Saturday, 22 March 2008
Why am I doing this?
I launch myself into the abyss; what else can I do? I try to head for the side of the piste that does not appear to end in a hundred foot drop. The Frenchman has gone the other way. He says: "Follow me". Why would I do that?
Let me tell you, a terrifyingly steep, icy red piste is not a place for a nervous skier to be on their first morning of the holiday, nor a place to hone your technique. I decide not to look down the slope, but concentrate on going across it, though this does involve veering towards the hundred foot drop every other turn. I would be thinking: "Why did I think a skiing holiday was a good idea?", except that I can only do this when I stop as I am unable to concentrate on getting down the mountain without breaking my neck and thinking about anything else at the same time. Believe me, if I had some gum I would not be able to chew it and ski at the same time.
At some point on the way down, I lose the Frenchman. I stop and when a French family stops at the same spot I say: "Excuse me, I don't suppose there are any green or blue runs around here." Fear has robbed me of any pride or sense of embarrassment. The father laughs and points at red batons as far as the eye can see. "Take it slowly," he says. "You can follow us if you like." He and his wife swish off followed by their two young children, all perfectly balanced and all perfectly at ease on their skis. Why is it the only people I see struggling down the slope are British - from what I can hear? Do the French have some secret place they learn to ski so nobody can see them making fools of themselves?
It takes a while, a huge amount of effort and a lot of merdes, but I make it to the bottom. It was not an elegant performance and not a pretty sight. As I look up I notice the left half the slope I have just skied is fenced off. A red sign says: "Piste de Competition". It looks much the same as the right half. The Frenchman is waiting for me by the lift. "See, I knew you could do it,' he says. "But try and be a bit more relaxed and go with the flow instead of stopping every five minutes." He turns towards the lift. "Come on," he says.
I say: "You are definitely trying to kill me."