For the second half of my year abroad, I lived in Innsbruck, Austria, home of the Alps and winter sports, most notably skiing. You couldn’t get away from it. Even your average Joe seemed to have had a stint as a semi-professional at some point. Despite having all the balance and stability of a toddler on a tightrope, I decided I’d have a crack at it anyway.

So I joined a group of friends— including my friend and fellow beginner, Sarah— on a trip to a local family-friendly resort.

Once we arrived and got kitted out, we made our way over to the affectionately titled ‘baby slope’ and prepared to take a ‘poma’ ski lift to the top. The poma resembles a zip wire. Unlike the zip wire, your feet remain firmly on the ground, you lean back, and it gently pulls you up the slope. Also unlike the zip wire, you do not sit on it.

Photo courtesy of Libby Shaw

So I got into position, straddling the seat and immediately sat down. To the floor I went! I looked at my friends and laughed. What a silly mistake. But before I had time to correct myself, I began to move. 

I had started my ascent sliding on my bum. 

I thought “Don’t freak out. Just stand up!” This failed miserably and I was still sliding upwards, bottom first. Suddenly, my legs whipped sideways. I panicked. The situation had somehow got worse. I was now being pulled up on my side, completely horizontal to the slope. I was a human snow plough. 

After a couple of minutes of ploughing, the poma began to slow due to the mass of snow I had accumulated. I thought “Oh my god, this is my chance.” But scrabbling frantically just made things worse. I lost my footing again and as the lift gained speed, I lost my grip. Holding on with one hand, I was now on my stomach, face first in the snow. I was officially Bridget Jones-ing.

After sliding for what felt like an eternity of agonising, demoralising minutes— and saying farewell to a ski pole that slipped out of my hand— I just accepted that this was it. This was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I slithered past numerous bystanders on the slope, who were filming me and laughing. I gave them a thumbs up. Might as well give them a sight to remember.

I passed several of the four-year-old snow babies, gliding effortlessly, born to sail without a care. And eventually, I slid for the last humiliating time as I reached my destination at the top of the slope. I laid there for a couple of minutes, still on my front, not wanting to face the world.

But following close behind was Sarah, the other beginner. Unlike me, she had mastered the poma. She was not as confident, however, with getting off. As she approached, gathering speed, I desperately tried to roll away. But you can’t roll sideways in skis. I was about to become a human speed bump! I hastily – and rather pathetically – squirmed away, and she dodged me— just.

In the end I did actually master the poma. But videos of my first attempt are likely circulating the internet by now, acting as a cautionary tale!


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