A few months ago I was faced with a challenge. My boyfriend who is an avid skier wanted to hit the slopes. Challenge Number 1 – I’ve never skied. Secondly he wanted us to go away with a few of his friends (Challenge Number 2 – I didn’t know his friends – except 1). Challenge Number 3 – the one friend I did know, was a girl he dated. He was proposing that I went away skiing for the first time with a group of people I didn’t know and his ex. NO THANK YOU! That sounded like nightmare. There was very little that appealed to me. Yet the more we spoke, the clearer it became that he really really REALLY wanted to go skiing. Although I suggested he go without me, he was insistent that we spend New Years together (because he’s lovely that way) and we were faced with a mini dilemma. I wasn’t quite sure how we could progress.
We looked into a couple of different holiday options which would allow both of us to be together but I knew in my heart that my partner really wanted to spend time in the snowy mountains. So I started investigating ski holidays we could do together and came across Club Med, which included daily ski lessons – which would allow me as a beginner to learn in a safe environment (sans ex girlfriend) and for him to be challenged with the allusive black slope. We booked our trip and on the 26th December 2016 we headed to La Plagne – a mountain range in the French Alps.
Although we had overcome Challenge 2 and Challenge 3 – I was now faced with the overriding challenge – learning to ski for the first time at 34. In fact it was to be the first time I’d seen proper snow as an adult (the benefits of growing up in the Southern Hemisphere).
So we headed to Geneva, took a transfer up the mountain and landed 2100 metres above sea level. Our room wasn’t ready on arrival, so we headed to the ski equipment room to pick up my hired equipment. Suddenly the fear started to hit. I could feel my heart racing as I tried on ski boots for the first time. It was all new and new can sometimes be scary and in this case I was feeling scared. Next I was handed my skis and helmet – anxiety was building, I did not feel comfortable.
Then to top it off the man in the ski rental space asked me how much I weighed. “How much do I weigh?”. He needed to know for something ski-related to tightening my boots to my skis but for me, it was the question that took me over the edge. My weight is a major topic of taboo in my life (worth of many many future articles). Up until this point my boyfriend had no idea how much I weighed… and now, without a choice I felt forced to utter the number I was ashamed to express. (Challenge 4) I felt humiliated . The ski rental assistance and my boyfriend seemed unphased, but for me, it was a deeply and uncomfortable moment. My eyes started to water. I needed to get out of the ski-rental space. I needed air. My boyfriend could see I was upset. He asked if I was okay and then the tears came. The public tears. At this stage we had made our way outside onto a beautiful snowy deck which i couldn’t appreciate because I was a mess.
Overwhelmed. I was feeling overwhelmed. New environment, new sport, new experience. It was a lot. I eventually calmed down after a few too many Campari Orange juices and tried to relax for the rest of the night.
The day arrived – first day of skiing. You got this I thought to myself. I met my teacher and we headed off. It started off okay. A lot of little exercises, learning about the equipment, skiing on one foot, walking horizontally up a mountain. It was good but tough. I need a lot more barre classes I kept thinking to myself if I’m going to take this seriously as a sport. Then I started to feel nauseous and light headed. I told the teacher who seemed slightly unimpressed. She recommended I drink water for 5 minutes and then rejoin the group. I felt like a failure, like I was letting myself down and the rest of my group. I felt like my ailments were an excuse, maybe it was psycho-schismatic – perhaps a result from the nerves. Turned out it was altitude sickness. Challenge Number 5. Despite not feeling well and after having a couple of intimate moments with the toilet bowl, I powered through and slowly found my feet on the snow.
Day after day I got a bit more confident. Our group was divided some progressed, some left behind – I was in the slow group – but I didn’t care, I was there to have fun and I was comfortable learning at a pace that worked for me.
Luckily I was in the lower group, because I was given the greatest skiing gift – an amazing teacher – Luka. An early twenty something French man with incredible patience and encouragement (and leg strength). For my last few days he pushed and encouraged me down the mountain. I even did a blue run (which is a bit more advanced) although at one point I had strange fright on the middle of a mountain, to which poor Luka had to slowly coax me down (Challenge 6) , by skiing backwards down a steep run, whilst holding my hands tightly as I attempted not to cry (Challenge 7) . My heart rate elevates just thinking about it. I was shakingly petrified – but I did it. That’s right, I did it.
During my ski trip I fell lots (Challenge 8), people crashed into me (Challenge 9) , was defeated many times by a ski-lift I could not get off of elegantly (Challenge 10) , suffered through altitude sickness, using new muscles and dealing with all the mental barriers (Challenge 11) that comes with learning a new physical activity at 34 .
Despite all the challenges, I was overcome with one incredible feeling – a feeling of accomplishment, the feeling of sticking with something and not giving up, the feeling that I’ve learnt something new. It’s powerful to commit to something and follow through. It’s personally rewarding. The best part was I can genuinely say, I love skiing. I loved the moments I had where I could feel the wind brush past my cheek and I gained momentum down the snow. I adored the surprising forest views that I weightlessly flew past. I enjoyed the views below of tiny people skiing below me, as the ski-lift took me on a ride through the mountains and my heart giggled at the momentum of a fast acceleration on a cable car. There was plenty to love, a real sense of accomplishment and although I faced a few challenges, the reward I received was priceless.
Written by Danielle Lauren
Danielle Lauren has been working in the Entertainment Industry for over 17 years. Her love of storytelling has passionately driven her to a successful career with global credentials. She has directed ‘The Vagina Monologues’ at The Sydney Opera House, ran MTV Australia / New Zealand as their sole Executive Producer, mobilised 30,000 filmmakers internationally to film their lives simultaneously for a feature film called the 11Eleven Project and currently works on digital projects for Google, Microsoft, Sky, Sony, BBC and MTV UK. Passionate about making the world a better place for all people Danielle has also worked with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, WWF, UNHCR, NSW Rape Crisis Centre, WIZO and the Aids Council. Danielle currently sits on the Royal Television Society’s futures committee, helping young people build fledging careers in the UK TV Industry. A global citizen Danielle was born in South Africa, grew up in Australia, lived in America, France and now resides in the United Kingdom.
You can email Danielle – firstname.lastname@example.org