Looking Out To Sea

First day on the ski slopes (indoors)

If you’re going to try skiing then obviously you’d try it indoors for the authentic experience.

Indoor ski slope

Indoor ski slope

We’re going away to France next month and I spent yesterday morning at Snow Factor, “Scotland’s only indoor ski slope”. Just to add to the ersatz authenticity they even have a bar/restaurant you can ski straight into for beer and sausage. Yep, “Bar Varia”.

Anyway I was there at 8.30 for a 9am lesson in not-falling-over and not-being-terrified. They provide 5 major skills lessons with the idea being that once you’ve mastered all the skills you’re (a) ready to ski unsupervised on their indoor slope and (b) you should have a pretty good grounding of the basics should you want to go outdoors.

My session yesterday covered Skills 1 and 2 — introduction to skis and how to get into/out of them; standing, moving on the flat and not falling over; maintaining balance and slowing down on a slope; and turning.

The pre-lesson setup was quite poor. The website advertises “introduction to fitting and equipment” but that basically amounts to them saying “what size shoes do you take?” and letting you get on with it. They have a fancy machine that measures your height and weight and interrogates you on your skiing style (a bit odd to ask a beginner, surely?). The printout produced tells the people working at the equipment counter what to give you but no explanation is provided as to why you were asked these questions and what you have let yourself in for by answering one way or another.

Through the doors we came to the foot of two slopes. The larger of the two was just a leisure slope with skiiers and snowboarders enjoying themselves. The smaller (and shallower) one was the instruction slope where we spent the day. At the far end of the valley between the two slopes was an ice climbing wall (looked a bit like a pillar of pale blue Swiss cheese) and further up the hill a sledging and rubber ring course.

Our initial tasks were one-footed. We learned to clip and unclip one-footed, move around the flat on one ski and — starting from a few metres up the slope — ski downhill one on ski. This was really hard and nobody managed it consistently, especially moving to your weaker leg.

Two skis proved much easier when it came to actual skiing (unsurprisingly). My only complaint initially was that because it was a large group (about ten) there was a lot of queueing and waiting between short attempts at skiing. Once the group started to be separate into different skill levels for more practise it became easier for everyone to improve.

I’ve booked another lesson for Skill 3, which I think is more nuanced turning skills. Until then, stay frosty!

Photo courtesy of Brian Digital on Flickr.