As the ski season is coming to an end, the Winter Olympics is in full swing and my ski holiday is approaching (more on that soon) I thought I would write a little article on skiing, in particularly my personal ski experiences, where I learnt to do my favourite sport and what I want to do with it in the future, because it is something I am very passionate about and lucky enough to be involved in, and thought it would interest you guys too.
As defined by Wikipedia, "Skiing can be a means of transport, a recreational activity or a competitive winter sport in which the participant uses skis to glide on snow." and I've never heard it put so accurately, nor weirdly, but its true. When you ski its just down to you, your skill and your skis, and as Matt put it so well in the video above: skiing is easy. But don't let that confuse you because skiing well is bloody hard.
As a toddler my family went on ski holidays often. My parents were young and fun and put me in Ski Creche for the day while they went out on the French pistes they knew and loved. My dad had grown up skiing, with my Oma and Opa taking my dad and uncles often, he even chalet hosted and became a boot boy in the alps as a teen, which is where he learnt to ski so well.
I learnt to ski properly when I was about 10 years old at Gloucester Ski Centre, a rather large dry slope in a city not too far from where I lived with three button lifts, a bar, boot room, ski shop and a snow park. Even after 6 years or so I still go there often to train and practice my skiing, just because it's convenient and has become a second home. I wont sugar coat it, Gloucester isn't exactly the best ski centre in the UK, even if it's the longest. The food isn't anything special, the building is worn, the snow park is dodgy and the matting is sticky, but its better than some of the other places I've been & it all adds to the charm, and what more can you expect when the owner can't ski himself?
When I first started skiing I was horrendous, no joke I couldn't stand up on the little learner skis I had hired... and the button lift seemed like the scariest Satan spawned torture contraption I'd ever seen, but after a few lessons and my dad threatening to put a ski pole up my bum if I didn't get my skis in a pizza shape, I was at the top skiing down perfectly.
And so the start of my life as a ski lover began. I'd go to Gloucester with my little crash jacket, Atomic Brace Helmet, Leki Slalom Guard poles and Race Tiger Skis whenever I could convince my parents to drive me there. Yes... I looked like a right twit in all that, but I was convinced I was the next Chemmy Alcott. I knew all the staff: Donna the bartender became a good friend, and I began to get to know the receptionist and little 11 year old me began to fancy an odd ginger teen who was the boot boy and snowboarder. My parents then booked me into slalom school a few months later where I started race skiing and learning how to ski properly in parallels with technique and precision. I wasn't the next Olympic champion, but I wasn't bad either. My entire family would be down there on a Tuesday night for fun, Friday night for South-West Slalom Training and Saturday morning for happy hour, when the lift passed were discounted. We raced and had competitions and it was great fun... Until Seb was born.
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely freaking love Seb, my little brother is probably the coolest little dude going. Here's a photo of him as a toddler in my ski gear. He's a really funny kid and quite a cool lad, even if he is a little too obsessed with Minecraft, and his skiing isn't too bad for a 6 year old. But at the time I was devastated because with a toddler, a 5 year old, myself and a dad who worked away, my mum simply didn't have the time or energy to take me to slalom training and the slopes a few times a week, and with three kids, a house and a dog I really don't blame her.
To make up for it, dad booked a ski holiday to Scotland so I could race down the mountains on real snow, not artificial brushes. The only problem was that the visibility was scarily low, you couldn't a metre in front of you, and I had quite a nasty accident involving a ski, my head and a snowman resulting in a head injury, red snow and surgical glue on my head half way up a piste by an off duty surgeon who happened to ski. I was absolutely terrified to ski after that, the lifts closed, the holiday ended and we went home. With little interest in skiing when we got back, my head still throbbing; life got busy and soon the happy hour on Saturday morning skiing with my dad stopped too, and for a few years I didn't ski.
It's only recently I got back into skiing at Gloucester as I needed a focus and a sport to call 'my thing', something to distract me from my dodgy mental state and release those feel good endorphins and get me fit & active again. I had wanted to do it for a while as i began to miss it, so i said screw it and convinced my parents that we all needed to get back into it, so I put on my skis, went straight to the top, and began to ski down... freaked out, took my skis off, cried, put my skis back on, fell over, lost my helmet down the slope, tried to ski, fell over, cried, took my skis off... but in the end I got it and after a few runs and dad doing the good old "I'LL SHOVE THIS SKI POLE UP YOUR BUM!" threat, I was back to skiing how I used to before. If anything, I'm now better. I wont deny it, yes my parallels can be messy, my posture isn't always perfect, I go way too fast, I still cant land a jump and occasionally I get a pole stuck in the matting while trying to turn, but I love it and I've made so many friends through it while chatting to people at the bottom of the lifts. Now I'm doing it frequently I cant wait to get majorly back into slalom training because I am and always have been a little race bunny... and yes, in case you were wondering, the ginger kid is still there and I DO NOT fancy him anymore, sorry dude, you have a nice snowboard and your orange salopettes are sick too!
In conclusion, I'm no professional and as much as I'd like to be, I doubt I'll get to that level. Yes: I'm beginner/intermediate at a push, but its something I love and if you haven't tried it I'd 100% recommend you book a lesson, just because it's a bit of fun and an absolute laugh, and it offers so many psychological benefits.