I can barely remember the last time I went sledding, but I have a feeling it may have been a little over a decade ago on the slope near some local woods. That, as I remember, was pretty fun, but anything I may have learned about its practicalities have evidently been forgotten. I meet my German wearing the following:
A pair of fake North Face boots
Two pairs of socks, one pair bought from Carrefour in
One pair of boxers so old I have no idea of there origin. Perhaps my mum bought me them.
Jeans: TK Maxx
A t-shirt: H&M
A polo shirt: a leaving gift
A zip-up top: TK Maxx
A hoody: stolen from my brother
A waterpoof jacket: also stolen from my brother.
The moment I arrive the German clocks me for the obvious dick I am.
“I do not think those are optimal,” she says of my jeans in pitying, broken English. They are also rightly concerned that I don't have gloves. Before we can leave, then, we have to go and get me some equipment. Of course I knew this before I arrived, but this whole en piste lifestyle is a bit beyond my means - £50 for a pair of gloves that I may never use again seems rather extortionate. Thankfully this stinginess pays off and the German stumps up the price of a pair of inferior gloves for herself, then hands me her quality mittens and expensive shades.
A short while later we're on a train up the mountain to begin. I have a traditional wooden sled, while she has opted for plastic. Having a colossal head and below-average size feet mean that my existence and balance have never really got on too harmoniously. Despite this though, I have been skiing. Once. I must have been about 14 at the time and went with a merry band of classmates to Glenshee.
We got there and a combination of my woeful balance, the awkwardness of being a teenager and an innate laziness meant that I quickly fell out of love with skiing. After half an hour of making a nominal effort, things quickly fell into snowball fighting, lectures from the teachers and a general “does not work well with others” attitude that I have been trying to perfect my entire life.
So regardless of the fact my knee would snap like a breadstick if I attempted it, I don't ski, nor will I ever ski. In fact, I'll never ice skate either. Partly because I am a cripple, but moreover because I don't give cat's cock about it. To me “good powder” means something very different indeed, and if I want to be scared and exhilarated I'll watch a decent film or get naked in front of a mirror.
Twenty minutes of an uphill train ride later and we have reached our destination. The first thing to note is that getting a sled started is quite difficult – I throw out so many pelvic thrusts I look like the horniest man in the world who's lost his dick and doesn't know it. After a few fruitless minutes of this unsightly grinding, I get going, some distance behind my Aryan playmate. The lack of control is amazing and the feeling of dazzling incompetence only slightly outweighs that of frustration. It's not long before I'm arse over tit in a snow drift, blinded, uncertain and angry. I want to give in after one tumble – journalistic box ticked, it's time to go home. But once you start one of these descents, you are, short of evacuation by helicopter, bound to finishing the course.
I put my shades back on, sort myself out and get going again. Less than 30 seconds later I've wiped out once more, this time landing like an inverted ostrich, my head sticking out the top of a mound of snow, eyes blinking into the void. After another furious five minutes like this it dawns on me: the crashes are part of what makes this fun and so long as I don't aggravate the fragile biscuit I have for a knee, I might as well enjoy it.
A couple of hours later we are back in
The results are pretty mixed, but the undoubted highlight is a shot of some school kids one the way home: the girls all cower in embarrassment when they see the camera, two of the boys pose and the last one throws a snowball at me.
I start in the hot room. There is no steam in here, it's just overwhelmingly hot. Sweat immediately leaks from every pore - the temperature gauge reads 78C. It can apparently go up to 90C but even at this heat it feels like I am slowly dying. I leave after what I think is 10 minutes (it's more like three) when my eyes begin to feel like pickled onions on a barbecue.
Next is the steam room, which is pretty standard, but far less brutal than the hot room. After that is the Alpine room, which if anything is a little dull – not very warm, not very steamy. Finally there's the ice room, which is something pretty new to me. It's about -6C inside, but perhaps because my body temperature is already high, it really doesn't feel too cold. All the while I take photos and pose like the sort of preening, narcissistic shit bag I profess to hate.
I'm supposed to be going out to dinner alone, but I don't really feel like it. Instead I open a bottle of wine and gnaw on some schnitzel I picked up at the shop earlier. I spend over an hour just looking out the window, sipping and gnawing. Mark Twain came here to write; I can understand why.
The whole time the knowledge that I'll soon be back in