Tuesday, March 3

Courchevel, Day Four: Stacking It

I've begun snow ploughing in my sleep. I repeatedly find my legs twitching to slow down or turn, or myself standing in a position that would better suit skiboots. Even when I walk down a Courchevel street, I'm finding the best traversing line. My friend says that this is a sign of stress and he's probably right; we are skiing a good five or six hours a day after all.

Being able to turn on the slopes really is wonderful and multiples the exhilaration many times. I am now free to go where I want to provided there's a gradient and the freedom is liberating. Well, provided we stick to the nursery slopes, that is.

My instructor tells me that I'm doing it wrong, I can see that I'm doing it wrong, but I have no idea how to do it right. The overwhelming bookish part of me refuses to enjoy the activity of skiing until I know what I'm doing and doing that technically correct. This mindset proves to be a total disaster as we're taken to the top of Bellecote to run down a green. I repeatedly fall over, once again due to a bad technique I cannot rely on enough to qualm a fear of killing myself.

The whole ordeal was confidence sapping and put me back a couple of days. Even the nursery slopes became a challenge again. I felt pretty impotent and useless as the frustration crept back in.

The afternoon brought with it a new mindset. I was now interested in progress and a realisation that lessons weren't working (in isolation at least) and a realisation that beginners around me (especially the girls) were doing much better than me prompted me to throw away the instruction manual and to just go for it.

Two greens were run this afternoon, both with my own particular (read: incorrect but naturally comfortable) style of skiing. The expert friends who escorted us down said a few things that made a lot of sense - that ability is more important than technique, that bad technique was better than not having any control and that none of us were expected to be perfect skiers and would all improve with practise. We were now to concentrate on having fun and "feeling" the mountain; enjoyment would keep us interested and focussed, which in turn would allow us to correct any errors in our technique. The attitude made perfect sense to me.

Of course it didn't all go swimmingly well. The second green, Verdons, was a new run for me, and slightly steeper than the Bellecote I was used to. Reaching an approximate 25mph rendered my snow plough useless (see?) and turning ineffective. Since I was to die anyway I decided to enjoy the rush while everyone watching took mental bets as to when exactly I would inevitably stack it.

As I came off my skis, joints twisting and popping, I realised that wiping out wasn't actually that bad. Crashing that badly was a rush in itself and the rest of the run was taken with ease. Now I knew what to expect "going for it" was a much easier thing to do and ironically it was that sense of purpose, that confidence in my ability, that kept me on my feet.

These things really are all in the mind.

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