In which I look at Helmet use.
I got back yesterday from skiing in Alpe d'Huez
Now, straight up, I did not start out a very good skiier, and I'm not a very good skiier still, some people I went with (albeit less than half my age, it was a school trip) started off worse than me and ended the week on blue runs, or higher. I still stuggled with green.
On the other hand, I have shown improvement. My home for the week was a shallow run called 'Le Rif Nel'. Almost unbelievably it is a kilometre long - it seems shorter - but has only 60 metres of drop. It is very much a nursery slope.
This is where I practised most, as I could get my technique down without too much fear. By the end of the week I could happily point my skis downhill and go for it - okay, not 100% happily, I had to fight urges to turn (and hence slow down)
On wednesday the beginners were taken to the first cablecar stop on Les Jeux. This is 2km long with 240m of drop. It seemed longer to me.
We were taken down single file, playing 'follow my leader', but I found this hugely terrifying. The gradient was not uniform, and in some places it was extremely steep to my eyes. It did not help that it was icy too.
I fell over, lots and lots. I arrived at the bottom physically and emotionally drained and shaken to the core. It took me about 30 minutes longer than the slowest boy. I was expecting a bit of a ribbing when I arrived, but I thought the boys were excellent, they seemed to appreciate the fact that I kept getting up again and eventually made it. I would not try that slope again until I had had lots more practice and a good snowfall. As it turned out I was not to try again at all, as I never felt I was ready.
I returned to Le Rif Nel.
During the week I did take some cablecar rides up high, this is a view from Pic Blanc at 3330m high, 10925 feet.
Though at the start of the week we were on the dregs of two week old snow, as well as artificial snow, by thursday night we had a big snowfall, and the mountains turned white. This gave the odd sensation of skiing sometimes in soft snow, when my skis would glide beneath the surface. This was fun in a straight line, very tough to turn.
On Saturday, it seemed that skiing would be cancelled. The weather was clear and still, but there was a strong gust from time to time which meant that the lifts were shut. We walked to the slopes to find the drag lifts open, and as the day went on the other lifts opened.
A colleague, myself and a boy started the day on 'Eclose', this is a short green run, 252 metres long with 30 metres of drop, so it's steeper than Le Rif Nel. We walked to the slope and joined it just below the top (it is at the bottom of the town). The steepest part of the slope was covered in soft powder, and so was very hard work - I only fell once (nice and soft) but I didn't care for the slope much.
We took a connecting chair lift over to the foot of Le Rif Nel and found that a new intermediate slope had opened. This was 'Poussins' and was the interemediary I needed earlier in the week. It was steeper than Le Rif Nel, though not as long as 'Les Jeux'
I did this slope a few times and then had a final blast on Le Rif Nel to finish on a high note. I went down the slope full pelt. Not tremendously fast by many standards, but quite enough for me. Unfortunately I forgot to time it!
Overall my progress has not been rapid, but it has been progress - and at the end of the day this is the benchmark against which I can judge things, to the eyes of a skier it may not seem like much, and god knows it isn't much - but to be frank, I don't care.
Skiing recurred again. We were on a slightly faster slope for most of the time, and it had a few scary bumps at places, but I'm really enjoying it. With speed, I was not turning as much as I wanted, but the guy said it was actually quite good. When the man said I could, I skiied across two slopes (they run side by side) and continued the turn to stop, essentially my worry before was simply a lack of room.
Apparently I'm not quite over my skis though, and am leaning back a little. Not a massive amount, but enough to mean that my thighs are quite sore right now.
It's good fun, am looking forward to the snow.
I went Skiing once again tonight. This time, after some refresher practice, we started from the plateau at the top of the slope. This wasy scary... but I could do it! He put down markers and I was slaloming around them. A few times I couldn't make the turn and so skiied out. Soon I was making each turn, often at a reasonable speed. I'm still on a high from it - though it was still scary going down the slope.
My last run was really good, as it had been raining as I turned I kicked up a nice spray. It was almost like the real thing!
I'm now billed as being 'of recreational standard', i.e. I can go off on my own without the instructor being there.
I'll get a piece of paper to prove it and everything.
Skiing happened again yesterday. I'm starting to really relax and enjoy it. We practiced the 'Snow Plough' again, from higher up the slope. He got us to move into and out of the plough from parallel as we slid. This was relatively easy to do.
Then we used the plough to turn. Essentially the idea is that if you want to turn right you sweep out your left leg. This points the plough to the right, and off you go. Another way to thing about it is to 'push down' on the left leg a bit (without going on one foot). When it was explained to me as 'pushing down' I could not make it happen, but the 'sweeping out' worked reliably for me, and I found that when I tried to 'sweep' the 'push' happened automatically.
The trick is that this works better when you have a bit of speed, when things are slow, its quite difficult as the skis have to be fought.
So, I can now slow down (a snow plough won't stop you on snow, though it stops on a dry slope), and I can turn. On snow, turning allows you to stop - essentially you keep turning and kill speed by going along and up the slope a bit, before ending up parallel to the slope.
I went dry slope skiing today - I went last week as well. Last week I was absolutely petrified. When I was younger I had a pretty major disagreement with a dry ski slip and lost (I bounced down and did some damage to my face, luckily superficial).
This put me off for a long time. It frightened my dad to bits, I think, and I never went since. This year I will be going on a ski trip - and so am taking some lessons so that I make the best use of my time in the French Alps.
It isn't the skiing that worries, it is the dry slope. I know how they hurt!
Last week I was 'locked up'. The bloke gut us sliding (I wouldn't call it skiing), making little hops as we went and little bounces.
Today we got to use the 'button lift'. This was good fun, he also got us doing the 'snow plough'. This was a bit of a milestone for me as that is what I did as a boy when I had my crash - I wasn't able to hold the plough, the skis straightened and I went out of control.
No problem today though - in the plough, and going down in a controlled way. Excellent.
I can stop (on a dry slope - the plough won't stop you on snow), and that is a fairly major thing! It is fundamental!
Unfortunately I can't turn in any controlled way (though I can go off course a bit), so did find myself having to shout 'Out of the Way!' at least once. I understand how to turn, but haven't yet really managed to do it.
Still, massive progress - from petrified to having some control and starting to enjoy it in a couple of lessons. Last week I simply couldn't see the fun - not even in the distance. It was a challenge that I was working through. This week I began to enjoy myself. In addition, though I'm still rubbish I can see real progress.