I refer to it as ‘Girlfriend Skiing’, or GF skiing for short, but any romantic connection between the participants is optional. Those who sometimes ski with their less able partner, whatever their gender, will know what I mean. In my case, it usually does involve a female, be they a chalet guest, someone else’s girlfriend, or indeed my own.
I first heard the term girlfriend skiing when buying ski boots in Snow & Rock. The ski dude serving me was showing me the switch on the back of a pair of boots. ‘In walk mode’, he explained, ‘the boot allows some ankle movement to aid walking.’ He continued, ‘For comfort, I leave my boots in walk mode when I’m girlfriend skiing, then put them in ski mode when going-large with my mates down the park.’ Now, I only ever enter a snow park through navigational error and if anything ever ‘goes large’ on me, it’s usually involuntary, but I knew exactly what he meant.
GF skiing means setting off for the day knowing that the deepest powder you’re likely to meet will be the chocolate on top of a cappuccino and the steepest encounter you’ll have to deal with will be the lunch bill. It involves a late start, usually due to some excessive ski-faffing, cruising some blues, a midmorning drink and loo stop (usually not synchronised), a two-hour lunch, then a gentle ski back to the resort for an early après session.
If you’ve signed up for a full week of GF skiing because you’re recently in love, it may even involve not skiing and taking a day off mid-holiday to rest, especially if something unpleasant is happening outside that day, like it’s snowing for instance.
When GF skiing it’s important to accept, from the beginning of the day, that all Ski Nazi tendencies must be subdued. You must wake up and say ‘Today I’m girlfriend skiing’ and flick your boots into walk mode and accept your pleasant fate. Make sure you take an extra layer to wear because there will be a lot of standing around getting cold whilst waiting for the snowplough queen to descend. When you get up the mountain (eventually), you mustn’t get tempted by any untracked field of powder you might spot or juicy-looking black runs, otherwise you’ll turn girlfriend skiing into ‘Wife Skiing’ and you really don’t want to do that.
Wife Skiing happens when a husband persuades his nervous wife to ski with him under the false pretence that his ambitions for the day are modest. Invariably he ends up shouting at her when she goes-ostrich at the top of a difficult run. Secretly, he’s a Ski Nazi and wants to do the polar opposite of GF skiing during his precious week on the slopes. Wife skiing can often lead to divorce – although on-piste domestics are usually just small apertures into a deeper crevasse of marital disharmony that opens on family skiing holidays.
I know I’m a fine one to be giving matrimonial advice, but it is very important that husbands never attempt to teach their wives to ski. The same rule applies to driving, sailing and cooking by the way. So, if your spouse isn’t that keen on skiing, it’s best to take her girlfriend skiing for a week somewhere quaint and then book a boys’ trip to somewhere hardcore like Chamonix or St Anton, to work out your frustrations.
I often go GF skiing with other people’s wives and girlfriends. It’s sort of an ancillary service I provide. The blokes go ‘lad skiing’ and I take their more fragrant halves for a potter round the mountains and a nice lunch. Hard work, I know, but someone’s got to do it. Frankly I’d rather ski with the girls than the boys, especially if they’re attractive (the girlfriends that is). I get plenty of ‘proper’ skiing with the Club, so it’s nice to have a day off to enjoy the scenery before, after and during my lunch.
Before you think me a complete letch, I must explain that I often go GF skiing with men too – along with the unfit, the infirm and, if really pushed, with children. I’ll basically GF ski with anyone who needs me, or just needs someone, to look after them on the mountain. The goal is to take all the anxiety and hassle away from them. I even offer to carry the girlfriend’s skis to the lift – although that can be a mistake if they have strong feminist views.
I don’t regard GF skiing as a waste of skiing time but look upon it as research. I use GF skiing to study the psychology of people’s skiing demons. I’m fascinated by the situations that cause people to freak on the mountain and their rationale for being afraid. I’m generally interested in all phobias, not just skiing ones, having had so many of my own. Of course, I think my fears are more rational than other people’s. When off-piste it’s possible to wander into situations where dying is a potential outcome, so I think my fears are rational.
Many girlfriends seem to be equally scared despite never leaving the piste where death is significantly harder to achieve. For some of them everything is too narrow, too busy, too icy or too bumpy and, generally, everything is always too steep. The most common underlying problem is a fear of speed and of being out of control. They lack the most important of skiing attributes – confidence.
I try to convince them that ‘speed is their friend’ – a hard proposition to sell to someone who’s frightened, but it’s a mantra I encourage them to use. If they were to go faster, turning their skis would be easier and they would have more control, with the added bonus of getting to the restaurant faster.
Morbid fear of T-bars, schusses and long traverses are common, especially amongst snowboarders. They all stem from traumatic events that happened while they were learning to ski (or board). We all carry emotional scars of our early experiences in life and skiing is no different. I always try and empathise with nervous girlfriends by telling them about the raft of phobias I developed while learning.
I hated cramped cable cars because they played on both my claustrophobia and agoraphobia at the same time. Even now, I still have to focus when aboard them to prevent panic setting in. I’m not too keen on going down in chairlifts either. The Ski Demons know my phobias and, if I let them, they can use them to great effect. I try to drown their voices out by babbling on to my fellow passengers about something irrelevant, even if they aren’t interested. Hopefully it distracts them from listening to their skiing demons too.
GF skiing has allowed me to discover many new phobias, some that even the sufferer hadn’t discovered until they went skiing with me. I always consider it an honour to be present at the birth of a new phobia.
Before taking anyone GF skiing, it’s imperative to establish that you are indeed a significantly better skier than they are – no bloke wants to be out-skied by their girlfriend. If this basic pre-ski check is done, GF skiing can be very good for your ego. There is however an art to showing off without looking like a show-off. Nonchalantly dropping off the side of a run to do a little powder, going over a tiny jump or skiing backwards while conducting a conversation are all good, if done in moderation. Don’t be too ambitious, a little showboating is fine but you don’t want to blow it by falling over. If you do, examine your bindings closely and intimate that you must have had an ‘equipment failure’.
March is the best time to go GF skiing because the weather is usually sunny and lunch can be taken alfresco. The off-piste snow conditions are generally poor in March, so you’re not missing out. Morzine in March turns into Cougar town, as you know, so there are lots of potential girlfriends about. Of course, if there is an unexpected dump of snow all bets are off. Remember, committed off-piste skiers don’t have friends, never mind girlfriends, on a powder day.
It’s important not to overindulge in GF skiing no matter how much you’re in love. Too much GF skiing can be counterproductive for two reasons. Firstly, your ski time will become unvalued and your sacrifice unappreciated. Secondly, if you spend too much time cruising blues and eating in restaurants, you’ll go soft and get fat, then your girlfriend will probably leave you.
That having been said, I find it important to go GF skiing at least once a week. It reminds me that some people regard ‘going skiing’ as a holiday and a holiday should be pleasant, relaxing and fun – something a lot of Ski Nazis forget.