Getting out the comfort zone

Life is a funny old thing. You never know what situations you might find yourself in, who you might meet, what might happen… And it never ceases to amaze me how adaptable we can be to it all.

Indeed, this lifestyle of snow has quickly become the norm. Weather that would have had me Facebooking my life away has become every-day.

The daunting prospect of cooking five-course meals for large numbers of guests is now something manageable

Walking to work in horrible snow blizards and white-outs.. it just is what it is now.

Driving on snowy mountain roads seems normal, eggs that take twenty minutes to become hard-boiled are completely ordinary in my mind, as is taking five minutes to layer up every time you want to go outside… Additionally, I sleep half as much, I work twice as much, I do twice as much exercise, I just eat whenever I can… and I’m feeling fine.

After Christmas, it even felt pretty normal having new years out here.

We watched fireworks on the piste, with champagne, as the clock struck twelve

And then we partied!

Good times.

However, some things have not been so easy to adapt to. Some things I haven’t been able to make sense of straight away- so I’ve had to learn by screwing up.

Things which seem obvious… but which I’ve learnt the hard way…

Sharp knives will cut you- don’t put them in the washing up beneath the bubbles.

The oven is hot- don’t touch it.

Things that come OUT the oven are also hot- don’t touch them either.

You CAN grate your fingers on a cheese grater.

Altitude makes you drunker- slow down before you fall down.

Ski equipment is heavy- don’t try and carry it too far like an idiot.

Falling is cold- always wear gloves.

You will skid on the roads- drive slowly.

Cakes do not rise so great at altitude- remember the baking powder.

News travels fast- there are no secrets among seasonaires.

Resorts are expensive- buy decent equipment before you leave.

Don’t add a tablespoon when the recipe says a teaspoon.

Etc etc.

And the biggest lesson for me so far?

Skiing is hard.

You will fall. You will bruise. You will cry. You will have tantrums. You will want to quit.

And maybe, just maybe, you will get mowed down by a chair lift. Oh yes.

This is the second piece of ski-lift machinery I have publicly (and both times in epically embarrassing ways) brought to a standstill this week.

How am I still alive? I had no idea I was this clumsy. But apparently, I am.

So today I have two stories to share with you.

The first one took place last week. I was on a magic carpet lift (literally where the floor just moves up the side of the nursery slopes) when my skies started to slip backwards. For whatever reason, the rubber of the magic carpet was not gripping me.

Slowly, my left ski started to slide off. It hit the non-moving ground and twisted. I fell. I screamed. It didn’t stop. Where I was caught stationary, and the carpet continued to move beneath me, several kids ploughed into my giggling/screaming lump, and suddenly we had a five child pile up. I was at the bottom. It still didn’t stop. In fact, now I was being pulled face first up the carpet with people on top of me. And my ski still twisted, banging against the ground in warped protest. PAINFULL.

Eventually, the staff managed to spot the Mel-induced chaos and hit the emergency stop button. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. It was pretty funny though… afterwards.

The next incident was a couple of days ago. Except this one nearly induced a panic attack and I think it will be a while before I see the funny side. But I completely appreciate the comedic value of such trauma, so I HAD to share with you all…

This one was on a real chair lift. I had a rucksack on and was fannying around trying to get it onto my front so I could sit down properly when my turn came.

And then suddenly it was my turn, and the gate of the chair lift started to close on me because I wasn’t paying attention. THIS was my fatal error- I made the mistake of nipping through quickly.

And the chair lift swung round the corner out of nowhere. I panicked. I fell over. The staff hit the emergency stop button. But the chair didn’t stop- it hit me hard, harder than you would ever expect, ran me over and dragged me across the floor for a good couple of metres. My skies were at an odd angle and I couldn’t move, I just curled up and got mauled by the thing. I genuinely feared for my life- it’s not cool getting tangled up in humongous ski lifts.

A good collection of people were watching. I was alone. On the way down to the lift, I’d already fallen several times, hadn’t been able to get my skies on, got a face-full of now, and knickers full of ice. I was close to tears already out of sheer frustration. Then the embarrassing (and very painful) ski-lift trauma pushed me over the edge.

