Let me tell you about my first skiing experience, not a happy one, in the hope that you can avoid some of the pitfalls I fell into head first!
It was my husband’s suggestion “Why don’t we take the kids skiing, they’re a great age to learn and you’re quite sporty, you’ll soon get the hang of it”. It sounded great, all I knew about skiing was picked up from my sister who’d been on a ski trip at the age of 14. She’d had a fabulous time and regaled me with tales of fun on the mountain and a good looking Ski Instructor who’d handed around a hip flask whenever they’d stopped for a break. It all sounded fantastic, what could possibly go wrong?
We booked into a lovely Chalet in St Anton which we’d be sharing with other guests. We arranged childcare for the children which included morning lessons and afternoon activities back in the chalet. My husband and I would be footloose and fancy free until 4.30pm everyday. Preparations went well, the children got some nice skiwear from Father Christmas and I begged and borrowed equipment from friends including some ski boots from a kindly neighbour.
The holiday date came round and we got up at 2am in the morning to get to Gatwick (our Tour Operator only offered Gatwick and Manchester flights) for our 6 am flight to Innsbruck. All went smoothly and we arrived in Innsbruck on time only to find the Manchester flight was delayed and we’d have to wait for a couple of hours for the coach to depart. We eventually arrived at our Chalet late in the afternoon (me covered in the vomit of a travel sick child! Not even my child’s vomit but that’s another story!) and had to rush out to to sort out equipment for the children, not easy when they were tired and grumpy after such an early start. We managed to get some food into them and settled them in bed and then enjoyed a hearty meal with fellow guests and collapsed into bed.
Our first morning of skiing came, we were up early, just as well. It took us ages to get the kids ready with gloves, helmets, sunglasses etc. At last we were ready to go and asked for directions to the ski school where we were to drop off the children for their lessons. The host informed us that it was an easy 10 minute walk. That didn’t sound too bad until I realised that I’d be carrying my skis and the poles for the rest of the family with my husband shouldering his own and the children’s skis! It didn’t help that we had to walk down the side of a busy road on icy pavements with me wearing ski boots for the first time. The inevitable happened and I fell over in front of a group of people waiting for a bus, much to their amusement. We got to the ski school meeting point and handed over the kids who seemed to have coped with the walk and were raring to go.
Time for me to learn to ski! “You don’t need lessons” said my lovely husband “I can teach you!”. After lots of grunting and stamping I eventually managed to get my skis on and travelled up a little magic carpet up to the top of the nursery slope and managed a fairly dignified descent down a very gentle piste without any embarrassing tumbles. After several trips up and down the nursery slope without incident my husband deemed that I was ready for a chairlift and a “lovely green” run. Green runs he assured me were very,very easy and I’d have no trouble with it at all. I managed to get on the chairlift without a problem, it was a different matter getting off! I ended up on the floor under the lift which the (very grumpy) Lift Operator had to stop, snow down my salopettes and helmet sitting on my head at a very jaunty angle. Again I was the cause of hilarity or annoyance for other skiers, my husband muttering under his breath “just get up, how hard can it be!” rather unsympathetically.
By this stage I was exhausted, cold,wet,humiliated and my feet were hurting like hell, nobody told me that ski boots could be so uncomfortable! All I wanted to do was get back to the nursery slopes. We set off down the green run and it was easy to start with. Fluffy soft snow and a very gentle slope, I can do this I thought to myself but that feeling didn’t last! Up ahead the piste appeared more crowded, it narrowed and got steeper and anxious looking skiers stood around with more confident types whizzing past them. “Don’t stop now, just keep going, you’ll be fine!” I heard as my husband breezed past. I froze literally and metaphorically. The slope looked horrendous to me, it was much steeper than anything I has previously tried with shiny icy looking patches here and there and bodies all over it. I inched forward gingerly but started gathering speed at an alarming rate heading directly for a tree. The only way to stop was to fall over.
I stood up and had another go and repeated the cycle several times getting more and more wet, cold and bruised. Robert (my not so lovely husband) was 50m below yelling at me to get a move on, bend my knees and keep my skis together. I tried, I really did, but I could not pluck up the courage to launch myself off the top of what might as well have been Mount Everest! I was aware of advice being bellowed at me from further down the slope but I was in no mood to listen, it was all I could do to stop myself responding with obscenities. In floods of tears I eventually managed to take off my skis vowing I would never put a pair on again and walked all the way back down to the nursery slopes cursing Robert between sobs. I was cold and wet and wanted to get back to the chalet for a relaxing bath or dip in the hot-tub. I stomped back to our accommodation took off my boots to reveal blistered feet and a squashed little toe. I’d forgotten that the children would be back in the chalet enjoying their activities, no chance of a bath and a nap for me. They wanted to tell me about their morning skiing and join in their exciting games.
Things improved after that, after much coaxing and cajoling I had some proper lessons with a qualified instructor wearing boots that were a proper fit and clothes that kept me dry and warm. We’ve had several wonderful family skiing holidays since and I even tackle the odd Black run. Now I’d choose a skiing holiday above a sun holiday every time. If you want to avoid an experience like mine just take heed of the following rules!
- Choose your resort carefully, one which is only a short transfer from the airport with lots of easy runs for children and beginners is ideal.
- Select convenient flights so you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn, you need to arrive in resort with lots of energy.
- Get fit before your holiday, it will make learning to ski easier.
- Pick a chalet close to the piste, avoid walking far in ski boots carrying skis, you really do NOT want to have to get on a bus to get to the ski area particularly with children in tow.
- Go for a catered chalet, hotels are often too formal for children and after a day on the slopes you really don’t want to start cooking supper!
- Get boots that fit well, hire them in resort and get them properly fitted. If you take to skiing you can buy a pair of your own, it’s a great investment.
- Get proper skiwear, there’s nothing wrong with borrowing it but it must fit and keep you dry and warm.
- Take 2 pairs of proper Ski gloves for each member of the family just in case you loose a pair or one pair is too wet to wear.
- Consider taking your holiday later in the season when it’s likely to be warmer.
- Choose a holiday company that has dedicated creches and doesn’t provide childcare in your chalet so that you can sneak back to the chalet for “me time” and enjoy a soak in the hot tub without little people trying to climb in with you.
- Take the family to a Snow Dome or Dry Ski slope and have a go. At the very least you’ll get used to wearing boots and skis and, who knows, you may even learn how to stop!
- MY TOP TIP – NEVER, EVER,EVER let a husband/partner teach you to ski, it may ruin a beautiful relationship! Get professional help, book some lessons with a qualified instructor!