Taking On The French Alps, One Tumble At A Time

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A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

The last time I left you, I was roughly 2600 m above sea level, breathing in the fresh air of the French Alps, awestruck by the beauty of it all. This was one of those rare vacations where I found myself, quite surprisingly, enjoying a lot more than I thought I would have. 

I started off this frosty expedition with very little expectations – cold, cold, and some more cold. What I did not anticipate was to find myself so drawn to the wintery mountain landscape.

The higher I went, the more I wanted to see and discover. I did not expect to be so enamored by something that involved ice and cold. And I surely did not expect skiing to be such a well-organised sport, particularly for beginners.

From gearing up, to getting on the lifts, and navigating the slopes, everything seemed well-planned. And I? Well, I was a woman on a mission.  Despite my initial reticence (you can read all about it here), I had come here to ski.

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SKIING 101

As a first-time skier, I was warned that I would spend as much time dusting myself off the snow as I would on my skis. On any other day, I would have been able to take a few tumbles as well as the next gal, but this time I was sporting a delicate, newly-mended wrist. 

Just four months ago, I had broke my wrist while rollerskating. Three months of grueling therapy and several concerned meetings with my doctors later, here I was on the frosty French Alps. You would think I’d had enough of slippery, sliding gadgets attached to my feet (but no!)

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I guess I can say that the best part about skiing was that everything happened so quickly, it made backing out impossible. At one moment, I was standing at the base of the mountain with my month wide open, as cautionary whispers of, “no way, no way,” kept sliding of my tongue. The next, I was being told that, “it was all set” and that in two hours I would start my first class.

Before I knew it, those two wonderfully dull and uneventful hours had passed, and it was about to begin. I felt overwhelmed, like I’d just been thrown into the deep end of a pool with no life vest. My mind started racing; where do I start? What do I do? 

It took me an hour to gear up, and several more minutes to acclimate myself to attempting to walk in my ski kit. Then, before I could even make a full introduction, my instructor had locked me into skis, and I had begun my first lesson. Despite my best (but futile) efforts to stall the inevitable, within 5 mins I was already on the ski lift and heading to the so-called trainee or “bunny” slopes.

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LESSONS

What I quickly learnt is that time goes by very slowly when it’s your first time on skis. Everything happens in slow-motion. Except falling; that happens at the speed of light. Then comes the tough lesson that ice is as hard as concrete, and not at all fluffy as you hoped it would be.

You also learn, pretty quickly, that a “bunny slope” is as misleading a term as the Trinidadian measurement for slight pepper. At the end of each class, my happiest moment was the few minutes I spent on the ski lift as it carted me in the opposite direction to the mountain. 

The last – but probably the most important – lesson I learnt was that it gets easier…in time. It took a couple of days, and of course a number of spills, slides and a small skier-to-skier collusion, before I began to get the hang of it. 

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Learning to ski is possibly one of the most difficult types of physical activity I had ever attempted. Even completing five marathons didn’t compare! The good news is that I stuck with it, and with the help of my super instructor, I was skiing down slopes I would have never dared attempt a week ago.

 Thankfully, all of me made it intact, especially my wrist. And though I’m still not 100% sold on skiing as my preferred sport, I can safely say that it’s certainly worth a second try…soon!

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