You know how sometimes, you try a certain thing once and immediately know “This shit isn’t for me”? Might be any activity or experience you could think of, like cage diving with a shark or eating fried maggots from a street food market – whatever. You could simply decide that you never want to go back doing that same thing, even if the shark DIDN’T eat half your leg or the insect snack DIDN’T give you three days of diarrhea. You could have simply hated it for itself. For me, this activity has always been skiing. Tried it once, no thanks, I’m good for the rest of my life. At least that’s what I thought until a few weeks ago. I guess it’s time to give these
maggots skis a second chance!
As you might know from previous posts, I mostly travel with my boyfriend Marvin (who would still prefer to be called a cool nickname here). Gladly, Commander Cool and I (nope, that’s not going to stick around) generally have the same taste in many things, including the places we want to visit. The major difference is – he likes to go on skiing trips and I don’t. Of course, that is because Marvin has been brought up in a family of skiing afficionados, while my family likes to stay where we’re less likely to have our bones broken. So as you can imagine, we were occassionally having a hard timing agreeing on holiday destinations. But up until 2017, skiing never really came up as an option because of my insistent refusal to hear anything about it.
There’s more than one reason that I don’t like skiing. First of all, I hate the cold. Period. I cannot stand being cold and no matter how much clothes I will put on in winter, I will still be cold which is why I end up disliking this season all together. I’m also not exactly the sporty spice kind of person. While I might exercise a little every once in a while, a highly challenging activity like skiing that really forces you to use every damn muscle in your body, I would never choose for myself. I like being comfy way too much.
What really caused my major panic about skiing though – was my disastrous first skiing experience. Having pushed these memories to the far corners of my brain for so long, most of what I remember about this school trip to hell is a blur. But it definitely includes a large group of students accompanied by one teacher and one older student, all of my friends grasping the skiing thing after what felt like 5 minutes, me trembling with fear and not being able to follow the group at all, and a teacher who (I think) meant well but made it all even worse by forcing me to ride at the front of the group, not allowing anyone to overtake my slow ass. No, I did not have fun on this trip (or at least, not while on the slope).
After I got back from this nightmare, I swore to myself that I would never ski again in my entire life. And that did work out rather well – that is, until now.
I’d known for a while that the day would come for Marvins family to invite me on a skiing trip and how was I to say no to that? I wasn’t. And after all, how nice is it to be invited on holiday by your boyfriend’s family? There was no chance I was going to miss that.
So in the beginning of April, we packed excessive amounts of luggage because apparently you need that when you go skiing, and set off to Livigno. That is a small town in the Italian Alps and, you guessed it by now, also a very popular skiing area.
To my own very big surprise, when I left Livigno one week later, I’d been proven wrong in so many ways – and could even imagine coming back there, that’s how much I liked it. So for all the other skiing sceptics out there – I FEEL YOU – and that’s why I want to share with you how I overcame my crippling fear of going down mountains with uncontrollable boards instead of feet – and why I think Livigno is the perfect place to start this skiing thing all over again.
The learning part
As with most things, there’s no right way to learn skiing. You can join a group, get private lessons, have your friends or family teach you (and risk to hate them a little all the way through and also after), or you could try it by yourself (seriously, why though?).
Most people seem to go for the first option and it makes sense. Groups are usually fun, the lessons will be more afforable that way and being around peers will provide many people with just the right amount of pressure to perform well and keep going even when they’re tired or scared.
While all of that is true, it doesn’t mean that a group is the right way to go for everyone. Me for example, I went for private lessons instead because if I want to learn something as scary as skiing, I need to do it at my personal pace and not at anyone elses. I didn’t want to be the slowest person in a group again. Other people might find a little bit of peer pressure motivating, but there’s no chance I would perform well while I’m worried about not being the idiot of the group most of the time. No sir, I don’t need that.
For your skiing lessons in Livigno, I can only recommend you to choose Centrale Scuola Ski. It’s right in the middle of town and exactly in front of where the freshmen hills are, so very conveniently located. I did two hours of skiing lessons on my first day and another hour on my second day, which I thought was good amount of time for a complete beginner. My teachers Cecco and Christian were incredibly nice and patient with me, joking around to loosen up my obviously frayed nerves and praising my every progress (although I’m sure I wasn’t that good).
As for the private lessons, another advantage is you can schedule them as you like and don’t have to take the skiing class at 11 am with literally everyone else. If you don’t mind getting up early, choose the lessons at 9 am – not only are they a little cheaper (39 instead of 42 euros), but the slopes will also still be really empty and you won’t have to worry so much about crashing into other people. (Actually, that’s not something you have to worry about at all because other people will EASILY identify you as a beginner and make sure that they don’t crash into you, but I still found myself a little uneasy when there were too many people around).
The skiing lessons themselves are actually much fun. As I said, the teachers are super nice and try to help you relax which is like the hardest part about skiing. They show you how to put on your ski, do some basic equilibrium exercises with you, explain everything about how to balance your weight and what it will do it your skis and also show you how to get up (important).
What I really loved about the lesson was that none of the teachers, despite their impressive skiing skills, took for granted that this sport comes naturally to all of us. In fact what I learned the first day was that if someone tells you that you only need to move naturally in order to ski, they’re a big fat liar. Because to ski, EVERYTHING you need to do is wrong and possibly dangerous according to what you have learned in your entire life.
For example, if you’re going parallel to the hillslide, you have to lean your weight into the direction of the VALLEY which if you’re scared of the steep abyss on this side, will feel everything but natural to you. I don’t want to fall down there, I just want to lean right here to this mountain side and stay safe… No. You have to. Otherwise you will end up looking ridiculous and getting no where. And the teachers really manage to help you overcome this fear of losing control and falling down that mountain.
