I was a bit of a cocky four letter word to start off. I think it came from a childhood of rollerblading and the tip off that if you weren’t prepared to fall over, you’d probably still be walking the baby slopes by the end of the holiday.
I went to Bohinj, Slovenia, with three friends and the boyf to ski at the Vogel Ski Centre after investing in some cheap flights over there. Chloe and Stu were seasoned skiers, but me, Waiel and Adam had never tried it. We invested in a ski instructor called Andrej who turned out to be the perfect guy for the job. My favourite Andrej moment of the first day was him saying to me; ‘Do those two work in an office?’ when Waiel and Adam were struggling up the slope with their glasses falling off their faces, out of breath and not getting very far. I’m not mocking, there were plenty of times when I was in there shoes/ski boots.
Andrej taught me, Waiel and Adam how to stand confidently – always useful – and quickly moved on to skiing with one ski, then two skis, then the plough. Oh the plough, how I loved the plough. It’s where you just bend your knees in slightly and point your toes in to create more friction with the snow so you can slow down, and preferably come to a stop.
Waiel and Adam had a few difficulties with this so Andrej decided to leave them to it and took me down the green run. This is where I realised how terrified Waiel had been all this time in not feeling safe. I was terrified and just a few ski movements from the edge of a long drop. I managed to avoid it and stay straight on my path, so long as Andrej kept screaming ‘SNOW PLOUGH’ at me. Despite the snow and cold my ragged nerves meant I was overheating. I was scared stiff in the squatting position and holding my poles together in front of me while he pulled them and me down the slope as kids went whizzing by. I managed to make it down to the bottom after much coaxing and shouts of ‘COME ON WICKY, YOU CAN DO IT’ in my face. Not much time to enjoy the feeling of not sliding though, now it was time for the ski lift…
Thankfully, with Andrej’s help I managed my first ski lift just fine. Bit hairy when you have to ski off the end, but I did it!
Fast forward two hours, a few more runs on the green slope above with a few tips on the importance of turning, a huge pizza, some Jagermeister shots and a few glasses of the local wine Cvicek later, and Chloe took me up my first blue run of my life. I managed to battle the draglift with Stu’s help, arriving at the top in a tangle of skis and poles, but I’m sure that’s all part of the fun.
I’ve never seen anywhere like it. If I was going to break my leg, Vogel ski centre was a beautiful place to do it. It was hot and sunny on the slopes and the air was fresher than my London lungs had ever experienced. It was a shame I was too distracted by my fear to really enjoy it; my legs were quivering, or maybe shuddering, my mouth was dry and my head buzzing with the ski survival techniques I’d learnt that morning. “Follow me!” said Stu, whizzing by. I tried, if anyone asks, I did try.
I survived the first two turns veeeeery slowly but upright, then did a bit of a somersault slide to the left for the rest of the descent before collapsing in a heap just about where that flag is on the picture above. One of the ‘best’ things about skiing, I found, is trying to stand up once you’ve fallen over with your skis on your feet and on a slant. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a good 20 minutes later that I was finally up on my feet.
Unfortunately that wasn’t it for that run, there were still two more hills to make it down. Including this one that looks horrific in the pic below. My heart was pounding out of my chest and my legs were still quivering, but I was high. It was such a buzz coming down. I managed the other two hills slowly, but surely, and without falling over. By the time I made it to the end of the run and off the lift, I needed more than a Cvicek to calm me down, but a few Jagers did it.
Learning to stand up on skis was amazing and Chloe and Stu pushing me to do a blue run was a big prop to my confidence, but I was feeling really nervous about day two. I really wish I’d never read about Natasha Richardson dying on the slopes, I’m overly paranoid.
After yesterday’s ski lessons and my ‘experience’ on the blue run I decided to leave Waiel and Adam snowploughing with our instructor Andrej and find my own at the Vogel Ski School to teach me a few more tricks. What happened serves me right for being so cocky…
The big lesson…
I was assigned a young guy to teach me privately for the hour for €30. He took me down the familiar green run to check if I could ski, before deeming me good enough to try one of the other blue runs. He seemed impressed that it was only my second day of skiing, so I took that as another ego boost and off we went in the longest, and highest, chairlift in the world. I was terrified already. We were up there for about five minutes, could’ve been two, and tried to chat but he obviously felt awkward and was not the friendliest of people, especially when I was wincing and pulling faces at how high we were going. It came time for me to jump off the end and ski off and although my heart felt like it was about to beat right out of my chest I managed it. The fear yesterday was nothing compared to right now. It was like when you queue up for Oblivion at Alton Towers for ages and then when you finally get to the front you realise you’d do anything not to have to go on it, but it’s too late. The only way home, was down.
I managed the first five seconds alright. As in the bit where you just stand there. As soon as I moved I felt my legs go, sensed all the people whizzing down around me, didn’t trust this scrawny instructor to be able to hold me and remembered I was thousands of metres up in the clouds, I panicked. I fell. And then I skidded a few metres down the mountain, before getting caught up in my skis and doing a somersault, which Chloe told me later she saw and looked very painfully. I’d hit my head and landed in a heap feeling sick and wobbly.
The instructor skied over to me looking terrified. Obviously regretting bringing me up here and I could see he was going through his options at getting me down. I managed to stand up after much coaxing, but still felt queasy. All my fears about going skiing were spinning in my head. He helped me walk down a bit and I started to feel better. There was still a long way to go though. I managed to do a few turns on a flatter bit and even a few tricks he showed me to try and help me feel more confident without the poles.
Then we hit some ice. I’ll cut what could be another long story short and just tell you that I fell again, this time smashing my coccyx. I tried to find happiness in the fact that at least all the arse skidding meant I was a bit closer to safe ground. I sat there for a few minutes in despair, mourning my skiing confidence, until he made me get up.
We managed to get the rest of the way down with him skiing backwards in front of me and pulling me with the poles, and that was that apparently. Lesson over. All that had taken one hour. I should have stuck with Andrej, I realised how important it is to feel safe with the person who’s looking after you. I spent the rest of the afternoon worrying about my stiff neck and playing on the green run with Waiel, vowing never to go blue again. Well, only if I was forced to tomorrow, it is the last day of skiing after all.
I woke up in pain from my neck injury, but feeling a bit more confident that I wanted to give the blue runs another go. After the trauma of yesterday I vowed never to try that run again, but this morning I just decided I wanted to make the most of this three-day skiing holiday and get some of my first day confidence back.
I did a few spins around the green runs before riding that long old chairlift up higher into the mountains. At the top I got the usual fear in my jelly legs but I managed to talk myself through it and breathed deeply to calm myself down. I nailed it, well, compared to the last attempt anyway. I was so happy when I managed to make it down without falling and genuinely questioned why I was so upset yesterday. I just kept saying to myself in my head, ‘one step at a time’ and took it really slowly. As soon as I got to the bottom I was desperate to go back up again, so we did.
I had a great day just hanging out and practising on the green run, and then having the confidence to go down the blue runs by myself. I really learned a lot about what I was capable of and I know it’s super cheesy, but also the importance of just taking things slow. We were talking about it at lunch and saying how people just want to be able to do things now – they can’t be bothered to learn and get frustrated when things take time to learn – and that was me, thinking I could do it all, faster than anyone else. But I do want to remember how absolutely, completely terrified I’ve been on this trip, but still managed to overcome it and ski. Lessons for life!