With so many satellite cable and terrestrial television channels available, it's hard to miss downhill slalom or ski jumping coverage and absorb the electric atmosphere that radiates from spectacular winter sporting events. If regular yearly coverage leaves you yearning for more then you can look forward to the Winter Olympics, which are a four-yearly reminder of the building momentum the world over for an ever-gowing body of devotees to winter sports.
If you've ever passed through a civil airport at the start of the skiing season, you could hardly fail to notice the mounds of ski and board bags adding to the usual pile of luggage queued for check-in. In recent years it has become something of a ritual for news reporters to make a best guess as to how many people have joined the ongoing stampede to the mountains on any given day, particularly when charter flights are destined to depart.
There are, of course, two types of people - those who do and those who don't. For those yet to be broken-in, it is amazing how many people are really just in need of "dutch courage" or a sharper edge on the business end of their bravado! This often comes in the form of a "final push" from a friend who already skis and having those all-important doubts and fears laid to one side with reassuring anecdotes and tales of good times on the mountain. The truth is, we were all beginners once and there is a whole industry dedicated to making it easy and fun to learn to ski.
Children can start from as young as 2 or 3 years old but this is more common among people who live in countries with their own ski resorts. Many more people learn to ski on school ski trips in their early teens. Having started in my earls teens, I decided to start my own son off when he was 8 years old and I am now a firm believer in "the earlier the better". If skiing is already a big thing in your family then you are likely to have enjoyed an early start but what if you managed to pass by the school ski trips and you're wondering how to get going later in life? Don't worry, all is not lost!
English speaking beginners in the USA do not have the issue of language barriers faced by English speakers in Europe and there are plenty of skiing opportunities in the mountain states. In Europe, you are likely to encounter language issues. This is, in reality, much less of a problem than you would expect. Your travel agent will be able to advise you on your best options. The majority of European countries have ski schools where English is spoken to a reasonable standard. In order to enjoy some of the best English speaking instructors in Europe, one option is to visit the tiny principality of Andorra, located high in the Pyrenees between France and Spain.
Andorra scores highly for beginners on a number of fronts. Being a duty free resort, whatever you buy in Andorra is likely to be pretty good value. Being one of the highest resorts in Europe, you will be very unlucky to experience poor snow conditions. With substantial investment in the ski lift systems, the infrastructure is of high quality. One of the most impressive aspects of Andorra is that the ski schools usually employ a considerable number of native English speaking instructors which many beginners find very helpful. If you are tempted to take older relatives, you will find that free lift passes are usually given to those 70 years old and over.
Most people who go skiing are usually hooked straight away. If you're young then the mountains offer a great opportunity to burn up your energy on the slopes and even more in the evening! For older skiers, you can have just as much fun if you take it at your own pace and you can set your own agenda. Having said that, it is a good idea to get some exercise in for some months before you go. You don't need to be super fit but the fitter you are the better will be your endurance. See you on the slopes!