To be honest, I don’t know what the fuck we think we’re doing, either – skiing at fifty-plus. I like to pretend it’s something to do with taking myself out of my comfort zone but the truth is, I agree to this holiday each year to accumulate brownie points with the old man. I am beginning to question, however, if a bit more leverage at the local shopping centre is truly worth risking life and limb for.
The only consolation is that the old man – a natural sportsman when it comes to ball sports – is a truly shite skier, and what makes that funnier is that he refuses to admit to it. Indeed, in spite of the billions spent on lessons, we’re both as useless as the day we began this ridiculous sport, decades ago, and the only saving grace is that I am slightly faster than him and can also ride a chairlift without falling off – a new skiing low for the old man yesterday.
We had to lie to Peter, our instructor this holiday, about how many lessons we’ve had before.
‘A few,’ we said in unison, right after Peter had yanked the old man’s body back from the precipice below and into the chairlift, like some three-year old child.
Peter is about sixty-five and not exactly the ski instructor I imagined when I booked this round of lessons, hopeful for some rewarding distraction for my week of sacrifice. He also gets quite tetchy when we don’t nail his drills in one go, snow plow instead of doing a parallel turn, giggle or answer him back. And frankly, we’re both getting a bit old in the tooth to be bullied for something we’ve paid for. That’s why I gave up yoga.
The only good thing about skiing is that because everything takes so long to do, the time passes quickly, and like childbirth, once you look into the eyes of that first Mulled Wine in the local lodge, the skier’s amnesia sets in to help you forget the horror until the next morning. Getting dressed each day takes up half your holiday and the layers of clothing to protect you from the frostbite make movement difficult. Then, when the sun comes out, you cook from the inside out, rather like being microwaved. And it takes at least thirty minutes to squeeze sore, reshaped feet into ill-fitting boots and then you have to trundle the whole caboodle up a mountain by a slow, primitive transport system that has a habit of losing people and equipment en route.
The impact on the sort of middle-aged body that counts walking as exercise is immense, as you can imagine. And no matter how much you prepare yourself for the muscle and joint pain, twinges appear in the most unlikely of places – something to do with getting down a mountain in the squatting position required for those hole-in-the-ground toilets at Dubai airport, I imagine.
The fact that I can now get down a slope without triggering an avalanche must mean that my technique has improved, but I have yet to enjoy the journey back to the restaurant – or as we call it, “base camp”. My aim is a simple one – to get down the mountain as quickly as possible, before I kill someone or someone kills me in this expensive game of survival, where small children and snowboarders are the obstacles to living for another day.
We’ve given NC the information for how to access what’s left of our wealth after this holiday because not even the promise of a mulled wine or hot chocolates frothing with cholesterol on the slopes is enough to disguise the reality that we will probably die here.