We’ve always wanted to learn to ski. Ever since Steps released the Heartbeat video, we’ve imagined ourselves up a mountain, with dreadlocks akin to Faye Tozer’s, draped in fur, casually cruising our way down icy slopes and drinking hot chocolate in some little log cabin at the bottom. When presented with the opportunity to make this our reality at European Gay Ski Week – minus the fur, dreads and rescuing H from angry dwarves – we jumped at the chance. We’d just actually have to learn how to ski without killing ourselves in the process.
Making sure we had beyond adequate travel insurance in place – we were mildly terrified of ending up with plaster cast legs elevated in a sling for a month or two… steady – we packed our finest winter wardrobe for a week in Alpe d’Huez. A hop, skip and a short plane journey to France with a coach transfer ascending tiny, windy roads to a winter paradise and you’re there. The resort instantly made us feel like we were in a Christmas card, which obviously excited us greatly even though it wasn’t December, and made us realise we were on our very first winter break. Damn, we love snow.
European Gay Ski Week offer a fantastic range of activities, both to ease you into the experience and to help acquaint you with the friends you’ll be soon to make, and meeting our hot French ski instructor on the first day of ski school was a sure sign of a great week ahead. Starting off on the baby slopes and learning the basics: falling over for the first time, falling over on purpose to be helped up by the hot instructor, riding our first ski lift, skiing our first course with a level of control, going fast, not going arse over tit on a more regular basis, feeling the wind against you as learn to enjoy the speed, well, it was all pure exhilaration at its finest. Progressing through difficultly of slope on a daily basis and being pushed to do your best in a supportive environment was so much fun. In terms of physical activity, yes we certainly had our fair share of an aching body using muscles we didn’t know we had, but it was a rewarding ache. The long soaks in the bath in our lovely hotel at the end of the day was something to very much look forward to and completely deserved. Attending ski school every day was a routine we quickly got into and spending our lunch breaks in a restaurant halfway down a slope with the rest of the class is just brilliant fun. A shared experience such as learning to ski with the wonderful, likeminded company that being at EGSW offers is unadulterated joy. Plus, finishing each day at the Après-ski party to drink and dance with all ability skiers and boarders is a ridiculously fun way of meeting everyone, seeing faces you recognise from a certain gentleman’s application and winding down from your day…
Or more, winding up for the evening ahead.
One thing that the people at European Gay Ski Week know how to do is throw a party and every night you are offered the chance to hear fantastic DJs in action, see tremendous cabaret and be immersed in a top notch nightlife in this picturesque winter wonderland. We were mindful of not getting too messy, as we were enjoying the lessons so much and didn’t want to impact on the learning process, but we loved arranging to meet our new friends and go dancing in our newfound mountain home. It solidified the friendships made in the day, seeing everyone out at night, and made for so many ridiculous stories at ski school. Plus, doing the walk of shame in a mountainous, snowy paradise isn’t really that shameful.
With the week coming to an end and our final lessons of ski school over, we had a day to ourselves on the slopes. Deciding to brave the more advanced slopes with a snowboarder friend we’d made was our objective for our final day – a risky move, maybe, but we felt pretty confident with our newfound ability – and though we were slightly apprehensive of the unknown, we managed to achieve our goal of going from the green, beginners slopes at the start of the week to the more exciting red slopes by the end (it goes green, blue, red and black in terms of colour/difficulty). An achievement we made sure to tell everyone we’d met that week at the final afternoon Après-ski, where everyone congregated for one last snowy hurrah before all making our way down the mountain in one homogenous mass of half cut gays, skiing and boarding in harmony. Yes, it was certainly an experience we’ll never forget.
Our time at European Gay Ski Week over, numbers exchanged, new friends made, rented ski boots returned and our winter wardrobe packed away, we realised this is something we’d love to do again. We’d do it in a Heartbeat. If you’ve always fancied learning to ski but never felt like you’ve had an opportunity, we highly recommend a EGSW adventure. And if you already know how to ski and want to have a great time somewhere beautiful with people who know how to party; well you know what to do…
GT stayed at the Hôtel Alp’Azur in the Alpe d’Huez resort as part of European Gay Ski Week. For more information, visit europeangayskiweek.com
Words Harry Clayton-Wright
Images Laurent SALINO / Alpe d’Huez Tourisme