Learning to ski the hard way

by Dave Allan-Petale

I have never been skiing. I can’t ice skate. When I tried a skateboard at a mate’s 8th birthday party I fell on my face and got a bloody nose. Balance is not my thing.

But I married into a family of skiing fanatics who spend every waking minute either reminiscing about ‘that time in Falls Creek’ or planning ahead for another alpine adventure.

My father-in-law is so obsessed the sport that it was with unconcealed horror he accepted a novice skier into the family. In fact, I think he used the words: “No son of mine will not be able to ski.”

So no pressure then.

Like a lamb to the slaughter, I’m heading to the slopes in France at Sainte Foy Tarentaise with my wife, the in-laws and our mates who are also ski obsessed. I will be the caboose on their high speed ski train, and if I don’t pick up the skill I’m bound to get left behind.


I'm more used to the gentler slopes of a British  common

I’m more used to the gentler slopes of a British common

I saw snow for the first time when I was 15. I was on a coach tour of western Europe with my grandfather and sister and had reached the Italian Alps which were draped in a fine layer of pure white. The driver stopped and we tumbled out into the fresh air, scooping up handfuls of the stuff and having a snowball fight. I didn’t realise you needed powder snow to make the right kind of snowballs and ended up bruising my sister’s shoulder with the weapon-grade missile I created. So not a good start.

I gave ice skating a go once in Vienna - look, one hand!

I gave ice skating a go once in Vienna – look, only one hand on the rail!

But I’m determined to make skiing a success. A few months ago, or was it six (?), I went along to a ski training centre at a golf club in leafy West London. For an extortionate amount of pounds I got to strap on a pair of skis and take turns with a middle aged man on an angled bit of wet Astroturf that was like a giant treadmill. A young English bloke coached me through ‘the snow plough’, which involves angling the skis in at the front and out at the back so you can slow down or even stop. I mastered this, just, only to be told what I had learned was in fact useless because no one ever does the snow plough and it’s really a last resort, kind of like using the hand brake on the motorway.

According to Carmen, the only cool way to stop is by using the ‘hockey stop’.

So I’m sure my snow plough skills will come in handy.

I've been training hard for apres-ski for many years.

I’ve been training hard for apres-ski for many years.

I’ve neglected to go back to the ski centre and learn more things I will supposedly never use on the ski fields, so I’m going to have to take lessons when we get to Sainte Foy. I don’t mind though. The experienced ones can go off and do black runs or whatever while I muck around on the baby slopes having the occasional espresso.

I really do hope I can pick up the knack because from what I have been told (over and over and over) is that skiing is amazing fun. I guess it’s like anything, trial and error, though error in this discipline means falling flat on your face in the snow. Or worse. Wish me luck.

But don’t say break a leg.

2 thoughts on “Learning to ski the hard way

  1. I do believe that our first snow was in Canberra when we went to the “mountains” and attempted to make a snowman (that utterly failed)

    However you did scar me for life with the boulder you chucked in Italy – I’m sure there was a rock buried in that chunk of ice somewhere!

  2. Pingback: Skiing for the first time and conquering the downhill demons | doublebarrelledtravel

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