Magazine article The Spectator

SKI SCHOOL - Learning the Slopes

Magazine article The Spectator

SKI SCHOOL - Learning the Slopes

Article excerpt

Catherine Nixey takes her first steps on skis

'You must not fear the snow, ' says Alexis, our French guide.

'Snow is your friend.' I'm not convinced. The snow and I only met today, and it has tripped me up twice and given me a dead leg.

It doesn't matter if the snow isn't my friend, though. In Tignes, the Club Med Alpine resort where I am learning to ski, everyone else is. Club Med's distinctive feature is the presence of GOs (gentils organisateurs); perky European youngsters who provide sports tuition during the day and cocktails and conversation in the evening.

The idea of organised fun chills my blood. I have, however, finally decided to learn to ski and this seems to be by far the cheapest and easiest way:

one lump payment. I just have to pack warm clothes.

And my doubts subside as soon as I see the mountains. Tignes is in the Espace Killy region: the area of the French Alps through which Hannibal is thought to have crossed over with his war elephants. These days, it has the greatest concentration of worldclass ski resorts in the world.

As the time approaches for me to get onto the slopes, however, trepidation returns. For me, not being able to ski has always felt like more of a social than a sporting failure; a sign that I can't quite cut it among smart people. Here, it turns out, most of my fellow skiers are English: each Christmas there is an Oxbridge migration to Tignes. Disgracing myself in front of my countrymen feels far worse than doing so in European anonymity. …

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