Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'I'm allergic to the cold, unflattering outfits, all forms of exercise and waking up early. Why would I go skiing?'
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The Independent Online

So. I have big news. Huge. Skiing isn't for wankers.

I mean, who knew? Quite frankly, I did not see that coming.

Let me explain. Two months ago our best friends asked casually, with NO warning whatsoever over a plate of nachos while half-watching an ex-member of Blue attempt a triple salco on the telly, if we fancied joining them for a week on the slopes.

We all (and I'm talking about the whole family - even the brand new baby looked pretty worried) swallowed. Hard. They know us well. I tell her everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) and her husband is almost like my husband's brother. They're so close they have the same thoughts on all things - people, films, and fridges. They can talk about their top three favourite nuts for an hour without stopping. Don't ask me why this is a sign of friendship - but I just know it is. (By the way, if anyone's interested - 3) the pistachio, 2) the macadamia, 1) the mighty cashew.)

I call her when anything interesting happens to me - she basically decides what colour I should paint my hall, whether I should plant daffodil bulbs (I'm joking of course, I've never planted anything in my life - but if I was going to, I'd ask her opinion) and what to do if I've plucked too much off my left eyebrow.

You see. Great friends. And then they seemingly go and blow it all by asking us if they can take us skiing. My husband's never been and is openly mean about anyone who talks about going "off piste", and I'm allergic to the cold, all forms of exercise, unflattering outfits and waking up early.

So these people, the ones who are supposed to know us best of all, asked us if we, yes us, wanted to go to Switzerland. In other words, did we want to buy gigantic goggles, set our alarms for 5am and eat stale bread dipped into wet, lukewarm cheese all before throwing ourselves down a mountain.

I, for one, was appalled. My husband was so nervous he barely slept - he woke up with a plan - "Let's say we've broken our legs - we'll just avoid them for three months. They'll never know" - and by lunch he decided to leap off the top of the house to break them himself, just in case there was any confusion. But we love our friends, we trust them, they're freakishly persuasive and so we said yes.

Making some pre-trip decisions made it all slightly less terrifying. I planned to insist I was suffering from extreme altitude sickness the minute we arrived. I worked out that I could say the only thing that made it ease up were long baths and lie-ins. Plus my husband decided to say he suffered from vertigo (something he'd failed to notice in the past 35 years of his life) and was therefore restricted from going even one metre up in a cable car. We did our wills because we assumed we'd both die by slipping on some ice. Finally, we were ready.

To keep up appearances, we made all the right noises throughout January and February: "Yeah, we've been to Snow + Rock, their thermals feel great" and "Wow, we just can't wait for the cuckoo clocks. Right on." Then it was D-Day, or Ski Day as we got used to calling it.

Instead of arriving in hell, we turned up in a beautiful Swiss town, moved into an extraordinary chalet (with hot-tub) and then a friendly skiing instructor called Nikki, with earrings (quite - plural), came to meet us to assure us we were going to have fun.

Fun. Wait. Something had obviously gone wrong. This wasn't going to happen. And then he said the following sentence: "We'll see you at 9.30 after you've had pancakes and hot chocolate, then we'll take you up the mountain but we won't do anything scary and then maybe we'll stop for lunch."

Now hold on just a second. Wasn't I supposed to be in a quilted cream suit and faux rabbit hat sitting next to a sweating hulk on a chair lift by 7am? Wasn't I meant to be eating a bowl of muesli made from tree bark while it was still dark outside? Still, I decided not to argue with the new regime.

Cut to five days later and I'm thinking of having a pair of skis tattooed on my forehead. I LOVE skiing. What on earth have I been doing on a beach all this time? I mean, that's for morons - you can get sunburn and really damage yourself. Skiing isn't what I thought it was. It's exhilarating, it's funny (yes, I fell over. A lot) and the outfits are cooler these days - not everyone has to look like they're wearing a fluorescent orange duvet costume.

So, there are two morals to this story. 1) Friends usually know best and, 2) A bit of old bread dipped in a vat of bubbling, smelly cheese is not as gruesome as it sounds.

Or maybe I'm just a wanker.

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