My first opportunity to ski came on a school trip with by middle school in December 1983, when I was aged 12. It was also my first trip abroad. Our school trip went to Les Menuires in the French Alps for Christmas week. While we were there, we practiced what we had learnt in a series of after-school trips to a dry ski slope. By the end of the holiday, we were confident basic skiers.
I went on a second school trip in December, 1984, again with school, but this time to Puy St. Vincent in the French Alps. By the end of that trip, we were performing confident parallel turns.
Following those trips, I went on the odd trip to the dry ski slope in Halifax with a few friends and then went on a trip to Zell am Ziller in Austria during Easter 1988 with a Christian youth group, Runton Holidays. Whilst the religious aspects of the trip were not particularly to my taste, the group had a lot of nice people in it and my younger brother came along too (he had already attended karting activity holidays run by the same group).
In 1989/1990, I took a gap year between school and starting my degree in Coventry. I had arranged to work a couple of seasons with an organisation called Jobs In The Alps, which placed predominantly young people and students in seasonal jobs around the Alps in the hotel and hospitality trade. My thinking was to experience the real world before embarking on further education, to ensure a place at my preferred place of higher education (Coventry Polytechnic) by deferring a year, to improve my German skills, and to get in some skiing.
The first of these two seasons took me to Davos in the canton of Graub�nden (Grisons) in Switzerland, where I worked as a Chasseur, which involved general reception duties, driving, and occasional snow clearing. I used to work from 08:00-12:00 and then from 15:00-20:00, usually five days a week. This meant that I usually had two days a week to benefit from skiing in one of the best ski areas in the Alps and three hours over lunchtime every day, which usually gave me time to grab my stuff and head up the nearby Parsennbahn to take in some skiing. As a registered local worker, I benefitted from a reduced rate lift pass, which covered the whole of the skiing area around Davos for the whole winter season. My first pay packet went on skiing equipment and a season lift pass.
I befriended a few other people from the area who'd also come to Davos through Jobs In The Alps. We used to hit the slopes together when time allowed. A particular favourite of ours was the Pischa ski area, which was reached by bus from Davos and a slight trip out of town, so it tended to be quieter than the other areas. We also gave snowboarding (which was still a pretty rare thing to see on the slopes) a go, although I have to say that I preferred skiing.
I look back fondly at my time in Davos. It was a big deal for me - I'd just finished school, was 18 years old, my mother had died just a couple of months before I went to work there, I was earning money in a full-time job for the first time in my life, and I was going to live in a foreign country where I was a complete stranger. I grew up quite a bit in those few months, but I also got to do a hell of a lot of skiing.
I didn't ski again for three years after I'd worked the winter season in Davos. In the summer of 1993, I was studying in Grenoble in the French Alps and took the opportunity to go on a day trip with the university's ski club to Les Deux Alpes, where glacier skiing is possible. I also involved myself in the issues around the environmental impact of skiing, when I wrote a study on the subject as part of my degree in Modern Languages.
Since then, I haven't skied on snow, although I've managed to go to a dry ski slope in Birmingham a few times.
I haven't lost my taste for skiing - it's just that the opportunities are not really there now with a young family to care for, but I hope that it's something we'll all be able to enjoy as a family in the coming years.
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