The first time I went skiing, I was still young enough to find the word Ausfahrt amusing. Clive and I joined a gaggle of similarly puerile 20-ish friends and went to a budget hotel in Kitzbuhel, in the days when winter sports holidays were still considered to be rather elitist. Even now, I’m really not sure what we were doing there, with our gaucheness and hand-me-down salopettes, but we had a great time.
|Check out that 1980s perm!|
To call the food at the hotel adequate would be kind. Each meal was accompanied by some peculiar item that resembled a deep-fried Yorkshire pudding and that became known as 'random starchy filler'; and we decided that the bakery must only deliver once a week, because the breakfast rolls became staler and staler, until by Friday they resembled Energen Crispbread. (Anyone who doesn’t remember the 1970s should Google these so-called diet rolls.) Fortunately, we were able to boost our calorie intake with copious quantities of gluhwein, hot chocolate and mini Mars Bars.
We made several more trips to various mountain resorts, but my skiing never seemed to get any better. I was very stylish, but oh so slow. The trouble was that, like everything, I wanted to do it properly, which meant that I took in the instructor’s every word and could execute beautiful parallel turns, but lacked the recklessness that allowed by friends to hurtle down the runs twice and sometimes three times to my single, stately decent. On the other hand, I never broke any bones.
I am thus amazed by the Winter Olympians who hurl themselves about with - well, I was going to say gay abandon, but given the mood in Russia that might be inappropriate. I’ve been watching the slopestyle competitions and just keep wondering: how do you find out you can do that? And the moguls: who decided that rattling down a bumpy run wasn’t dangerous or difficult enough and that what it really needed was a couple of jumps along the way, just to make it interesting?
When we watch the Summer Games, there is always the feeling that, given sufficient training and a following wind, we could do what the competitors do. After all, it’s simply extreme PE – running, jumping, throwing and various versions of bat and ball. The Winter Olympics is different. The word ‘awesome’ is overused and usually incorrectly. Watching the skiers, the jumpers, the bobsleigh, the ice-hockey, the skating and the curling does actually fill me with awe. Well, perhaps not the curling.