Everyone takes their own amount of time to get used to being back on skis. Some people find their ski legs as soon as they hit the snow, whilst others can take a couple of runs or even a few days to rediscover them. I, for example, have been out in Switzerland since December and I’ve only found one of mine. This weeks kids come from schools in Tanzania, Ghana and Brazil and so their opportunities to ski are extremely limited, some of them will only ever ski on these school ski trips whilst others go every winter. For the ones who have never seen snow or may never see it again it’s a really rewarding week helping them get to grips with sliding down a mountain and watching them enjoy scenery and conditions absurdly paradoxical to their norm.
I’m lucky to be taking a higher level group this week. One of the girls skis multiple times and competes in races whilst one of the boys has only ever skied on this trip, so there is a bit of a split in ability although they’re all good enough to tackle advanced pistes and kind enough to each other to patiently wait without complaint. Which was fairly often this morning as the less experienced boy ventured on a mountain wide quest to find his ski legs. Even before we left the hotel for the slopes he complained that his rental helmet did not fit. Last night when he tried it on it was a perfect fit and in the intervening twelve hours I was certain that his head hadn’t grown and that the helmet had not shrunk, logically reasoning that it should still fit. When I asked him to try it on he failed to squeeze it over his oversized beanie, failing to realise the changed factor prohibiting successful helmet wearing. His morning then proceeded to follow the same theme as a series of unfortunate events unfolded. Ascending the first button lift he made the classic error of getting off too early, resulting in a brief backwards ski and then a tangled mess which was dragged to the side by his teacher. On the next attempt, when he stretched out his arms to grab onto the button lift to mount it, he flung his ski pole out of the way, discarding it to the side to be replaced by the lift mechanism and then took off up the slope unphased or unaware. He then spent the rest of the morning avoiding major catastrophe, instead attempting a ding-a-ling win by way of one million falls. Sometimes we’d stop and he’d fall. Sometimes we’d set off and he’d fall. Sometimes he’d fall on flat runs and sometimes he’d fall on harder runs. Sometimes we wouldn’t even be skiing at all and he’d just fall. But none of these repeated infringements would earn him the prized ding-a-ling.
At the other end of the spectrum, little miss ski racer had taken back to the snow like a competitive duck to white water. From the first slope she was hot on my heels and keen to be the queen of speed, always first down and skiing well. Whether it was the easy blue runs or icy red ones she’d be almost terrifyingly close behind, not giving an inch and threatening to just wipe me clean out. This need for speed had to be quenched. Opposite the beginner blue run there is a “fun slope”. A long snowboard cross themed section of snow complete with rollers, a tunnel and a jump. There’s a box that makes noises when you ski over it and a cartoon policeman with a speed gun that plays sirens as you ski past. Sprinkled along the course are these massive hands to be high fived as you ski past which satisfyingly whip back after you slap them. At the top little miss racer flew off the start line determined to flaunt her skiing capabilities, flying across the clamorous box and launching over the rollers. She fell into a duel with a similar personality from another unknown group and instantly made a nemesis over whom she must gain the upper hand. As they raced down neck and neck the competition heated up to a climax at the last high five opportunity. Before the final jump two giant hittable hands spring out either side of a pole in the middle of the course, primed and ready to be smashed to declare victory. It was the perfect finish line but unfortunately the girl in my class was beaten to the crisp high five. The thing about this final giant pair of hands is that they both spin around the axis of the supporting pole and so when one is hit forward the other naturally spins backwards. In this case, when the winner hit one hand, little miss racer was so close to sealing victory that she was in range of the other hand which sprung back towards her and instead of giving a winning high five, she received a losing slap in the face from the massive hand. Salt in wounds.