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Downhill fun

Time for another entry, seeing as the on-line supermarket seems to be off-line at the moment. It very nicely waited until I had shoved everything into the on-line shopping trolley and told it what time I wanted everything to turn up, and it suddenly took umbridge at the fact that I wanted to pay on-line. It doesn’t usually get grumpy with me, so I don’t know what I’ve gone and done to offend it. Oh well, while I wait and see whether the supermarket will get over its high tech sulk, I’ll write a little about skiing.

As some of you will know, Italy is lucky enough to share the Alps with several other quite well known European destinations, including France, Switzerland and Austria. What I want to go on about there is how I learnt to ski and to tell you about my first ever real skiing trip.

Many years ago I took a course on how to use those long thin things you attach to your feet and which go by the name of skis. I learnt on a slope which was made up of lots of little brushes, not at all dissimilar to the thing that lurks in the bathroom or bedroom waiting to do its daily duty of untangling those tangles in your hair.

Anyway, these up-turned brushes seemed to be a pretty good imitation of the real white stuff and I managed to pick up the rudiments of downhill skiing. After that, I went off to France for a weeks skiing hol with a group of people, some of whom I knew, others of whom were new to me. It was a great holiday.

My first experience of real snow was quite memorable. I managed to negotiate the drag lift to reach the top of what looked to be a rather innocuous slope. It was snowing too, no problem, these things happen in mountainous areas and make the skiing thing all the more easier, I told myself.

So, here I was at the top of this slope, with my skis on. Ready to go for my first real experience on the white stuff. I immediately noticed two little things. One, that slope looked one hell of a lot steeper than any upturned brush artificial slope I had ever been on and two, the snow was soft powdery stuff which did a great job of completely hiding my skis.

I found this a little worrying, maybe I am a little bit namby-pamby at heart, because the fact that I could not see my skis worried me, for some reason. I sort of felt that if I could see my skis, then I could see which way they where pointing and this would give me slightly more chance of getting to the bottom of the piste without killing myself. After having come to terms with these slight concerns, I weaved myself slowly down hill, and managed to get to the bottom without falling over too many times. I found I had enjoyed it and jumped back on the ski lift and had another go.

Skiing, I thought to myself, is fun. Big fun. Time to try something more interesting.

To this end, I followed some of my friends, who could ski, up to where one of them had heard there was another run. We did not get too far and could not find the run we were after due to the fact that it was a complete white-out and we started to get a little bit disconcerted by the fact that we could only just see the ski lifts from where we were; effectively right in the middle of nothing. It was like a white desert. Still there was the next day, we told ourselves, and waded back through the metre deep snow to the ski lift. Talk about unadventurous.

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The day after the white desert incident, I started my ski course, as I was keen to develop the ability to really parallel ski, however I found the others on the course were a bit slow (in every sense) and after two days I gave up on them and it and decided to go with my friends to the run which we had looked for on day one.

They had finally found this wonderful, their words not mine, run. This was to be my first experience with moguls, those fun bumpy things that populate the piste, to give better skiers a bit more of a challenge is I believe there purpose. Muggins here pointed his skis hopefully down hill, as you do and set off. I forget just how many time I managed to fall over before finally arriving at the part of the piste which flattened out nicely. Oh, you’ll be OK next time, was the comment from my fellow skiers. Stupidly, I believed them.

The silver lining to the mogul experience was the superb unpopulated pistes which we discovered on the other side of the mountain. Complete with a characteristic mountain bar. It was huge inside, but had seemed tiny from the outside. Bit like Doctor Who’s tardis, if anyone remembers Doctor Who.

I went back to this part of the mountains on more than one occasion, even though I got only a little better at dealing with those moguls. Two other things of note happened on this holiday.

First, I managed to fall over in a really spectacular, ski racer type, fashion. Wish I could have seen myself, must have looked cool. I even remember seeing my friend Steve, falling over too behind me and felt a bit sorry for having been the cause of his accident. As it happened, he had not fallen over, he had simply seen my little tumble and assumed that I had broken something or other. As, I said it must have looked great. So, did I break anything? Well, actually, no and it didn’t even scare me particularly. I’m like that after falls and other scrapes, once I discover that I’m in one piece, with no bones sticking out or blood showing, I tend to shrug it off and keep on going. I chalk these things down to experience. I knew why I had fallen over, too.

The second event of note was the winning of an apres-ski quiz thingy. Well, I didn’t win, but I was part of the winning team. The ‘prize’ was a free go at paracending over the pistes. No-one else in my team seemed to be too keen on claiming the prize. I did wait a little, honest. So, I said I’d have a go. And I did.

It was a marvellous experience. I did do it in tandem with an instructor, as you may have guessed. You ski down a slope until you suddenly find that your skis are floating in mid-air, and all the others on the piste are starting to become smaller and smaller. The view from up there was well worth the apprehension, I can tell you. We even managed to land without incident.

That was a great holiday.

When I decided to head out for Italy, I have to admit that Milan’s proximity to the mountains played a part in my decision. I shall recount my first near death experience of a black run, some other time.

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