My non-skiing skiing holiday

Allalinhorn, Alps (Switzerland). Panoramic vie...

Allalinhorn, Alps (Switzerland). Panoramic view from the top. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Half term ended – tick. Children back at school – tick. All back from skiing holiday in one piece – tick. Relative calm and good humour resumed – tick. General irritation with British weather – high.  Desire to see snow again in the next 9 months – zero.

So I’ve returned from my oxymoronic non-skiing skiing holiday.  The advantage of such a holiday is not to be underestimated, largely as this year I am in one piece, standing on my own two feet and not doing battle with the well-intentioned, woefully underfunded NHS. That said, to guarantee this outcome it did mean giving up an integral part of a skiing holiday, the skiing.  Did I miss the skiing? Yes.  If I’m honest, although I had a lovely time (largely because I had a non-skiing friend there too), there is something a bit odd about choosing to spend a week in freezing temperatures whilst not indulging in the one activity in which everyone else is indulging.

With this in mind, it will come as no surprise to you that much like my faux-exercising (ie dressing up as though I am/have been exercising, remaining dressed as such all day and being mistaken for a member of the “smug women who do actually exercise every day” group), I was attired in full ski gear.  Somehow I didn’t get the same satisfaction out of this duplicity as I do from my pretence at exercise.  I guess that’s because those wearing ski kit were actually doing something I wanted to be doing too.

There is something rather sad and pathetic about coming down a ski lift (especially in full ski regalia) – no-one does that, do they?  Well, I did, every day.  Although I have to admit coming down in glorious isolation is infinitely preferable to being squashed into a transparent box, dangling in mid-air, with an unnatural proximity to total strangers, playing the “avoid the ski-pole in the eye” game all the way up the mountain and worrying whether you will get off the lift in one piece, with all your skiing paraphernalia and pick up your skis (and not someone else’s – are you reading this, Mr Pain in the Backside, who took my husband’s skis?)

So I’ve established that, for me at least, it was not a skiing holiday.  Actually at the risk of being accused of pedantry, “holiday” doesn’t really cover it either.  Certainly there were elements that come under the verbal umbrella of “holiday” – eating too much (not a good plan when you are not skiing to work it off, as the scales screamed at me this morning), drinking too much and laughing (a lot) with friends.  However, there were also elements that transgress any trades description of “holiday”, most obviously “children”. I have long ago stopped calling going away with children a “holiday” because it simply is not a “holiday” in the sense that you might have used the word in those halcyon days of youth and no kids.

No, with children, a holiday is more accurately described as a “change of scenery”. Obviously this “change of scenery” is very welcome although often more challenging than staying at home and never is this more true than on a skiing holiday.  Trying to get three children (four if you count a husband) dressed in 200 layers, fed and out on the slopes before 9am requires a herculean effort. It is not possible to get through this daily trial without at least 3 missing gloves, two full-blown tantrums, serious over-heating (not surprising with thermals and 199 other layers – the timing of layering is crucial), at least 15 mentions of “you don’t know how lucky you are to be skiing at your age, we didn’t do this when I was young”, at best 2 out of the 3 children requiring a loo visit just as you are exiting (which requires removal and replacement of 200 layers X 2 to accomplish) and of course you still have the dubious pleasure of carrying all their skis to the slopes as they walk/slide/fall over alongside whining about how cold it is (whilst trying to stop yourself from shouting, “Well, what the bloody hell did you expect in a country covered in a metre of snow?).

Yes, I definitely missed skiing.  I hope that I shall ski again. However, there is nothing quite like the piercing blue skies in the mountains, the perfect white duvets of snow and the odd glass of wine (medicinal of course) to lift the spirits and the best thing of all, watching the children thoroughly enjoying – for the  most part –  an outdoor activity which doesn’t involve hours glued to a screen or tapping away on a keyboard.  If you’re going to have a “change of scenery”, you can do a lot worse than the mountains – I always find the grand, awe-inspiring scale of the scenery puts everything into perspective and makes you glad to be alive!

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To ski or not to ski, that is the question?

Skier carving a turn off piste

Skier carving a turn off piste (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry for the radio silence this week but I had a knee operation on Monday and have been extremely busy doing absolutely nothing since except periodically inspecting and admiring my surgeon’s impressive attempts at giving me back a useful knee albeit one that looks as if it has had a drawn-out battle with a potato peeler.

As you know I was slightly uncomfortable about the impending forties and this is in part I think down to the three knee ops I have now had in the last year. Knee surgery is definitely one of those surgeries which reeks of age, wear and tear and threatening arthritis. Although, before you feel too sorry for me and the terrible toll the ageing process is taking on me, I should point out that I actually wrecked my knee last year whilst attempting the impossible – keeping up with my kids on the ski slopes. It should have been obvious really that I was going to struggle when their skis never deviated from pointing directly downhill whilst I took a more leisurely turning approach to my descent!). Aside from always playing catch-up, there is also the fact that when it comes to skiing, kids bounce when they fall and adults shatter.

