill. The most common lift in North America is the chairlift, which is a series of seats suspended from a motor-driven cable that pulls the seats up the mountain. Various surface lifts, which pull skiers up the hill while they remain standing on skis, include rope tows, T-bars, J-bars, and poma lifts (also known as platter pulls). Many larger areas have enclosed aerial lifts, such as gondolas or trams, which allow skiers to take off their skis and ride up the mountain inside specially designed cars suspended from cables. In Europe, cog railways and funiculars (cable railways) are also used to carry skiers up a slope.
Skiing, winter sport in which people move across snow-covered terrain with long, narrow, specially designed boards called skis attached to their feet. Although people have been skiing for about 5,000 years, the sport did not become a popular form of recreation until the 20th century. Millions of people worldwide enjoy skiing for its exhilaration, sense of freedom, physical challenges, and fitness benefits. In my opion Skiing is wicked and cool. The only troble is the cost.