I was kind of hoping, since we shared the same first name, hair colour and even claimed the same region of the UK as home(ish), that Jenny Jones and I would have something else in common. She came to her sport fairly late (in sporting terms) then won an Olympic medal. Could this also be my calling in life? Could I too quit the day job and spend my time travelling, teaching my sport to people who idolised me and winning prizes for doing something I enjoyed? Well…no. Unfortunately not.
Having already managed to crack my coccyx on my first attempt at the Snowdome, I came to the Swiss slopes with a fair bit of baggage. I hadn’t realised how much fear I had actually built up, and even when padded up so well I grew a couple of dress sizes, I still couldn’t get over that leaning downhill moment that has to happen in between turns. My tears were more a mixture of fear and frustration than pain, but I was being slowly chaffed across the shins were the boots ended, strained across the arch of my foot where it was trying to rock within the stiff and unshapely boot, and twisted in the knee every time I attempted to ride the ski-lift. To add insult to nagging injury, I knew that if I contorted my legs too much, there was no way I was going to be able to run a half marathon the weekend I got back, followed by a 15 mile off roader a few days later. There was a lot at stake.
Now, I can claim small victories. For example, I didn’t break myself this time. My coccyx survived the bashing, as did my wrists, knees and all other endangered body parts (that’s everything in snowboarding). I made it back in one slightly bruised piece without ruining myself for all the other things I enjoy and need hands for (stop laughing- I’m referring to illustration mainly), and was able to run my race. Here was the girl who had been known to cry from cold, standing atop a mountain and rolling repeatedly in snow (and only crying a little bit). I am notoriously bad at cold climates. My circulation gives up pretty swiftly and stops allowing my fingers and toes any blood. My family even refer to places in terms of how cold I got. We don’t say ‘Marston Lane’; we say ‘the lane where Jenny got really cold hands’. Yes, it’s a mouthful but it helps you remember it.
However, my boyfriend, who had decided snowboarding wasn’t for him from day 1, was merrily skiing down the slopes as if he’d always been doing it, whilst I collapsed on an icy patch for the 50th time that day, my feet strapped to something evil, as I revelled in the joys of terribly enhanced PMT (never underestimate its power), the worst cold since childhood and the unshiftable fact that I had made zero progress, wasted 2 days of an otherwise awesome holiday, and thrown Swiss francs to the wind in wasting my ski-pass on consistent failure, and in attempts to lose the fear through coffee schnapps. (breathe). It was time to admit I would never be Jenny Jones. It was time to try skiing.
Now I won’t say I took to it like a duck to water. That would be a gross injustice to ducks. But I did master the snowplough, zigzagged back and forth and made it all the way from the top of the nursery slope repeatedly without a fall (minus one minor blip involving a pile up on the ski-lift- which was NOT my fault). My excellent teacher gave me helpful hints such as ‘your bum is sticking out rather a lot, maybe try standing up straight..?’ (She didn’t realise that I do everything remotely scary in foetal position, and that wouldn’t be changing). I even made it all the way down the road from slope to village, ploughing for all I was worth (it turns out that’s pretty tiring on the knees over any distance). I was a real-life skier. Not broken, not crying from cold, just skiing (very slowly). With my goal adjusted and achieved, I decided that next time I might even try a proper pisted slope.