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Skiing brings out the best and worst in people! Thats quite a bold statement to make. But why do I think this? Well, skiing can be addictive, there is no doubt about that. But it’s not for everyone. In the years that I have spent living in and around ski resorts, I have regularly witnessed both ends of the spectrum.
For most people, the first time in the mountains is a magical experience, especially during the winter months when there is snow on the ground. The glistening soft white stuff transforms the Alps into a winter wonderland and even when you have lived in the mountains for a long time, you can’t help but marvel at the beauty.
Often, the scenery in itself can have a calming effect on people. Couple this with a cosy chalet, good food and wine and you have a recipe for a perfect holiday.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. For some people, being out of their comfort zone and in completely unfamiliar territory can have the opposite effect. All too often, I see snotty nosed children sobbing uncontrollably because they don’t want to go to ski school and harassed parents fed up with their clinginess.
So here are a few tips to make the transition to ski school easier.
1 – Breakfast
Make sure your little one has had a good breakfast, ideally more than they usually eat at home. A hungry child is an unhappy child.
2 – Clothing
Make sure your child is dressed properly and appropriately for the conditions. Please don’t cut corners with children’s ski clothing. There are plenty of warm, waterproof options available. There is nothing more miserable than a cold child and it can be dangerous. Layers can be taken off if they are warm. My daughter often wears a balaclava, which is very thin to fit under her helmet such as these:
She has a good pair of gloves and we layer her clothes according to the temperature. I would highly recommend using mittens for children, as these tend to keep little hands much warmer. I particularly like having a central zip as I find that this makes putting gloves on and off much easier on younger children. Our daughter has a pair of Roxy mittens and she has yet to complain of cold hands.
Your chalet should be able to provide you with a daily forecast to help you decide how to layer. Keep an eye on the humidity and the wind chill as well as the temperature.
3 – Don’t rush
Leave plenty of time to get to ski school. If you, as parents feel rushed, this will rub off on the children. Try and keep calm and positive. If you have any concerns, contact the ski school in advance, rather than in front of the children on the slopes. Be reassured that all instructors are CRB checked and regularly up-date their safe guarding children certificates.
Pop a snack and some money for a hot chocolate in your child’s pocket. For my eldest daughter, the hot chocolate stop is still the highlight of going to ski school.
It may be tempting to keep your children up late on holiday, but you will pay for it the next day. Altitude has a big impact on our sleep, which I will talk about in a future blog. Don’t be surprised if your children are having vivid dreams and talking in their sleep a lot. Again, this is down to the altitude.
6 – Preparation
Prepare your children for ski school. Put a positive spin on what they will be doing. Let them know that it will be exciting and that they will be making new friends. When booking ski school, make sure that you pick the right level for your child, even if this means separating siblings. If a child is too good for a group they will be bored. If they aren’t good enough, they will struggle to keep up. Chat with the ski school about all the available options before booking.
AIM LEARN PERSERVERE
But it’s not just the children who struggle. Miserable, short-tempered adults are not an uncommon sight! If you arrive in resort on the wrong foot, it can take a few days to get back on track. If you have had a long and difficult transfer, with an early start, bad weather, travel sickness and a bad airport experience, stress levels can understandably run high. Sometimes these factors are outside of our control, but when travelling try and prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
The fear factor can also bring out the worst in people (although, equally the opposite is true). Often people are nervous outside of their comfort zones. Novice skiers especially may be particularly nervous. They may be scared that they can’t control their skis, frightened of collisions with other skiers (see our blog on avoiding collisions), unsure of how to get on and off chair lifts and worried about their children. It is no surprise that some people are fraught with tension.
So, consider the following:
1- Have a lesson before your holiday
If you have never skied before, have a couple of lessons at a snow zone before you head to the mountains. Getting used to the feel of clumpy ski boots, carrying your skis and learning how to put your skis on can be challenging at first. Master the basics by learning before hand.
2 – Food for fuel
Make sure you have also had a good breakfast and have healthy snacks handy. ‘Hanger’ is real. Altitude and cold temperatures greatly increase our appetites and calorific demand. Try and have a healthy snack (protein based) as soon as you come off the hill, as this will help with muscle repair and recovery.
Avoid hangovers. Is anyone happy with a hangover?
4 – Skiing beyond your limits
Avoid pushing your spouse out of their limits. We’ve all seen it. The loving husband (sorry to be sexist but more often than not it is this way round), keen to show his beginner wife around the mountains. However, he has not thought this through. An icy blue slope to a beginner can feel like a challenging black run. Tears will flow, frustrations will develop and harsh words will be said! We’ve all seen it; a skier sat down at the side of a run refusing to go any further! This is a sure fire way to put someone off skiing for life. It is also a surefire way to put a dent in your relationship. If you value your relationship, even just a tiny bit, leave the teaching and guiding to the professionals.
5 – Pain and injuries
Don’t ski if you are in pain. If your ski boots hurt, change them. If you have an injury, seek advice from a physiotherapist.
6 – Lack of fitness
If you are unfit, skiing can become hard work. Thighs will burn, knees may ache and calf muscles will cramp. Ideally, you want to stay fit year round and 6 – 8 weeks before hitting the slopes you should make your fitness training more ski specific (ski fitness warrants a whole blog in itself which will follow).
If you are struggling with fitness on the slopes and aren’t already doing so, consider having a ski lesson. Improving your technique can greatly reduce the strain on your muscles. Pace yourself, especially at the beginning of the week. Treat yourself to a massage mid way through the week to help ease your sore muscles.
7 – Hydration
This applies to children as much as adults. When you are working hard in high, dry climates, you will be loosing fluid through exercise as well as through breathing. Make sure you take on enough fluid to replace this. You will need to drink more in the mountains than you do at home.
If you come across someone having a bad time on the slopes, a little support and encouragement can go a long way. Of course, a bad run or a bad day does not mean that the whole holiday will be miserable. Sometimes, reflecting back at the end of the day can help us learn what to change to make skiing unforgettable for the right reasons!
So how does skiing bringing out the best in people? Skiing may not be for everyone, but there are definitely more lovers than haters. Look around you on the slopes. Most people will have a big smile on their faces. And look in the restaurants and bars during lunch or après ski. A hearty meal and a few vin chauds is enough to make anyone happy!
The majority of people who are nervous on the slopes have the opposite response to that which I have described above. Determination to learn a new skill or to develop technique can be greatly rewarding. Pushing yourself a little outside of your comfort zone can go a long way. Once the adrenalin starts pumping and skill starts to develop, skiing gives you a feeling of elation like no other.
Fresh air, fresh powder, exercise and endorphins are a recipe for happiness. Skiing is liberating, fun and exhilarating. So enjoy the ALPine playground and make some memories. If skiing really isn’t for you, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in the mountains.
The saying in the ski community is that ‘there are no friends on a powder day‘! I’ll leave this to you to decide if this is bringing out the best or worst in people!