By Terry Lee
“We’ve arranged a top instructor for your first ski lesson,” enthused Vince, the organiser of our trip to Sauze d’Oulx, in the Italian Alps. “Hmm,” I thought, “He’s going to earn his salary with me.”
I usually have difficulty walking in a straight line so staying upright on silky smooth skis, while navigating snow and ice, always seemed a broken limb away from Mission Impossible.
Sarah was with me, and looking forward to her second ever ski lesson. “It’ll be fun,” she said. While I was having difficulty placing skiing and fun in the same sentence.
First of all I discovered that just getting into the gear is a mission in itself. To say the rock-solid boots were uncomfortable is an understatement. But making our way to the chair lifts I discovered the next challenge.
With all the grace of a docker in high heels I plodded along the cobbled path to get the free bus to the lifts. It was tough enough to walk in the boots, which threw your weight forwards and forced you to bend your knees slightly – the perfect position for skiing I was told. But then I had to carry my skis and poles too.
I felt like a baby penguin taking its first graceless steps across Arctic ice.
Next up – the chairlift. I’ve been on plenty of cable cars, but never on a chair lift where you’re expected to ski-on, then off, at the top.
As this was my first ski lesson (at Sportinia, a plateau looming 2,000m above Sauze d’Oulx) I got onto the chair with skis still in hand, and set off for my meeting with destiny.
Reaching the top we ungainly dismounted the lifts, jumping to one side to avoid being walloped by the seat.
With a sense of foreboding we wandered to Sauze Scuala di Sci beside the nursery slopes to meet our instructor Marco Amorosiani.
His generous face beamed as he welcomed us with a rich, lyrical Italian accent.
As he began the task of transforming me from Frank Spencer into the next Franz Klammer, it was clear Marco was a very skilled teacher. His reassuring presence instilling great confidence in both Sarah and I.
Could my ski lesson turn me from virgin to Olympian?
On the level I was doing well, next we started on a gentle slope, and… oh dear – I became all too well acquainted with the snow.
It was made worse for me by the fact that Sarah was doing so well. She shouted encouragement as I tumbled forwards, backwards and sideways into the snow.
Marco had the skills of an Olympian, the patience of a saint, and the great misfortune to have me as a client. After picking me up from the snow for the fourth time, his patience remained in tack, but my pride melted away.
My dreams of gracefully racing down the slopes, feeling the mountain air rushing by my face lay crushed on the snow.
But I have to confess, despite my battered pride (and body) it was good fun, and I managed to learn a little technique.
I knew I was a million miles away from Sauze’s black runs but after my first ski lesson I felt a little more confident staring down the mild humps of the nursery slopes.
I doubt I’ll ever be able to call myself a skier, that I’ll always be more Spencer than Klammer, but thanks to Marco and my first ski lesson amid the soaring slopes of Sauze d’Oulx, I’m ready to give it another go.
We travelled by train from London to Sauze d’Oulx with Snowcarbon, an aid to booking rail travel to the Alps from the UK, conceived on a tedious flight and transfer to Sauze d’Oulx. The website provides information for skiers to plan their rail journey to a large selection of Alpine ski resorts including resort, rail and transfer details. It not only allows for easy recognition of which train to take but also allows booking of rail journeys to the Alps and features tour operator deals in selected resorts. Fares to Sauze d’Oulx start from £121 standard class return with RailEurope.