Travel: Skiing: It's never too late to learn

Have the joys of skiing passed you by for ever? Roger Mills says it ain't necessarily so

SKIING USED to seem to me a bit like playing a musical instrument. If you wanted to do it you had to start young. Having reached the second half of my thirties without having got going, it never occurred to me to think about trying. Then, at the ripe old age of 38, I married someone who could ski rather well, and a year later I was heading for Passo Rolle, a small resort in the Italian Dolomites.

I had heard that ski resorts were full of distressingly able five-year- olds and, even though there was a handful of other anxious-looking oldie beginners on the slopes, sharing the discomfort didn't seem likely to make the self-consciousness any easier. But within half an hour, the problems of staying upright were taking up all the mental capacity I had available.

What I wasn't expecting was how fundamentally unnatural the physical experience of skiing would seem at first. Take turning corners. Like most people, my feelings about cornering were based on being on a bicycle, where, if you lean to the left, you go to the left. Nothing so simple for the ski world. On skis, when you lean to the left you go to the right.

Then there is the question of what to do on a steep slope. Faced with a slope, my instinct was to lean back. But if you lean away from the slope when you are on skis, your legs shoot from under you. Making yourself lean forward is the trick, instantly producing a sense of stability. But try getting your body to do that on day one.

"Adults think too much," says Fiona Coats, an instructor who runs one of the ski schools at Aviemore. "Teaching children is easy because they just copy what you do without really realising it. With older people you can see them concentrating too hard, trying to grasp the technique intellectually."

Chilling out is all very well, but skiing, at the very beginning, can be quite alarming. The abiding image I have of my first day is of standing at the top of the nursery slope feeling both distinctly uneasy, and that I was rather pathetic to be feeling distinctly uneasy.

So when, exactly, does the fun start? It didn't take long to acquire a degree of competence. Unless you are critically lacking in co-ordination, almost anyone, however old, is getting down the nursery slopes comfortably after four or five days. Another week and you're weaving past stricken beginners and wondering if it's time you went back to the hire shop to get your equipment upgraded.

"Getting fit before you start helps enormously," says Fiona Coats. "Many people come here having done no exercise at all, thinking that skiing is just effortlessly gliding downhill."

Coats recommends running, cycling or any exercise that gets the legs moving. Another, personal tip, is going for one-to-one tuition in the early days. It may be more expensive but it will have you on your feet (and staying on them) much sooner.

If you are wondering how many years you'll get out of it if you start at 40, remember that in their downhill racing competitions, the Norwegians have an over-80s category.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine