My family regularly complains that they miss skiing. Back in France we lived right near the Pyrenees. We could see them from our window and could get there in a matter of hours to spend the afternoon skiing. Unfortunately for them, the opportunity to spend a day in the mountains is more rare here in Perth.
I love snow. I think it is magical and I always find it a little bit sad when Australians ask me: “What does snow feel like?” because it is definitely something everyone should experience. In a nutshell, snow is cold, white, flaky, it crunches under your boots when you walk and it hurts your fingers if you touch it too much (even with gloves). And unless it is freshly fallen, it is hard. People in the cartoons make it seem like making snowballs and snowmen is easy, but don’t let them fool you. In reality, manoeuvring snow in the shape of an actual, round object is near impossible. And making a snowman is a long and painful process that will have you panting up and down the backyard for hours, the result more often than not being a small, weird looking white thing with pieces of your backyard stuck to it.
But do not despair, I have seen some great snowmen in my time, and though it is not easy to make one it is definitely a fun experience everyone should have.
Yes, I love snow. Skiing, however, I am not so sure.
I started skiing lessons when I was very young. My mother is pretty much a pro, and my granddad, who taught her, tried his luck with me. When I first started learning I think I was too young to realize I didn’t enjoy it. Either that or I thought it was normal not to find it fun at first. Or maybe I thought I had to pretend to enjoy it because everyone else seemed to, which is the mentality with which I have approached all kinds of physical activity my whole life. In any case, I don’t remember loving skiing, but I don’t remember hating it, either. After our little family ski trip when we went back to France two years ago, I can tell you that I definitely hate it.
In the words of Will Smith: “What is exhilarating about strapping two sticks to your feet, flying down a hill at 90 miles an hour, and then slamming into a tree?” That sums up how I feel about skiing. But let me unpack for you my hatred of the sport.
When you go on a skiing trip, be prepared for not being able to walk pretty much the whole time. You cannot walk when you have your skis on, because they are about two meters long. You cannot walk when you have your skis off and just the ski shoes on, because they weigh about two tons and are strapped so tight your feet are immobilised in them. Going down the stairs with those is definitely an experience not to miss! And you cannot walk when you are barefoot because your feet are aching from having been strapped into those massive boots all day. You may also have twisted your ankle when trying to master the art of zigzagging down the slope, but let’s hope that hasn’t happened.
Now about the skis themselves. Sure, they are great to slide down the mountain, but when you are on flat ground, good luck getting anywhere you want to go. I would stand there with my skiing sticks, frustratingly digging them into the snow and desperately trying to pull my body even a centimetre forward. No luck. Most of the time I would actually end up sliding backwards.
Obviously some people can do it, though, because I distinctly remember my family waiting patiently for me to finally catch up with them at the bottom of the ski lift. I also remember people zooming past me at speeds unreasonably similar to when they go downhill. I guess I just don’t have the technique.
The thing I hate most about skiing is undoubtedly falling. Not because it hurts to fall, no, it’s painless. I actually enjoy those brief moments of relief and relaxation as I lay down in the snow. No, the problem is that those moments are way too brief. With people whooshing past me at unimaginable speeds and, if they are anything like me, only very limited control of where they end up, I have to get back up fast before someone hits me- because that would definitely hurt. But the problem when you fall on a hill is that you can fall two ways: with your head facing the top of the hill or with your head facing down. In the first case, getting back up is easy. But if you happen to fall with your head facing down, you have to move your body more than 90 degrees up. Which might not be too bad if you didn’t have those stupid skis attached to your feet.
I’m pretty sure it took me about 10 minutes to get up once.
If you are reading this and you’ve never skied before, this probably won’t have encouraged you to do so. But don’t worry, because people who are reading this and have skied before will probably disagree with me. Most people love skiing. They love the rush you feel when you are going down the slope, the speed at which the wind comes and blows your hair- and goggles, and beanie, and scarf, and anything else you might be wearing- off your face. It really does have its moments of thrill and exhilaration. For boring unadventurous old me, however, those few moments just aren’t worth the pain and frustration.
I much preferred staying in the cottage, under a blanket, with a hot chocolate and TV, once in a while sneaking a peak outside and thinking of my family, out in the cold, under the falling snow.