Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Struggling on the bunny slopes

'He told me to ski down a hill that looked like Everest. I'm not ready for that," I told him, sweating'

With the combination of fit instructors and après-ski opportunities, I knew that my holiday in Switzerland would be a target-rich environment.

And as a complete beginner, I was more worried about broken bones than a broken heart - until, on the first night, I met Julian, a tall, tanned entrepreneur who spends his winters in Verbier.



I confessed that everyone else in my group was expert level, while I was struggling on the bunny slopes. He offered to give me a private lesson the next day. Julian looked ultra-fit in his ski suit, so I felt a mixture of arousal and sheer terror coursing through my veins as we ascended the mountain.



"You control the skis, they don't control you," he said, with no hint of irony. At first, I loved the fact that he challenged me to advance to the next level by taking me down red runs. But then he led me halfway down a black run, and told me to ski down a hill that looked like the face of Everest. "I'm not ready for that," I told him, sweating. He laughed and told me that there was no way back.



The next thing I knew, I was hurtling down the icy slope, screaming "I can't stop!" Then he skied in front of me, and I crashed on top of him and heard a loud popping sound in my knee. He was giggling, but I was furious. "You did that on purpose!" I yelled. "You knew I wasn't ready!" He apologised, and offered to take me back to his chalet to "check" on my knee. We got naked and climbed into the sauna and hot tub, which in its own way was very therapeutic.



After dropping me at my chalet, he promised to call. Two days later, he hadn't rung, and I was annoyed that I'd let booze and adrenalin get me so carried away. After all, I hadn't expected anything more than a fling. Relationships begun at 1,500 metres have all the intensity of summer-holiday romances - with the added danger factor. I suppose I could learn a few life lessons from Julian, because my romantic entanglements of late have been as lame as my skiing. I realised that if I never challenge myself, I'll never advance to the next level. If I want the thrill of finding something truly great, I have to leave the fear behind and be brave enough to risk a serious fall. Eventually, I want a black-run relationship.



So I did the sensible thing: got extremely pissed and showed up at the nightclub where Julian hangs out and told him that he had better have a damned good excuse for not calling me. "Catherine, look down," he told me, and pointed to the very large white cast on the bottom of his left leg. Apparently, his hard-core off-piste skiing had not gone to plan.



"Well," I teased him. "You still could have rung me. After all, your fingers weren't broken." We laughed and went back to his place for another type of extreme sports. I promised to look him up next year, but I'm not holding my breath. What happens on the mountain, stays on the mountain.



c.townsend@ independent.co.uk

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