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‘Kathryn, would you like to become our resident ski expert?’ I was asked in my fourth year as a travel agent. As much as I would’ve loved to be given the responsibility of being an expert in anything, skiing was not really my forte. I had never been, was not about to go, and had no desire to go skiing in the future. Lazing on a sunny beach was much more my scene. ‘Thanks for the offer, but I know nothing about skiing. I’ll leave it thanks’ I casually replied, as I continued to stir my coffee. ‘Fair enough, though it would mean going on a week-long, all-expenses paid educational ski holiday to Andorra, instead of coming to work.’ That’s all it took. Shallow? Possibly. Tempting? Definitely. ‘Done.’
On March 1st Carcasonne airport came into view, and I was more than a tad concerned. The airport consisted of a ram-shackle hut poking out of the snow with a large path adjoining. A dilapidated school-style bus stood waiting to take us on the 3 hour trip to the resort of Soldeu. The warm office suddenly seemed appealing.
My doubts about having made the right decision faded as we travelled through narrow, winding lanes; weaving through imposing snow-covered mountains and glistening frozen becks, we were delivered to the picture postcard scenery of Soldeu, standing still and silent at the foot of a hill of ski-lovers dreams, and non-skiers nightmares! Either way, such idyllic beauty could never be denied.
A few wonderful, non-skiing days passed. The main activity of which involved wandering the streets of this and nearby resorts, ‘educating’ ourselves on the local hotels and sampling the delights of the local food, drink and après-ski (nightlife.)
Finally, the time arrived that I could put off no longer. The main factor of a skiing holiday – the skiing – needed to be experienced. I begrudgingly trailed to the ski school and was kitted out with all the necessaties for a first time skier – boots, skis and a lift pass to transport us up to the ‘nursery’ slopes. The idea of the chair lift alone scared me to death. It was simply a means of getting up a slope, I knew that, but if you didn’t jump off in time you were stuck on it with no alternative but to ski back down – yes, it scared me but I was a beginner skier along with many others so I simply followed their lead, and landed safely on the nursery ski slopes.
To my surprise I really enjoyed it. Admittedly, I was no natural, but the sun beating down, clear blue skies straight ahead, and the blindingly white snow made learning this new sport really, really pleasant. The fact that several of us novices were as terrible as each other added to the hilarity of the experience. I was quietly confident it wouldn’t happen to me, but I could see the attraction of learning this sport and combining it with an amazing holiday. Several hours later, the effects of the previous nights après-ski were beginning to take effect, and tiredly but proudly a colleague and I decided to return to our chalet for a well-deserved hours rest in front of the log fire.
The hours rest turned into an hour’s nightmare. Yes, my fear came true. We jumped on the ski-lift to return us down the hill, but little did we know we had jumped on the ski-lift to take us further up the hill, and were left with no choice but to plunge off the chair at the top of a black run – a ski-slope for experts...
The whole trip was an experience I will never, ever forget, and I am so thankful I have done it. The ordeal of shuffling down a steep, snow-covered mountain on my bottom in the midst of skiers hurtling past at 100mph is another experience I will never ever forget, but at least 2 years later I can laugh about it!
The scenery, the laughs, the jovial atmosphere and my attempt at such a difficult sport that the professionals make look so easy, together truly made this my best, though possibly only, winter sport experience.