Almost every winter we head for the snow.
In the early days, it was all crampons, ice axes and ropes, a la Chris Bonnington and Don Willams. It was the call of the white, silent, wilderness, where the only marks left were your own and the only sounds were ours and the eagles. And then the worst of all things happened; please be reassured, no one died in the snowy wilds: there was no excitement; or fear. The simple truth is there was ……
Alright, I admit it, there was snow, but it was of the sliding off the mountain and killing you variety. In desperation for a safe alternative, we headed to the nearest ski resort to our ‘base camp’, hired a set of ski gear each and in our Harris tweed, plus fours and bright orange, nylon cagoules, gave this skiing lark a go. Well, desperate times called for desperate measures.
In our defence, we had never wanted to ski, viewing the whole thing as a ridiculous waste of time. Who, in their right mind, would spend huge amounts of cash to be dragged up a hill that any fool could easily walk up, only to then then slither all the way back down? And, to make matters even worse, repeat this drag up, slide down tedium, over and over again until the holiday was over. It was never going to be the sport for us, but we needed to do something until conditions on the wider mountain range were more stable.
We have no memory of a piste map, or of getting ourselves up the mountain. Were we seated; dragged, or did we walk up the hill in those painful, unforgiving boots? No idea. Who was with us? No clear memory of that either, apart from a guy called Alan Parry, who probably still hates skiing to this day.
Our overriding recollection is of each others glum expressions as we prepared to ride the hill.
Ski Sunday. Remember Ski Sunday. They crouch low, sticks horizontal, pointing out of their armpits and back up the slope. They look like people having an extreme toilet moment; a unusual case of the runs.
Now it was our turn to make like rich people and adopt this ludicrous pose. And we were off! Screaming down the mountain. Yelling at anyone fool enough to come within hailing distance, to get out of our way. One man skied alongside, shouting compliments on my style and asking how long I had been a skier. He was shocked when I said it was my first moment on skis and then I asked him if he knew how to stop, because I had no idea, apart from what I had seen on the TV show. He yelled some instructions and peeled away. Clearly, I was not the one for him.
I do not remember stopping. I must have managed it somehow. We were both absolutely elated by the experience and gushed wildly about how this was the best thing we had tried, probably ever.
We think that was in about 1976.