Carpet burns on dry ski slope put me off snow sports for life | Matt Mohan-Hickson

To call my experiences with winter sports ‘fleeting’ would be a massive understatement.

By Matt Mohan-Hickson
Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 6:41 pm

The closest I have come to hitting the slopes came in Year Seven and it wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience.

My secondary school had this programme called ‘enrichment’. This meant Wednesday afternoons were dedicated to activities that weren’t traditional lessons.

You got a sort of catalogue at the start of the year and you’d apply for the ones you wanted, each lasting a half-term.

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COURAGE: Matt's been inspired by the winter olympics. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

They included things like rock climbing, running the Fair Trade sweet store, canoeing, community engagement… and perhaps the most coveted of all (at least for that first half-term), learning to ski or snowboard at the dry slope in Sunderland.

It was one of those activities that sounds far better in theory and turned out to be far more painful and unsatisfying in reality.

You see, this dry ski slope was one giant carpet. When you fell over, and as children who had never used skis or snowboards before that happened a lot, you ran the risk of carpet burn or crashing into hard ground.

It also turned out to be a health and safety nightmare. One of my best friends crashed into a divider between slopes and broke his arm and a science teacher nearly lost an eye after being unable to stop at the bottom of the slope and crashing, shattering his glasses.

It made something as cool as snowboarding - up there with surfing in terms of coolness - unattractive.

I have been flicking through memories from that time as I watched the Olympics - the uncomfortableness of the Sunderland slope really put me off going skiing or snowboarding.

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But watching the Beijing games, seeing athletes dash across country on skis or pulling off incredible stunts , makes me envious I didn’t grow up in a place where winter sports are easily accessible. If only I was Swiss, Austrian or Norwegian, but alas these are just counterfactuals.

However, I am finally plucking up enough courage to properly try ‘hitting the slopes’ - the ones with real snow and plenty of hot chocolate.

I’M NO LONGER CLUELESS ABOUT CURLING

I have become obsessed with curling during the Olympics. It started with a couple of the British mixed team’s games.

Now I’m shouting at the TV telling the curlers what they should be doing with the next shot and I am barely past the utterly clueless stage.

There is a rhythmic and hypnotic quality to this sport; the way they glide down the ice as they push the stone, or the sense of magic that comes watching the team brush the ice trying to get the stone curling the right way.

But like all Olympic sporting love affairs, once it becomes difficult to watch again it will drift out of mind. But I guess when the Milano Cortina games start in 2026, I will be slightly less clueless about curling.

MONEY TALKS IN THE LAND OF FAKE SNOW AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

You might have seen the photos of the big air jump at the Beijing games. Instead of a backdrop of snow-covered mountains and alpine forests, there are steelworks.

The cooling tower bearing the games’ logo looms over competitors as they pull off gravity-defying mid-air tricks. It is a reminder of how unnatural and artificial these Winter Olympics are.

Beijing is not a traditional setting for winter sports, that’s why so much is artificial – including the snow. It is also a reminder the Olympics should not be in a country allegedly committing genocide against the Ughyr people.

Like everything in this life, money talks and China sure has a lot of that right now.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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