By Tom Russell
As requested in the newsletter, I phoned Trudy Lymer about place availability on Wednesday evening. John told me that I was number 8 in the list, but that last month only two people (he and Trudy) had attended the course. John advised me to arrive early in order to navigate the time consuming ski hire queues.
Living in south Manchester, the evening's entertainment for me started on the M60 with the usual tail-back of cars over the Barton bridge, and continued with a few more tail-backs on the M66, so, despite having left at 5:30, I was worried about being late. During the journey I'd been looking at the weather and wondering if the event would be cancelled because of snow, but when I got there it wasn't too deep and the slopes were still open. I'd arrived at the slope in good time to check in, hire my skis and emerge, blinking, onto the slope in time for the off. The total cost was £12 for two hours including ski hire. I was tempted by the offer seen attached to a pair of skis propped against the racks of hire skis, "Skis + bindings £10", but since I only had £9.50 in my pocket, I missed a bargain!
Throughout the evening the weather stayed fine but cold. We were on the main slope, which at first was almost empty. As the evening progressed, the slope filled up and a couple of groups of beginners appeared for the last hour. There was still plenty of room, but the queue for the drag lift lengthened a bit.
With only a total of three weeks skiing under my belt, this was my first visit to a training evening. I can ski parallel (a requirement in order to attend the session) - at least I thought I could until my first descent of the slope. Four falls later I arrived, somewhat dishevelled, at the bottom, wondering why I'd bothered to come. Plenty of scope for improvement then! Fortunately, subsequent attempts proved more successful, and I only fell once more during the evening. All the other Club members seemed to be able to descend with more whizz than me, and I didn't see anybody else fall (don't you just hate it when you're the worst in the group!). Despite the cold I ended up hot and had to open my jacket to cool off, probably due to having to put more effort in to compensate for poor technique.
Having eleven people of varying capability in the group made it difficult for Peter, our coach. His approach varied from watching at the bottom of the slope and taking people to one side for advice, to getting out on the slope and demonstrating how it should be done. Peter allowed me several runs for my confidence to improve before he wanted me to start to try and "feel the edges" as I turned. To this end I was advised to start just below the top of the slope, and several practise methods were recommended, one of which involved having my ski poles confiscated. These exercises certainly helped, and I began to feel more confident and fluent. Other members were advised on different aspects of their technique, and most appeared to get something out of the evening. Peter, in the post session debrief, seemed happy that everybody had taken on board his comments and had tried to put them into practise.
For the après ski bit most people repaired to the Old Cobblers Inn to have a beer, discuss the evening's lessons and tell skiing stories of flying down near vertical slopes six feet ahead of an avalanche, but I'm not sure I believed them all (particularly mine). I enjoyed the evening and felt I learnt from it, although I have to say that artificial slopes aren't my favourite surface.
The next training session is 11th February 2005, so grab your kit and get down there, but don't forget to ring Trudy first.