Words: Kojo Baffoe

It is 7:00am on a Tuesday morning. My alarm, on my phone, screeches hysterically from the side table. Groggily I reach over to switch it off and sink back into the pillows. It takes a few seconds to locate myself. I am not in my bed – the silence, the lack of children’s voices as they start their day give it away – but in the room of the Club Med Val Thorens ski resort in the French Alps. IBLQKojo in Val Thorens sit up, a little too abruptly, and it hits me – the pain. My muscles scream silently and fervently in unison. All my muscles. My stomach, shoulders, arms, back, calves. It is a symphony of aches and pains. This is the day after my first day on the slopes. This is the day after the first full day of a trip that was planned about four months before, which is to say, I knew it was coming and I planned to prepare for it but failed miserably. I am paying for it as I trudge gingerly to the bathroom to get ready for day two.

I had been going to gym relatively regularly over the last couple of months, although it was more for general health. A good gym week was three times a week during which I would jog leisurely on the treadmill and get onto the rowing or cycling machine, depending on mood. I did not have a lot of good gym weeks.

Monday was a strenuous day, physically and mentally. Climbing into ski gear and then heading out to meet the instructors for the beginners’ class, one did not know what to expect. Learning how to get skis on, balance, walk up a slope with sliding down…the tension of messing up gripping all parts of the body plus the awkwardness of walking in ski boots while carrying two skis, birthed a morning of pain. Have you ever had your stomach muscles hurt from the inside? Not a great feeling.

Kojo Baffoe Val Thorens 1

The plan was simple. Get into a gym for a minimum of four times a week for at least two months to do extensive cardio as well as rowing to prepare the whole body for skiing. A quick online search also provided some advice on the parts of the body to put extra attention on, namely knees, pelvis, ankles, quads, and glutes. Sadly, the actual execution of the plan fell short and I paid for it heavily in the first three days. The last two days of my lessons were awesome but better preparation would have made the whole experience much more enjoyable, particularly as, each day, involved longer and steeper slopes. There is much to be said about that moment when you get a rhythm and tackle a slope that looked ‘unskiable’ when you first saw it.

The process of learning how to ski (again – hadn’t skied in 25 years) came with lessons that apply to the slopes and to life in general, including:

  • You will fall at some stage, regardless of level of ability. Falling can be your friend, particularly if you feel out of control.
  • Relax and don’t fight everything so much. This takes its toll on your body.
  • Sometimes you will go slowly and that’s alright. Operate within your ability and listen to your body.
  • Once you are on top, there is only one way down. Ski lifts only go one way.
  • It won’t always be pretty which is fine. You have to break through the hard stuff to find the beauty within.
  • Don’t measure yourself against the children. They will, without fail, put you to shame.

At the end of five days of lessons, we had to go through a short evaluation and I now have a little booklet which shows my skills level. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back out there and raising those skills. Val Thorens has over 300 slopes so there is something for everyone, including my future skier self. And Club Med Val Thorens is the perfect home base with the necessary creature comforts to help you through the painful parts of skiing, especially the spa.