I grew up with a plethora of hobbies but skiing was never one of them – that one belonged to my brother. The temptation to give it a go was always there, but the time and opportunity weren’t until I reached my first term at university this year. Just like every eager fresher, I popped round to every freshers’ fair stall and took all the food, flavoured condoms and fliers that I could nab, thinking I’d never look at them twice. Much to my surprise, there was one that caught my eye – a university ski trip that would take me from the end of term to Christmas Eve. My idealistic, naïve little brain picked up the flier for the trip and saw an instant ticket to a cosy, chilled out build up to Christmas. It saw a quick way to reaching skiing proficiency on par with friends who have been family-tripping to the Alps for years.
And so, within weeks, I’d booked on to my first ever ski trip, thinking that I would return home from it a pretentious pro. What I did not foresee was the hilarious week spent helter-skeltering down ice, exploiting altitude to get drunker faster and learning the hells of 24 hour coach journeys. Despite all the uncomfortable sofa bed nights, bruises and lack of warm showers for a week, I’d absolutely advise that you all do it at least once.
Let me begin by establishing that I have a phobia of that stomachless sensation you get when you’re falling. Without first setting my mind to it, this instantly rules out my participation in anything along the lines of bungee-jumping, sky diving and sheer drop rollercoasters. It only really occurred to me halfway on the bus to Andorra that skiing might fall in the category of gravity defying activities that don’t come naturally to me. The more experienced students sharing their stories of how many ribs they’d cracked on the previous years’ trip didn’t do much to ease my growing sense of regret. What did, however, was the number of ski-virgins who emerged amid this conversation, sharing the same fears. If I came away from the week having only made it down a nursery slope by the skin of my teeth, at least it didn’t seem like I’d be the only one. Knowing you can’t be the worst makes you all the more ambitious to get out there and make a prat of yourself.
The first thing the trip taught me is that being drunk on a 24 hour coach drive makes distance travelling an ordeal. I’ve never been against long car journeys, but what I’m decidedly not a fan of is naively intoxicating myself in a situation where sleep and toilet stops are lacking as it is. Like anything you try as a fresher, it’s a mistake you will only make once. I take my Topshop bobble hat off to the students with thicker stomach linings than me who managed the port-to-port challenge on the way from Dover to Calaias, whilst resenting them for blocking the coach toilet and perfuming the air with the delectable scent of puke.
The accommodation we were met with was comparable to uni halls – a little bit grim, but you still find yourself calling it ‘home’. Our hotel ranked 36 out of 37 on trip advisor, merely out of number 37 being unrated. The room was comprised of four sofa beds and a bunk bed, a fridge that froze your food, a bathroom with lights that took a year to flicker on and a shower that pelted you with all the fury of the ice age. Weirdly enough, this all added to the memorability of the week. It was a place to rest your weary shins at night. What I wasn’t a fan of was the sneaking suspicion I had that someone kept on confusing my toothbrush for theirs and the mystery midnight snacker who would take a bite out of any and all foods before returning them to the cupboards. I look back on it with fond memories.
Most importantly, you might expect, I’ll now bring up the skiing…or lack thereof, as it so turned out to be. I’d booked on to lessons under the assumption that I would die otherwise and this proved a smart move as I quickly clicked with a convoy of other students I hadn’t had chance to speak to before. Wobbling down slopes is so much more fun when done as a squad. A combination of language barriers and an enthusiastic teacher left us all feeling a bit cheated, but it did mean that we’d gotten up and made the most of our days instead of lying around in bed. After being convinced to attempt a steep red slope on my first day by third years, I can proudly say that my affinity for bum-sliding far supersedes my skiing abilities.
Apres-ski (for those of you who don’t know, that’s where you all meet in the late afternoon at whatever café or venue is playing host to reflect on the day’s antics) taught me that those on the trip who could ski often chose to only wake up in time for apres-ski. When we beginners graduated from the nursery slope, we found that there was a resort-wide lack of snow and ice issue which rendered anything more than snow-ploughing for dear life a toughie.
Out of all the week’s experiences, I have far more fond and crazy memories of the nights out. For the non-teetotal, you find yourself chugging down cheap booze at pres despite the warnings of alcohol getting you staggering faster. Thinking that’s your lot, you’re then welcomed with unidentified free shots from the clubs that your reps have made deals with. On top of that, always count on there being some generous partier passing around a mystery bottle or box of nearly-acidic wine (OR, God forbid, Sambuca). Everybody is that little bit more willing to let go because there’s no lectures tomorrow. Staying occasionally sober enough to be able to ski the following day, I had a lot of opportunity to observe who-was-getting-with-who being swapped around like a horny game of musical chairs, and those who had neglected their urges randomly stripping off or half falling asleep on the dance floor. Rest assured, plenty of this was recorded on camera. If your trip goes the way mine did, you’ll find yourself arising from your dated mattress - wearing half of the previous night’s fancy dress - and nearly tripping over the new additions to your roomates’ beds.
A more professional focused, competitive trip might’ve been run very differently but, from my experiences, I can now see why many call ski holidays ‘Magaluf in snow’. It was one of the most hilarious weeks of my life. The poor snow might’ve made progressing from snow plough a bit frustrating and, inevitably, impossible, but I surprised myself by requesting a sibling day out at Manchester’s Chill Factore as soon as I got home. With a week’s experience under my belt, I still don’t believe that skiing will ever come as naturally to me as the hobbies I’ve kept hold of since I was a pre-pubescent brat. Having said that, there’s something refreshingly funny about knowing you’re terrible and going for it anyway, and I’d encourage anybody to at least give it a go once.