A swirling gust grazes my ice-kissed cheeks and provokes an unnerving wobble and sway as I dangle from above. Beneath my bizarre-feeling over-sized feet lays a sugary quilt stretching far and high, and trimmed with snow-dusted conifers. Slowly but surely the distance between myself and the picture perfect flurry below becomes troublingly greater and I grasp my poles tighter, for dropping one now would be disastrous. As beautiful as the views from my seat are, the realization hits that I will soon have to attempt a smooth exit from my current position, and horror sets in as I realise I have now idea how to go about it. I begin to ask myself why on earth learning to ski seemed like such a good idea.
I approach the unloading station and try to position myself correctly with my equipment in the right places. But confusion and panic takes over and the confounding challenge of getting off the ski lift in one piece becomes overwhelming, and ultimately impossible. I tumble into a frosty heap and my jacket fills with snow. Brilliant. Scrambling around like a new born foal I try to stand up again, but it is frustratingly difficult when your hands and feet suddenly have two-meter-long attachments! Eventually I am gallantly helped to my feet by a monitor. He sees people like me coming a mile off, and deep down is no-doubt thinking to himself, ‘idiot’.
As I take a glance at the blizzard-blasted surroundings, the reality of my situation dawns on me. ‘I’m at the top of a mountain’. ‘There’s only one way down.’ ‘And I don’t even know how to start… let alone stop’. I shuffle and drag myself to the threshold of the piste and my stomach knots as I gaze downward. Oh God. Save me now. I slowly push off and try to remember what the instructor told me. Pizza-pizza-pizza-pizza! That’s the shape I need to make with my skis isn’t it?! That’s how you’re meant to control your speed isn’t it!? I can’t slow down! Why isn’t it working!? Bang.
‘Maybe this is what the face of a snowman feels like’, I think to myself as I lay amidst the snow. ‘Frosty. Drippy. Blurry.’ Great. I check all my limbs are intact and notice that I am now only wearing one ski. Weird. I could have sworn I was wearing two…? Suddenly I notice one a few meters further up the piste. Shit. That’s mine. One - how the hell am I going to get to it? And two – how am I going to stick it back on to my boot? I look around me, in the hope that some form of a solution will jump and out rescue me. And luckily it does. One of the pros sees me in my snowy heap and takes pity on me, smoothly picking up my ski and handing it to me without a falter, and then coolly swooshes on down like a slalom racer.
I try to push myself back up onto my feet, a seemingly impossible challenge whilst stranded on an icy slope. My knees begin to shudder and a tremble takes over my arms with the pressure of trying to lift myself from such a strange position. I eventually force myself up and my joints unleash a throb from the effort of such a physical feat. I lay out my abandoned ski in front of me, itself tricky thanks to my position on a slippery slant, and it nearly escapes and takes a long slide down to the bottom of the piste. I rescue it just in time.
I try everything to get my ski back on… pushing, forcing, crouching, shimmying. Why won’t it work? I get frustrated and impatiently slam my foot down. Click. I’m in. Success. But the glory is short lived as I look out at the long slope ahead. Slowly, cautiously, and no doubt with a ridiculous posture I attempt my descent once again. I’m trembling with fear and have no doubt forgotten to breathe. Meanwhile, a group of five-year-olds whiz past me, elegantly turning and curving without a care in the world. Embarrassing. How come they know what to do? How come they don’t fall? How come none of them will ever make a complete knob out of themselves? I’m picking up speed and attempt to turn myself into some kind of snow plough. Nothing seems to work. I can’t stop! It seems the only option is to just go with it, try to keep upright and hope for the best.
The wind howls as it crashes past my face and giant snow flakes bounce off my goggles fogging my vision. But there’s no time to worry about being able to see. I have to focus on staying alive! I’m accelerating no end and my joints rattle as the clattering contact between skis and slope sends ripples through my body. I feel like a kind of George of the Jungle meets Yeti character, propelling though the snow without a hint of grace. ‘Don’t fall! Don’t fall! Don’t fall!’ I say to myself, maybe even out loud.
Suddenly, and finally, the end is in sight. I can see the bottom of the piste. And the slope seems to be evening out. Yes, it’s getting flatter! And I’m slowing down! I pizza, I snow plough, I do whatever my legs are willing to and attempt to bring myself to a halt. And eventually, I stop. With incredulity I look around me. I glance back up at from whence I came. I did it! I actually made it down! I’m still quivering from the stress, but I feel like a legend. I! Me! I skied! I am officially cool! And surely if I did it once, I can do it again. Surely I can only get better!
And just like that the overwhelming fear of taking on the piste disappears, and I can’t wait to try it all over again!