The Spanish Boot was a torture interrogation method involving an iron boot (sometimes with spikes on the inside) and a victim’s foot.
A little applied pressure could apparently get a lot of quick talking.
The reason I know this is because a lady on my ski lift, in the Swedish ski haven of Sälen, explained to me in detail recently the similarities between the Spanish Boot and her ski boot. She told me she couldn’t feel her feet any longer, but she beamed as she said it.
Another ski-slope screwball, I thought as we alighted, and I watched as she sailed over a ramp she hadn’t seen and snapped her finger in half upon impact with the snow.
This ramp was on a “green run”.
A green run, for those of you who weren’t born on the slopes, is designed for beginners. Like me. So what was a ramp doing there?
The website for Hundfjället, the ski area within Sälen where my recent misadventures took place, in fact, refers to green slopes as “very easy”, but it also refers to the mountain getaway as “a ski paradise for people of all ages”, so I don’t know what to believe.
Their green slopes were not easy, and their paradise was closer to a hell (frozen over).
The fact that the shoulder I dislocated was only the third least serious injury in our cabin of six should help you understand my frustration.
But it wasn’t just my lack of finesse on the slopes that left me reeling, there was a lot more to it than that. At least five more things, I thought.
So, as I nursed my shoulder back to health, I had time to reflect and came up with a list of the five main reasons I hate skiing:
1. The discomfort
This is perhaps what gets most people complaining. The clothes are often big, heavy, sweaty and prickly. The temperature inside your suit is harder to get right than the water in a youth hostel shower. It also might be the only occasion in history where a suit of armour would be both safer and more comfortable.
The weather is below freezing. There are “button” lifts that drag you along by your own anus. Mine hit me in an even more inopportune place during a rushed attempt to lodge it while trying to steer my skis and hold on to my ski-sticks at the same time.
Talk about piste-off.
And, even on a perfect day, you’ll be coming home with sore legs.
2. The danger
There is a hospital located at the bottom of the slope (that alone raised my suspicions), a helicopter on call, first-aid snow-scooters ready, and everyone is wearing helmets. Plus some people, who may or may not have control (how can you know at that speed?), are whizzing by you on pieces of plastic designed to go as fast as possible.
There are slippery ice patches. There are fences, poles and trees left, right and centre.
There was even one slope called “The Wall” (Väggen), one of Europe’s steepest slopes, where people with a death wish can exceed 200 kilometres an hour. No thank you!
Plus there was some dangerous winter fashion going on, but this was Dalarna, and that’s another story…
3. The kids
They are all better skiers than me. OK, this is a childish reason, but it still put me off. Kids were passing me backwards as I slip-slided away on my backside.
These smarmy little brats with their mohawked helmets and tiny skis were better than I will ever be, and they seemed to know it too.
I eventually knocked one over (unintentionally of course).
4. The price tag
If you haven’t forked out for your own equipment already, skiing must be the most expensive popular leisure activity around. There’s cabin accommodation, lift passes, ski hire… and it’s all downhill from here.
I made the sensible choice of taking a lesson too, and that in itself was 1,000 kronor ($150) – 1,500 for two – and I STILL can’t do that sideways stop that sends a little snow flying through the air.
5. The senselessness
I asked veteran skiers about why they liked skiing so much. “The freedom” they said, “the fresh air”, “the companionship”.
These things are surely available on the mountain with no skis attached.
What about the actual act of skiing, I asked. “There is the constant sense of improvement”, they told me.
Why not play golf? I must be missing something.
What I can understand are the snowboarders, with their breathtaking jumps, swoops, spins and flips. Probably more dangerous of course, but at least you’re not just getting from top to bottom on repeat.
Speaking of senselessness, a young boy in my own group needed immediate surgery after a shoulder injury, and then half an hour later, on the exact same slope, a 25-year-old man died after a snowboarding accident.
On a green slope.
I seriously wonder if it would be wise to take up the offer of another ski trip next year. Sure, there will be some companionship, fresh air, and freedom — but can’t you find those things on Mediterranean beaches too?