And so, to make a bad situation worse, I had a hysterical breakdown at the bottom of the ski lift. While about 20 families watched. And waited for me to stop shaking and crying and freaking out long enough to get up, put my skies back on, pull myself together, and get back in the right place so they could start the lift again.

But I was a broken woman. I was literally in a state. So when I eventually got back on the chair, I was panicked and terrified, and consequently I let my poles get tangled in the over head thing that comes down, nearly breaking both my hands, and flinging my poles into the snow below- a mere few metres from the bottom of the ski lift where I had just stopped the thing for what felt like an age, and caused a public scene.

The Dutch man and has two kids who had the misfortune to be sharing the chair-lift with Miss Breakdown here tried to console me on the way up, but I was almost at panic attack point and could NOT stop crying. I felt sick, I could barely breathe, and my entire right side was throbbing with pain where I had been hit hard by the ski lift and dragged across the floor. MESS.

Then the weather turned. And one hysterical chair-lift ride later, I was sat crying my eyes out at the top of a mountain in a snow blizzard.

At this point, I just wanted to go home. Like, England home. That was it, game over. I tried to tell myself to man up, to walk it off, to pull myself together….. but I was officially terrified, officially done with it all, and officially in full-blown hysterics.

Why was I here anyway? I couldn’t ski, but I couldn’t just sit in my apartment for the next four months. Just quit. What a stupid idiot to ever think I could do it- to ever think I was someone that could be a ‘skier’, and fit in with everything that lifestyle entails. I felt ridiculous. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. But first, I was trapped alone at the top of a mountain with no ski poles, and more importantly, no confidence to get down.

But essentially I had a choice. I could go home and cry about it. Or I could stay out and refuse to go in until I had sorted my life out and regained my confidence.

So I made the angry decision (I was VERY frustrated with myself) that I was not going in until I had got over myself and conquered a few blue runs. You cannot give up when you want to be good at something. You have to be determined to do it.

I met up with some friends, and a couple of the boys patiently took Amy and I down some green and blues to practice practice practice our turns and our stops. Goodness knows how many times I uttered the words ‘I can’t do it’… but in the end, I always did. You just gotta resist the urge to curl up in the snow and winge about it. Which is ludicrously tempting when you are so far out of your comfort zone and feel so ridiculous.

I even went back down to THE lift with everyone. The same lift I had just stopped and had a massive spaz at. This was not easy! They saw me coming and actually slowed it down, oh gosh, I’m a recognised liability. I’m officially a hazard.

But I was proud of myself for not giving up, at the very least.

And I do have some epic bruises:

So what’s the lesson?

Skiing IS scary. It is clumsy and complicated. And you have to respect it.

Yet I have come to the conclusion that I am one of those reckless people who just throw themselves into things head-first, and then deal with the consequences afterwards. I just go for stuff, not really knowing what I’m doing, and hope for the best. Sometimes it pays off.

But sometimes it doesn’t- like the first day skiing here when I just threw myself down the nursery slope without any schooling at all and landed in a screaming heap at the bottom. Like the other day, when I was cocky enough to think I could go out skiing by myself, jump on a chair lift, and meet everyone at the top.

Because the thing about skiing is, you need to know what you’re doing. You need to master your technique, and then practice practice practice. I did neither of these things- I just bloody went for it. I saw everyone else and thought, how hard can it be? My Dad will tell you I was exactly the same with learning to drive too. The amount of kerbs I mounted because I just wouldn’t slow down and THINK.

So some things never change. I still need to slow down and realise that I can’t do everything at once. I need to not get so angry at myself when I fail. I need to just accept that I’m a beginner and take it one step at a time- without trying to ‘just do it’ and then getting frustrated when I can’t.

Ultimately, I just need to embrace being outside my comfort zone for a while.

Even if it IS a struggle just to get my skies on some days. And even if I DO feel massively out of place on the slopes.

Well, I LOVE apres-ski.


But sigh. I am HUGELY challenged by skiing itself. But watch this space. I’m determined to succeed.


  1. Face-planting paradise: 5 ways to NOT suck at life (and kiting) - If you wanna go, just go - November 18, 2014

    […] random challenges. It’s the reason I first did a ski season, and boy I’ll never forget THAT learning curve. Standing up a mountain, in a blizzard, balling my bloody eyes out because I couldn’t ski, […]

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