After the annual Christmas frenzy is over, being in the foothills of the Alps, many people's thoughts turn to winter sports. Ski bunnies all over town pull out their finest ski-togs and prepare for the big downhill. "Are you skiing?", they ask. "No," I reply. Mama doesn't ski. "Oh come on, it's fun!" "No, thank-you," I reply, firmly. Mama doesn't ski. In fact, Mama is allergic to snow, to the cold, to skis, ski boots, salapettes, snow ploughs and chair lifts.
And dirty Turkish toilets.
In fact the only thing I can think of to like about skiing is the après. Preferably somewhere there isn't any snow.
Why? I'll tell you.
Some (gasp) 30 years ago, the handsome young man at the centre of my life took me one Christmas to stay with his family at Lac d'Annecy. As a mere snip of a girl with not much to say for herself, I spent the several days of our visit in a perpetual whirl of hesitation before the unknown - unknown foods, unknown table customs, unknown languages. Finally, it was decided that we should all go skiing. Not wishing to appear - what? - un-sophisticated, un-worldly, un-educated, I put an un-certain smile on my face and accepted the assortment of borrowed and rented equipment I was offered. Once at the piste, my boyfriend taught me a snow plough, and pointed me in the direction of the drag lift up to the nursery slope, while he headed nimbly for higher ground. Without looking back.
Well, at the top of the drag lift, I predictably fell off, and ended up under a pile of bodies, all swearing at me in French.
Gathering myself up with difficulty, I inched to the top of the slope and pointed my skis in what seemed to be the right direction, but instead of sailing down in graceful curves, I bumped down on my butt, and each time I found myself on the ground, I was assailed from all directions by 5-year-olds in helmets and go-faster goggles, coming at me at Warp Factor Eight. I spent the rest of the day attempting to look as if I was just taking a breather at the foot of the piste, all the time trying, and failing, to control my minds-of-their-own skis.
I never went near another ski slope, and I dined out on a vastly embellished version of my skiing disaster for years, but I never would have thought that, 30 years on, I would have a son of my own and that he would be a little snow-devil in go-faster goggles like the ones who cut me up so badly that day. Well I do and he is, thanks to Bernardinello and the other kind members of Sci Club Cannobio. They have devoted every Sunday since New Year to teaching him and many other children of the combined schools of Cannobio to hop neatly over prostrate and terrified teenage beginners on the nursery slopes of Piana di Vigezzo.
Thanks also to the Comune di Cannobio, who have again this year generously subsidised the classes to the tune of 30% (now there's a local authority that knows what to do with its CCTV budget!). And to M., who gallantly undertook the Valle Cannobina Rally every Sunday at dawn for eight weeks, and who finally persuaded me to come along, giving me a fantastic excuse to be up in the fresh air of the mountains in winter rather than doing the mountains of ironing at home!
AJ, to my - what? - un-expected, un-ending, un-derstandable pleasure, won his age-group's end-of-course slalom competition by sailing down in graceful curves at Warp Factor Eight. Bravo campione!
Images taken at Piana di Vigezzo ski resort; highly recommended, particularly for families in search of snowy fun and a great atmosphere, whether they ski or not.