Skiing: Been skiing, eh? Fascinating . . .

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The Independent Online
DINNER parties, as any social animal knows, are fraught with danger, but never more so than at this time of year. For amidst all the browsing and sluicing, all the bah humbugs and the paper hats and the falling over and being sick on your best friend's wife, there's also the fearful risk that, sooner or later, someone might turn to you and utter the five words whose sheer power to anaesthetise can reduce the life expectancy of all but the most sturdy and self-possessed conversationalist.

'Been skiing yet this year?'

Your heart sinks. In fact, all your internal organs plummet, with an audible squelch. It's not even as though he's actually asking you the question. He's really asking himself, and the answer's yes. Been twice so far, in fact, and the snow's fantastic. Best for years.

The monologue begins. This man does not live to ski, he skis to live. And when he's not skiing, it seems, he's talking about skiing. He wants to tell you about the cool, clean air at the top of a mountain at six in the morning, about heliskiing and Factor 25 Piz Buin and have you tried Lapland yet? About how he's fitter than he's ever been, and he's going next weekend, and Gstaad isn't what it was, and his new Gotterdammerung boots cost pounds 800 and weigh only one gram. And despite your protestations of indifference, despite the fact you've just stabbed him in the thigh with your fork, he drones on, incapable of understanding that you simply don't want to know.

Would any other sports fan get away with this? Of course not. Cricketers and golfers and football fans accept with due humility that no one else is much interested in their sport. Even some rugby fans have been trained to stop singing whenever a human being walks into the room.

Ski bores, though, are an entirely different species. We've all seen it happen to people we know - dedicated non- skiers, finally persuaded to give it a go, who return from Austria a week later glassy-eyed, converted, born again. At first they entertain you with tales of randy ski instructors and nursery slopes - all very amusing. But then their expressions harden, and they start speaking in tongues, blithering incomprehensibly about black pistes and mogul-bashing. Before long you realise they are tying to convert you too.

So let's not shrink from the truth. Let's admit it to the world. Skiing is the single most tedious, over-rated, over- priced, pretentious sport humankind has yet developed. Next to skiing, rowing seems rational. Long-distance walking seems almost sensible.

For one thing there's the cost. And for another there are all the fat businessmen in shellsuits, mowing you down while shouting 'Vorsprung durch Technik]' in perfect unison. At least with darts you don't get frost-bite, or broken limbs, or regularly humiliated by bronzed ski intructors with cucumbers down their trousers.

And then there's the apres-ski. Most sports don't have to advertise the appeals of the booze-up afterwards. They're self-evident. But ski bores make great claims for the sheer Bacchanalian revelry of apres-ski, with its endless supply of fondue and eight-

hour games of Pictionary. As you're too tired to join in anyway, you can only watch as your girlfriend is chatted up by the hunkiest of the ski instructors, who later invites her to his room to show off his collection of bobble hats. Far more fun than the Bahamas.

No, I haven't been skiing this year. Yes, I'm sure the snow's fantastic. Now sod off.