That is the question. Whether you have never skied before or learnt soon after you could walk, one thing is certain: be it good, bad, fun or terrifying, you have an opinion on skiing.
Another certainty is that in the first few days of Hilary Term you became aware that this year’s Trinity ski trip recently returned from Les Arcs. With them floated the usual cloud of revelry, gossip and scandal expected when 400+ Irish students are taken abroad, laced with cheap alcohol and given free range of a holiday resort. Thus, whatever your view, and however experienced you are at skiing, it can be assumed that its reputation precedes it.
In the Alps, skiing seems to be associated either with student debauchery or the snobby types who dominate various ski resorts and ensure your holiday is filled with overbearingly plummy voices and preppy get up. It is understandable if at first skiing does not appeal to you. However, I hope to persuade you that skiing is, quite simply, the best holiday of the year. Those already converted will agree that nothing quite beats a week skiing. Even if there is no snow.
Ski resorts could more accurately be described as winter playgrounds for all ages. Skiing and snowboarding are the common factor in every resort, but each resort is different in character and charm. Some have a more traditional air, such as St. Anton in Austria and Zermatt in Switzerland. Others, like Avoriaz and Tignes in France, are more modern in feel.
Most are also equipped for an abundance of activities besides snow sports. Eating out is certainly one favoured Alpine activity. Here you can dine like royalty, although as students the best course may be to befriend either a chef or an oligarch. Aside from drinking, eating and skiing, there is plenty more to get up to. Gone are the whiteout days of the 80s, when everyone sat around idly waiting for blue skies to appear again. Non-skiers can shop ’til they drop on streets full of Alpine fashion and designer brands, ski kit and souvenirs, or relax away their aches, pains and hangovers in a spa, pool or sauna. Urbanites can go to the movies (in English in many resorts), frequent a bowling alley (inconceivably fun, in France there is generally a bar with table service) or take a scenic train or bus ride to the nearest big town. Those into music can go to a local gig by a touring band or even partake in some karaoke. For extra thrills an attempted luge run on toboggans is always fun. The possibilities are many and varied.
Skiing is a phenomenon because it is not just a sport, but can be a lifestyle, combining competition, adrenaline and even fashion. This carefree sport is able to cater for anyone and everything. Think people care that you can’t ski – they don’t. If you think you’re wearing the wrong clothes in a scene where retro is king and no one knows what the right clothes are – you’re wrong. It is almost impossible not to fit in. The only thing people care about is whether you’re having a good time, making it one of the most inclusive sports around.
Skiing elates you. The adrenaline rush you get from racing down the hill at speed, the satisfaction at improving one step at a time from unsure beginner to “skieur extraordinaire”, the joy of skiing with family friends; it is an experience well worth your time. Don’t be put off if you can’t yet ski, or don’t think you’re good enough. It only takes one partner in crime of the same standard to ensure a successful week, on and off the pistes.
At the end of the day, your efforts on the hill are rewarded by a hard-earned drink: enter the world of après-ski. This traditional afternoon session is frequented by skiers, non-skiers, OAPs and kids alike. Maybe its the altitude and Alpine air, the relaxation after a hard day’s exercise, the thirst quenching, or simply just the novelty of being able to use your feet for walking and dancing (preferably on table tops) again, this Alpine specialty is a must. There are no limits to what can happen in après-ski bars, from live-music to long-arming pitchers and human pyramid assembling. For those up for a challenge, beginning at après-ski and enduring a whole night out in ski gear is not unheard of.
So, if you haven’t already, start saving now. Take advantage of a Ryanair sale, beg, borrow or steal for ski kit and gather as many as you can squeeze into an apartment. The answer of “to ski or not to ski” is, of course, ski.