When she first took to the slopes on a school trip, for Fiona Sturges it was all downhill all the way
My ski nightmare: Envisaging glorious sunsets, chocolate-box chalets, powdery white snow, and a gaggle of handsome ski instructors manfully guiding me down the glistening mountains, I was perfectly keen to join our school skiing trip. I booked myself in for a couple of preparatory sessions on a dry-skiing slope and two weeks later, armed with an array of polo-neck sweaters, a bulbous pair of salopettes and the obligatory two-tone bobble hat, I felt ready to embrace all the Austrian resort of Obergurgl had to offer.

On arrival we were greeted by Arctic temperatures and a Liverpudlian ski instructor called Gaz who had a disturbing penchant for teenage girls with freckles. He swiftly allocated us our ill-fitting boots and skis and, before we could say "apres-ski" he had us snow-ploughing in alligator lines down the nursery slopes, a scenario which a self-conscious 15-year- old should never have to endure.

We soon moved up to the grown-up slopes, where the real indignities commenced. My attempts to remain upright on giant sheets of ice were met with mirth by my contemporaries and disdain by the instructors. Horrified by the lack of traffic control on the piste I did my utmost to remain anonymous at the edge of the slopes, but this was hampered by sneering exhibitionists sporting faux-Olympian ski-wear who seemed intent on running me over and nearly sent me to my death. On the third day a collision between my head and a wayward T-bar sent me scurrying back down the slopes to the relative comfort of my bunk bed.

Having abandoned all hope of uncovering a hidden talent for skiing, I felt the nightlife (and the schnapps) might have more to offer. Alas, the hordes of Arabellas clogging up the bars and vociferously assessing the merits of bobsleighing in St Moritz against skiing in Val-d'Isere left little room for a bunch of gauche schoolgirls. There was nothing left to do but flash my freckles at Gaz.