We went to Val Thorens!
I had never been skiing, but desperate to go, so when my friends suggested a group trip with a great deal - I leapt at it! Kitted-up with help from my friends a group of 12 headed off from Birmingham Airport!
Now, finally, I can now attend a winter EMS placement at a vets and join in when they all ask "so, do you ski". The answer to this is still 'NO', but I can probably fumble through a conversation now! The answer to whether I enjoyed it is - YES, absolutely loved it! I can completely understand why people become obsessed with it - however until my financial circumstances significantly improve, I wont be going again anytime soon!
Day one: I DID NOT FALL OVER! This could have two interpretations: either I'm a natural born skier and future winter Olympian or, more likely, the fact that I was in a permanent squat meant that my centre of gravity was so close to the ground already that falling over would be almost difficult.
After the excitement of my first lesson had subsided a little, the pain in my feet I had been distracted from became intolerable and so I asked some of my friends (all very seasoned skiers) how much my feet should hurt. To sum-up their response - they told me to stop being a wimp. So I 'manned-up' and got on.. that night I realised however that I wasn't being a wimp as simply the weight of the duvet was hurting my toes! The next morning Oliver (my other half) made the executive decision that I should get them swapped at the rental shop to end my constant moaning. I did this. The man in the shop also told me that my bruised calves (from the boots being too tight) was also not a normal consequence of skiing, and so I got some enormous boots instead. They were MUCH better!
*Well, a little fact from the future - my big toenail went completely black and fell off, which was utterly gross.*
Back to the story.. after day 1/5 was considered a success, I was feeling pumped that things could only get better! The morning of day 2.. we realised you could get all the 'baked French goods' that dreams are made of, delivered to your door! So, practically rolling down the slopes full of pain au chocolat, we started lesson 2. Today was also a good day, AND I made it to my first après-ski! As the sunset and the bar closed, a feeling of dread flooded through me. I'm short-sighted, particularly in gloomy lighting and this combined with altitude, alcohol, crowds and a fundamental inability to ski presented me with a slight predicament. Perhaps I should have had one more pint for some more dutch courage, however I was a total wimp and practically crawled back!
As we arrived back to our apartment, a group of us who had still ben skiing whilst we were at après, were already there. One of our friends (a fellow novice) had unfortunately landed somewhat badly on his leg and had a fibula fracture, which made me even more certain that I was lucky not to have gone the same way on my drunken return from après. To cheer us all up, we went to eat cheese - raclette to be precise and fondue. This worked a treat and I think our friend almost forgot he was having to use his super-cool 'crampon-crutches'.. until he had to get himself back. Alpine resorts have this tendency to be somewhat hilly and in winter.. icy - not a friendly combination for a one-legged man, but he managed well!
CHEESE, BREAD and BN BN's - all you need!
All week the more adept skiers in the group had been using an app which GPS-tracks the route and plots your speed. Unsurprisingly, this had become a competition and everyone (except us useless ones) were having a ball speeding down the slopes. It was day 4, and I was feeling much more confident. After 4 days of trying desperately to improve as fast as possible (I am very impatient) I was keeping-up at a reasonable pace and wondered, absent-mindedly, what speed I was happening to ski at. It wasn't long before I had got my hands on a relevent iPhone. After a 53mph descent, I was laid in a heap at the foot of a chalet, into which I had collided, grinning maniacally! 53 MPH!
Now, for a good skier this is fast but not so fast... for me, this was totally incredible and a definite personal record! There was one huge flaw to this endeavour - I hadn't learnt how to stop efficiently yet. I was still at 'snow-plough' stage - this is a terrible way to stop and will not slow a 53mph Beth enough to prevent her crashing into the Chalet! My competitive nature is a hidden attribute, one that I forget about regularly! This wild streak continued and I made it to 'La Folie Douche' - the most famous Apres-ski site at Val Thorens. The reason we hadn't been there yet was because it was a 'difficult'' blue run down, and at that time of day it becomes very icy (scary for little me). I learnt my lesson from last time - I had that extra pint and I got on the tables, danced (terribly) and screaming (why, why, why?) when the MC kept shouting "You want Champagne on your faceeeee?!!" The ridiculousness of it was hysterical but, I must say, it was very fun!!!
The altitude must have been getting to me, because the next day, I do this...
...and the blame is all the instructors for telling me to try and back-flip! I can assure you I hadn't been drinking however, I did nearly know myself out but hey ho!
The final lesson was HARD, though we did get time for a hot chocolate. we practiced control, speed and played on the slalom course (this was a knee-breaker!). Right at the end of this lesson - when I was really tired - a photography rocked-up.. and here are some of the pics:
By the end I felt a mixture of emotions.. I loved skiing, I loved the holiday with friends, I hated being 'crap' at something (and I was still very crap) and my body HURT so I was relieved, yet sad, to be leaving!