I am probably insane but I am in fact going to a ski resort with the kids in half term. I use the words “ski resort” advisedly as “skiing” would not be an accurate description of the activities I shall be indulging in – drinking and eating in alpine bars and telling anyone who will listen that I would rather stick rusty pins in my eyes than put on skis again. I have now joined that group of people – non-skiers – who desperately hark on (lie?) about how wonderful ski resorts are if you are not skiing. Of course I’ll look the part – I didn’t invest in those now ever-so-slightly tight salopettes and après-ski boots (always known as moon boots to my generation) in order to consign them to the back of the wardrobe because of a mere skiing accident that has just mildly dominated the last year for me. After all skiing is only partly about actually skiing and partly about looking the part.

The writing was on the wall for me with skiing from very early on – the signs were all there if only I had taken heed. On my first ever skiing trip, in the final day race, I came a distinguished 45th…out of a field of 45. I knew then that I was no Franz Klammer. On a skiing trip in my late teens I was knocked out by a rogue button lift within my first 5 minutes on the slopes. On this occasion it wasn’t just my head that was dented but definitely my pride too – there is definitely nothing cool about being knocked sparko by an evil little button lift in front of a packed piste.

This humiliation led, not surprisingly, to a voluntary retirement from the slopes until my ill-fated trip last year. Surely nothing bad could happen this time – I’d done my skiing penance hadn’t I? Oh no, those pistes were ready for one last “taking the piste” which led to me taking the not very dignified blood wagon route down the mountain and the even less dignified request for payment (extortion?) at the bottom of the mountain or risk being unceremoniously dumped to find my own way to hospital.

It’s funny how things turn full circle – the one thing I remember from my first ever ski trip was my instructor imploring me to “bend ze knees” – ironically 30 years on as I sit on my sofa recuperating I am still desperately trying to do the same thing. All I can do is take heart from what one blood wagon attendant said to another, under the impression (largely accurate) that my French is elementary and therefore I would be unable to understand, roughly translated, he commented that “she has kind eyes”. Who knows maybe that wasn’t exactly what he said or meant but I’ll run with it – I’d choose kind eyes over beautiful knees any day!

Cold, white stuff…

Snow Cat

Snow Cat (Photo credit: clickclique)

Everybody knows that the weather is a national obsession for the British and no more is this true than when it snows.  Most of the UK is currently residing under a few inches of snow – yes, for my Canadian readers, I do mean a few inches not a few feet.  Now, I know for Canadians a few inches is laughable, not even worth mentioning, but for us, Brits, these couple of inches of cold, white stuff is dominating all news headlines pushing far more important events unfolding on the world stage into the realms of “And finally, in …..”.

Never before in my lifetime has snow being so widely and dramatically predicted, talked of, warned about (and indeed correctly forecasted which is unusual in this country where our weather forecasters are inclined to get it wrong more often than right).   With pinpoint accuracy we were told when the snow would start, how long it would last for, how much would settle etc.

If you live in one of those countries which are covered by a blanket of snow for months on end in the winter, you may well ask why such drama is necessary – after all it’s a little bit of snow.  Let me tell you the reason – we can’t cope with it, the country grinds to a halt.  Add to this the fact that all Brits love talking about the weather (and moaning about it ) and you’ve got the “perfect storm”.  The TV is full of endless news reports from around the country showing closed airports, closed schools, closed railway stations and empty supermarket shelves.  Do you know what?  We, Brits, love all this – weather drama!

In addition, it gives us a naturally reserved nation the opportunity to “all be in it together” – we start talking to people we don’t know (very un-British) in the streets, in the shops – “Isn’t it cold?  Do you think it’s going to snow?” or “apparently we’re expecting 10 inches of snow”.  There is nothing the Brits like more than a feeling of its “us v the rest of the world”.  Nothing galvanises us more – we are united!

Snow also brings the menfolk the opportunity to behave as children (although many don’t appear to need snow as an excuse for this).  Nothing demonstrates this more than snowball fights.  To me, snowball fights are nothing more than a legitimate excuse to regress to the age of about 8 and then pelt those you are not terribly fond of with large balls of ice and snow, all under the guise of “having fun”.  I have witnessed some pretty aggressive snowball fights over the last few days and it never fails to amaze me how entertaining men find these to be.  In my experience, most men are unable to be out in snow for any length of time without hurling it at someone – bizarre but I guess explicable by the fact that the snow gives a legitimacy to something which if it was done with any other material would end up in court.

So today I sit here at my computer, looking out at a white world, with one child whose school is shut (health & safety again) and the prospect of yet another afternoon of watching my kids hurling themselves down a slope, on what is essentially an overpriced plastic tray, trying to avoid the brambles at the bottom and failing.  I like snow but I am over this particular “sprinkling” – come on schools, please open and get on with it like every other country.