How was the snow?

March 15, 2008

“So, how was the snow?” I was asked in the pub the night after returning from my first skiing holiday for twenty years.

I didn’t know how to respond. I have always thought that skiing is over-rated. There, I’ve said it. Unfortunately, I don’t seem able to find anyone who agrees.

It’s over-priced too, with lift passes the only form of transport outside of Japan which makes London Underground seem cheap. People who ski don’t seem to have a problem with this, nor do they mind how lugging equipment around, queuing at lifts, wearing shin-destroying boots, negotiating sub-zero temperatures, and waiting, waiting, waiting – the perils of any group holiday exaggerated by the unavoidable presence of mixed-standard skiers (and, of course, boarders, so superior that they ignore the detest of their two-planked cousins in a fashion reminiscent of England fans when faced with the vitriol of the other home nations).

There are few activities that I would consider undertaking every day for a week (including working). A golf holiday should be three days maximum, walking perhaps four. Skiers, however, have a strange desire to repeatedly risk breakages for six or even the full seven. It’s perhaps predictable that memories of my teenage ski holidays are full of girls and booze (and, somewhat surprisingly, cheese). But surely I should be able to remember at least something about the actual skiing rather than every detail of the night in 1986 with the fondue-stomach-ache and Laura Hale.

Both my lack of recollection and the suspicion that I have of the activity can be explained by one fact. I’m not very good at skiing. With the exception of anything scientific and gardening, there are few things in the world that I can do less well than balance on snow or ice. It feels strangely adolescent to not enjoy something simply because you are not very good at it, but this is an explainable feeling – as an adult, you can choose to avoid stuff you don’t like or can’t do. Adolescents have little choice, and deserve some sympathy for being forced to run around chasing balls of one shape or another, or whatever physical exercise is compulsory at school now that the playing fields have been sold and – of course unrelated – the country is faced with a crisis of obesity.
Mountains in Italy
Certainly, there was plenty to enjoy in my holiday. Mountains of snow are beautiful. Italian lifestyles are superb. Cheese, booze and girls were once again an important factor, in that order. And even my most curmudgeonly self will not forget one particular long run down the tricky red through the trees with the sun on my back. But next time I return home from a mini-winter-mountain-break (as they will be known in future), the question about the snow will remain as mystifying to me as LBW to others. So the response will be the same. “White. And cold.”