In which (to my surprise) I learn how to ski.

I have been away for a couple of weeks in the Rocky Mountains, learning how to ski.












Why one earth would I want to do that, you may well ask, given my well-documented fear of heights, of being cold and of going too fast?

tumnusWell, I did like the idea of being in Narnia under the reign of the White Witch … and indeed I think I spotted the hoofprints of Mr Tumnus in the snow on this trail to the left.

And I liked the idea of learning a completely new skill. It turns out to be quite a challenge to learn to ski at the age of 39, because it flies in the face of everything one has learned about self-preservation, avoiding danger, retaining dignity, etc.  Little kids learn in no time at all.

Another problem is the EQUIPMENT you need. There’s masses of it, including special socks, goggles, mittens and boots. Luckily I was able to borrow a snazzy ski suit from my sister-in-law.  Then there is ALTITUDE SICKNESS – no one warned me about that! At the top of our mountain we were 11,000 feet above sea level, and up there the air is as thin as in an aeroplane cabin.  It’s possible to get all kinds of horrible headaches and breathing problems, and you have to drink four times as much water as usual.  I’m making it sound awful, aren’t I? But I haven’t yet mentioned the VIEWS, the SUNSHINE, the CAMARADERIE and the ENORMOUS LUNCHES. And the simple pleasure of getting better at something each day.

We had two different instructors.  The first, the Cruel Instructor, took us to the top of steep hills and threw us down.  This was a cunning way to make us learn really fast.  Unfortunately, on one of these steep hills I fell over, hit myself in the face with my pole, lost both skis, and nearly lost a tooth too.  There was Actual Blood.  (Skiing tip: the way to get your instructor to carry your skis and boots for you – and they’re REALLY heavy – is to injure yourself, so that he feels bad.) (Another benefit of my little accident: immediately after it, as any proper British person would, I went to buy myself a restorative cup of tea. I was so discombobulated I couldn’t find my money in the innumerable pockets of my skiing suit.  So the lady in the mountain cafe felt sorry for me and gave me my tea for free, even though, like all mountain food and drink, it should have cost $449.95.)

The second, the Kind Instructor, let us do some fancy footwork on gentle slopes so that it was rather like dancing.  We didn’t learn so fast, but we learned more thoroughly.  It was good to have a combination of both.

vail-villageAfter seven days, however, I’d had enough of being cold and frightened.  I reverted to type, and went the Skiing Museum instead. There I learnt that this particular mountain, Vail, was used in World War Two to train members of the US army’s Mountain Division.  After the war, some of the veterans came back to the mountain, bought it, and constructed the town.  It is only 51 years old, and looks like a weird American version of Bavaria (on steroids).

But I was soon back on the slopes. And, to be fair, after ten days I was zipping happily down blue runs (I think these are called red runs in Europe). With its combination of terror and exhilaration, I can see why people get hooked on skiing.

Slope 1 Slope 2







Slope 3Slope 4





11 thoughts on “In which (to my surprise) I learn how to ski.

  1. Philip Holt

    Well done Lucy, it is fun and so exciting. I learned when I was 49 so had left it longer than you. Shorter people(like me) have a much lower centre of gravity, I found it quite easy after two days of school. I am afraid the old knees won’t take it anymore although I am tempted to get the skis out when it snows.

  2. Alan Green

    Well done Lucy, it is definitely harder to do than it looks. I did try when I was at school, had a few lessons on a dry slope in Gloucester (one of the longest slopes in the UK). I was utterly hopeless, but on the last lesson took the lift to the top (I did master the ski lift) and skied down, lost control, piled into a group of kids from Millfield school, skied off the end of the slope and ended up in the car park! I decided spending hundreds of pounds on a skiing holiday was probably a bad idea.

  3. Gary McCardell

    Bravo. I’m reminded of my own sad skiing career. As an American newly living in Bavaria, I signed up for lessons with a more experienced friend. The rented skis were much to long, the bindings much too tight, and the inevitable first tumble resulted in a sprained ankle. All was not lost. I was able to spend a blurry weekend in the ski lodge practicing my German: “Glühwein, bitte.” I never tried to ski again, but I developed a life-long affection for mulled wine.

  4. John Atkinson

    What’s next? Jousting?

  5. Sir Stephen Tumnus

    Makes a change to see a TV presenter doing something innocent on the white stuff. 🙂

  6. john harding

    Lucy, to repeat others : jolly well done, I started at the same age as you tho I chickened out on the real downhill stuff and went for Nordic mountain skiing: really good fun isn’t it? Despite the cold etc.

  7. Tony Shepherd

    Oh my …. snow … what a wonderful thought after suffering three days of 40 C heat here in ‘sunny’ Perth WA!! Great to see the Pommie cricketers and the Barmy Army turning lobster red in the Test match here and are probably wishing they were with you Lucy …. Go Aussies ….

    1. Lucy Post author

      Well, exerting my rights as the publisher of this blog, I would not normally let that last comment stand, but in this case I’m feeling generous. Go Aussies, but not too far. Not as far as actually winning…

  8. Caro

    Well done Lucy. I found it terrifying on the slopes. I much preferred the food and hot chocolate.

  9. Nigel Blumenthal

    Well done, Lucy. Like many of the posters on this blog, I also started late in life; my problem was that I was too cerebral. Rather than see the whole operation as “ski-ing down the mountainside and having fun”, I looked at the situation, realised that I was at the top of a long mountain with two planks of wood on my feet and no brakes, and decided that I had to be totally crazy to even think about this. The one lesson I did learn, however, was Never To Look Down At Your Feet. As the instructor said, you don’t do it when you walk, why do you think you need to do it when you’re skiing? All in all it was a fun time, but I haven’t been back…

  10. david

    fantastic pictures, after life on the dance floor with Len, the ski slopes will be a breeze


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