As an avid sports fan – and someone who can usually turn my hand to most sports with a decent level of competency – I was intrigued when I came across the opportunity to try out an activity which I had never attempted before.
The sport? Skiing.
With a world class facility like The Snow Centre right on our doorstep, I feel I should have given skiing a go long before now, but have always been preoccupied with playing football, golf or badminton.
So when I heard of The Snow Centre’s 10-week course for beginner skiers, I decided to throw myself in and – touch wood – embark on the slippery slope to success.
The course is the brainchild of two of the centre’s instructors – Snow Sport England coach Sue Richman and British Association of Snowsport instructor Stephen Mackay – who wanted to help beginner skiers to combat the frustrations of a first skiing holiday.
Instead of traipsing around at ski school on the nursery slopes, Sue and Stephen assured us that by the end of the 10 weeks, we would be able to head off onto the green and blue runs on our own with confidence and safety.
A bold claim considering some of the group, including myself, had never even put on a ski boot before!
So after introducing ourselves and watching a short DVD to give us a flavour of what was to come, we got kitted up and headed straight onto the practice slope for our first taste of the action.
We began with a few warm-up exercises such as walking forward and backwards, jumping on the spot and circling our ankles to ensure that we got accustomed to the long wedges that were now attached to our feet.
After a bit of a wobble, I began to feel quite comfortable – hands out for balance, knees bent, weight forward and on the blades seemed to do the trick – and I was starting to get the hang of how to stay upright.
Before being let lose to try a short slide, we had to learn how to keep ourselves steady and avoid zooming off unintentionally whenever we came across a slight decline in the surface. Oh and the trick to getting up when the inevitable happens!
With a bit of practice under our belts, it was time to go for a little slide and I couldn’t wait for my first attempt.
Pushing against Stephen’s arms with mine, I got into position and steadied myself, before Steven let me go to sail down the ice with confidence, grace and style – well that’s how I like to think of it anyway!
In reality, it may not have been the best of attempts, but I did not go veering wildly off course or – thank goodness – fall over, which was the main thing. I had harboured images of one leg heading in one direction while the other set its sights elsewhere, leaving me to navigate my way in some sort of bizarre splits position. But truthfully, it was not as hard as I had imagined.
Of course, this was merely the absolute basics, but it was an encouraging start at least!
Next, we moved onto the plough position – attempting to stay stationary while on the slope by adjusting the angle of the skis.
Again this seemed to go smoothly and I felt like I was getting to grips with what was asked of me – thanks to the expert guidance of Sue and Stephen.
If the course carries on in the same manner as the first lesson, I’m sure myself and the other guys will be up on the main slope before long.
Of course there is a long way to go, but hopefully come December, skiing will have started to feel like a piste of cake.
> I will be doing a weekly online blog as the course goes on. To keep up-to-date with my progress, visit www.hemeltoday.co.uk, www.berkhamstedtoday.co.uk or www.tringtoday.co.uk