A hotelier’s lament on skiing

 Katrina Le Saux runs Bryniau Golau in Gwynnedd, Wales, with her Austrian partner, Peter Cottee. Here she writes about what it’s like to be a hotelier on holiday – learning to skI!


I’m in Austria. Have you been? Do you know it? Before I came all I knew was edelweiss and Julie Andrews, yodelling and thigh slapping dances by people dressed in dirndls and lederhosen.

Oh and concealed cellars and anti-freeze enhanced wine.

I’ve come to learn how to ski. I don’t like skiing. I don’t like slipping sliding speed, feeling out of control. I don’t like the confines of bubble lifts, the steepness of a slope, the expanse of a view and I particularly don’t like an edge. Every edge is like a siren’s call. Come hither it sings, come and tumble to your death. Other learners content themselves with the middle of the run, I am always at the back, teetering on an edge.

My fear has given me indigestion. Rennies cost 9 euros a packet. It would be cheaper to smoke. I weep in the car as we drive towards the crowds having fun.

Perhaps it’s a heart attack I’m having. Ask not for whom the blood wagon comes, it comes for thee.

Why bother? Why indeed?

Because my partner is Austrian. For him skis are slippers by another name. The slopes submit as he effortless sinks amongst their contours coasting down to soft pastures. But I am not native here. For me the rocks rise hard and fast, they are unyielding.

“Try,” he says every morning when I sit in silence gazing gloomily at my semmeln rolls and wurst.

“You won’t know until you try.”

Know what I wonder. Know that sadism runs in his veins. Know that at my age I’m fresh out of new tricks? Know that I have yet to find Gott im Himmel despite standing on top of the world and praying into a snow-filled cloud.

“Turn, turn now,” he shouts as I wobble in an out-of-control manner. “Parallel. Skis together. No! Not a snow plough, come on bend your knees, point down the mountain and relax.”

Relax. When I return to sea level I’ll relax. When I sink a gluhwein simultaneously with an arrow through the back of his head I’ll relax. But on the mountain there is little of my body (apart from my bowels) that wishes to comply.

I bend and straighten, I sweep my arm out in front of me drawing a 180 degree circle in the snow and taking out a fellow beginner. I hum Nelly the Elephant loudly, the perfect beat for cardiac compression. It’s supposed to help. I move in a white world of fear. But just a minute I am moving. I’ve completed half the run without hesitation, falling sideways or descending backwards.

“Well done you,” he shouts. “Keep going, that’s right, beautiful, simply beautiful.”

For a single moment I’ve managed to ski a rhythm of at least six turns. It feels great. I arrive at the chair lift exultant. “Fantastic. Now up you go and do it again.”