Monday, February 26, 2007

Too Steep For Comfort

So I'm back home after a week with our parish ski holiday.

What? Your church doesn't do a ski trip? You should complain! And before you start thinking that Pontypridd is a bit more South Kensington than South Wales, I must point you to the excellent Goldhill Holidays, who provide a fantastic service at super bargain rates.

We had nothing but blue skies and sunshine, and if the snow wasn't brilliant, it wasn't bad either. At least a week in the sun has done me a power of good.
As for the skiing...
I had the enormous pleasure of ending up in the advanced class. I was the least accomplished skier in the group, and only blagged my way into it cos I felt a strong desire to really push myself way beyond my comfort zone and this seemed the best way to do it.
And it was great fun. Our tutor, a genial Scot named Andy, took us to all sorts of places I would never dream of skiing by myself, and taught bits of technique that I didn't have. We went off piste from day one on, which was a fairly new experience for me. And we started at "steep" and got steeper!

On the last day, we took the Lauberhorn chairlift. One of the girls wondered why we were doing this - because at the top there would only be two red (intermediate) runs, and one of the easiest black (advanced) runs in the resort. Not that I have never done a black run. And the World Cup course, of course. Oh my, I thought.
Shouldn't have worried. It was much worse. Andy took us off piste, across the mountain, to a slope he of which he said, "now this is steep", and everyone else agreed. Again, a moment's panic for me. I mean, it had all been steep for me, all week. Now they thought it was. Off piste, steep, and full of moguls - bumpy bits for the uninitiated. I can turn on moguls - but have only done it on gentle, shallow slopes. I can do steep - but have only done it on limited areas, not a huge mountainside that is beginning to induce (for the first time all week) a severe bout of vertigo. I can do limited amounts of off piste. But all three? On a slope that was far harder than any black run in the resort? Did I mention I have never done a black run?

Did I mention that I wanted to be pushed beyond my comfort zone? Was I getting my wish fulfilled? Careful what you ask for!

Off we went. Correction. Off they went. I am rooted to the spot in fear. The vertigo has taken hold and all the technique I ever had has simply flown out of my head. Poof. Gone. As the last bloke set off, I said, "I really can't do this." And he went.

Andy was alerted to my predicament by one of the girls. He shouted up the mountain - "Just traverse along to the right and do one long turn". I think the moguls were less severe to the right. And earlier in the week, we had done an off piste exercise where we had just pointed our skis downhill and let them take us on a slow turn out of the slope.

I hear his command. I understand it. I know I have to do something. And I have my own skis - which I know really well. I know that if I trust them, and dare to point them downhill, they won't just keep going, they will bite, they will pull me out of the fall-line and into a turn. If I snatch, I'll turn too quickly and fall. Not a good idea at this angle. I have to trust.
What would you do? The thing with trust is that until you act on it, it doesn't exist. Like it's bedfellow 'faith', you can think you have it, but until you have to use it - you don't really know.

It worked beautifully. Perfectly. I pointed my skis down the mountain, prayed hard, and executed one of the best turns I'd done all week. And I'll admit freely I was shaking all over by the time we reached the bottom, but Andy made a point of looking me in the eye and saying "you can do this" (great teaching manner that chap - full marks) so I went up again and did it again, with a lot less fear. And a third time, likewise.

Mind you, everybody went up for the fourth time - at which point I skiied past them and headed for the Start Bar and a coffee with something quite strong added. I mean, you can have too much of a good thing!

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