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Learning to ski as an adult isn’t as scary as you think – here’s why you should try it

Worried skiing skills are out of reach? Natalie Wilson took to the nursery slopes in Andorra for some late lessons in the mountain lifestyle

Friday 29 March 2024 13:50 GMT
Mountain moments: A ‘Slope Starters’ holiday is aimed at beginner or lapsed skiers
Mountain moments: A ‘Slope Starters’ holiday is aimed at beginner or lapsed skiers (Crystal Ski)

It’s hard not to take “it’s impossible to fall forwards,” as anything but a challenge on your first day skiing. As I slid face-first into the slush during my first hour on the mountain, I mentally prepared myself to feel a bit pathetic for the rest of my week on the pistes.

To be fully transparent, I had stepped foot on skis before. For a few hours aged nine, on a trip for a family friend’s birthday, I stood strapped in and crying on a mountain in Méribel because my feet hurt. My French instructor, who did not know what to do with me, eventually directed my quivering lip and legs towards a Nutella crêpe – a great call, one which distracted me from the boots torturing my metatarsals.

Where my fear was somewhat endearing in 2010, now I was merely an afraid adult at altitude. Intimidated by catching a chairlift while wearing two planks, unknown mountain rights of way and an unspoken après etiquette among the elite, this was not the fly-and-flop holiday I am used to.

Andorra’s peaks boast high-altitude nursery slopes (Crystal Ski )

Crystal Ski’s “Slope Starters” holidays aim to provide an introduction to the slopes without the pressures, they say. For the second year of the beginner’s week package, the itinerary was studded with a balance of skiing, spa lounging, bowling and sinking shots during a quiz night. All equipment hire was included in the offer and I was very pleased with my pink poles and beginner skis.

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I was in Arinsal, Andorra, an Alpine village with high-altitude nursery slopes built for learning, plus a lack of phone service that presented me with the added challenge of a digital detox. With snow unseasonably absent from the forecast, I didn’t quite arrive at a winter wonderland. Nevertheless, I was grateful to find the hire shop and hotel ski lockers sat just opposite the gondola and, even in 17C, sinking into a fireside armchair for the Hotel Montane’s mulled wine and cake hour fulfilled the Chalet Girl ski holiday I had envisioned.

You’ll find mulled wine and homemade cake at the Hotel Montane (Crystal Ski)

It didn’t take much of Monday morning for me to realise I’d lucked out with a straight-talking ski instructor, who was prepared to put up with me as I fell over from standing still and met every new instruction with an “oh my God, no”.

Thankfully, lesson one was how to stop, but you can forget kid-friendly techniques like the pizza (snow plough) and French fries (parallel). Under Matt’s tuition, this is the “oh s**t” moment when your skis face down the mountain, with some Fireball-fuelled finding my feet thanks to the uber-generous bar staff at the mountainside Derby Deli.

I certainly wasn’t expecting to be skiing in a heatwave, having invested in some fun thermals, and had to get creative with my lift pass for the rest of my runs after shedding two layers after day one.

Arinsal Ski School has a great reputation for teaching beginners (Crystal Ski)

It was day two when I learnt my most valuable lesson: ski boots are not comfortable, nor are they meant to be. Mastering the optimum strap settings to prevent pins and needles was to be possibly my greatest achievement of the week.

After graduating from Aladdin sing-alongs on the magic carpet ski lift to the green and blues slopes, something clicked on day three. However, what felt like Formula 1 speed was shown to be less than rapid when I watched myself back on video – I moved eight metres in a minute as distressingly skilled child racers a third of my size hurtled past me.

My fear of flying off the mountain had surpassed my concerns over taking my first-ever solo trip with a group of strangers I had assumed fabricated their skiing ability for a cheap ski trip. I couldn’t have been more wrong, with my group of Irish gems and couples who restored my faith in humanity spanning generations A-Z. We laughed our way through every faux pas, every faceful of what limited snow was on offer.

Standing still on skis – sometimes the hardest part (Supplied)

Once I had mastered the art of hauling my skis over my shoulder, the heel-toe technique of ski boots and secured second in a slalom race (made more impressive by my aggressively hungover state), I finally felt like a real skier. Six days of ski school had been a crash course in technique. Yes, my calves were killing me and I dreamt of Deep Heat, but tentative turns had transformed into making a parallel path down blue runs and some cocky charges past my group that dare I say were actually fun.

Ski newbies: you will ungracefully flop off a chairlift at some point during your first trip, but it’s only the people behind you that you need to worry about, and they’re probably just as worried about falling flat on their faces. As for the après scene, it’s no scarier than a night out in Clapham. And if all goes skis up, the odds are you’re never too far from the comfort of a Nutella crêpe.

Travel essentials

Crystal Ski Holidays offers seven-night Slope Starters holidays to Andorra, designed with the beginner skiing and snowboarding community in mind. From £845pp, including return flights, half-board accommodation, transfers, ski lessons, equipment hire and a lift pass. You can register interest in Slope Starters 2025 here.

Looking for an affordable skiing holiday? Swap the Alps for Slovakia’s Tatras mountains

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