The most important thing I learned in the lessons: It’s all about control. Because anyone can probably get down a mountain with some boards attached to their feet, but if you want to do this properly, you have to learn to control the movements of the skis so that you are the one who decides the speed and direction you’re going in. If you’re not in control, at some point you will fall and that point will come quickly.
Of course, you will fall anyway and you will fall many times. But the truth is – you will think that you’ll fall way more often then you actually will. This is another thing that I learned from the instructors: The older you are when you learn skiing, the more years you have already come to accept the fact that as soon as your body starts going into this sliding motion, you will assumbably fall on your ass next. Because in everyday life, we don’t experience this movement, except for example if the street is covered in ice, we step on it clumsily and boom, hit the floor. Our brain doesn’t like that so it remembers everything about it and panics when we put on skis because the movement feels exactly the same. Plus as an adult, you also know about the consequences that could result from falling and you DON’T want that so it makes you extra nervous and tense and stiff and all the things you don’t want to be when skiing. One good thing about snow though – falling doesn’t even hurt that much. I feel right in the snow about a million times that week and mostly because I was losing control and going way too fast – and I didn’t really hurt myself once.
All in all, I have to say that the teachers from Centrale Scuola Ski did a fantastic job at taking all these fears away from me by explaining what was going on, teaching me basic techniques that helped me overcome scary situations and introducing me to something that could actually turn out to be fun…
The skiing part
Once you manage your fears a little, skiing can actually be a quite fun experience. However, it is very easy to ruin said experience for yourself in very little time, so be wary. A not so smart thing to do is join your friends and family after your first skiing class and agree to ski with them now because you’ll “do just fine” (not my words). This is not blaming anyone, but most probably you will not do just fine, at least if everyone in said group is a much more experienced skier than you are. They probably mean well, but might end up overestimating your skills or get confused with the slopes and take you to one where you shouldn’t be on your first day (or in my case, probably ever).
Marvin and I ended up in a huuuge fight in the middle of the slope because it was just too much for me, I couldn’t do it, it was super steep and the snow was starting to become all slushy and slick from the afternoon sun, I couldn’t control my skis at all and everything was just awful. I fell down more than I actually skied and got so angry and tired from falling and getting up again that I ended up crying in the middle of the slope, unable to accept that there was no way out of here except for more skiing and falling on my face. A lot of drama we could have saved ourselves from by just not overestimating my skills and reading the map properly.
In Livigno, 26% of the ski-runs are considered “easy”, therefor marked blue on your map. That might not sound a lot but with a total of 120 kilometers, that gives you 31 kilometers of blues slopes to go for, no need to overstretch yourself. In my opinion, red slopes are possible for beginers, too, but they mostly are not fun because way too hard. And let’s not even begin talking about the one time that I got misled to a black slope and had to get down there somehow. Not advisable AT ALL.
The skiing season in Livigno is rather long, it lasts up until May 1st (I didn’t even know that was possible), and we were there in the beginning of April, when it was already rather warm during the day. If you are traveling anytime that is not technically winter, I can only give you as a beginner the recommendation to stick to your skis in the morning and be done by midday because after that, you won’t have much fun with the snow. It’s much harder to ski when it’s all slushy and while it will be challenging even for experienced skiers, you will struggle A LOT as a beginner.
So here’s two “rules” to stick to for beginners such as myself:
- Don’t overestimate your skills (or let others do that for you), but stay where you are capable of controlling what happens.
- Try and ski only when the snow conditions are appropriate for your level, especially avoid the super slushy afternoon snow if you can. It takes out all the fun, trust me.
If you do follow these, I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time skiing – or at least, you won’t hate it!
The Livigno part:
Apart from the great skiing school and the many beginners’ slopes, there’s many more reasons why Livigno is great and I really just want to name a few. Even apart from the skiing experience, it is a lovely place and has a very laid-back, international atmosphere to it. Because the city used to be cut off from the outside world up until the 1950s, it’s sometimes still referred to as Piccola Tibet, Little Tibet that is, and you can really sense the vibe that comes from the part-time independence somehow.
What’s cool is that getting around is made super easy for visitors, because there’s four lines of busses running pretty much non-stop and they’re free. Especially when you’re carrying all your skiing gear with you, it’s so nice not having to rummage around for change. And because the busses all run in circles, you can’t ever be on the wrong one, you’ll just end up getting to your destination a little later in the worst case – so I think that’s a really smart system.
The town itself is not super big, but has a charming pedestrian area lined with shops, cafés and restaurants. Actually, most of the shops you will come across are perfumeries, because good news for all of you tobacco, alcohol, coffee and perfume lovers out there – Livigno is a toll free zone from the EU, which means that all these goods are SO MUCH cheaper there. We ended up buying as much fancy booze as we were allowed to bring back home.
Speaking of prizes: When you’re up skiing in Livigno and take your rest at one of the ski huts, the food and drinks there are a lot more affordable then suspected. From what I heard, a plate of pasta or an equally plain lunch dish could cost up to 10 oder 12 Euro in other European ski areas, but in Livigno, for example at Mottolino’s M’Eating Point, wasn’t more than 7 or 8 maybe. That of course is a really important thing because skiing is super exhausting and you will be hungry a looot.
Also, the reasonable prizes allow you to drink a lot of shots because apparently, that’s what you do for every skiing achievement unlocked (don’t tell me it’s not true!).
While we’re already at it, Livigno also has some great places food- and alcohol-wise away from the slopes. For example, there’s the 1816 Birrificio Livigno, which is the hightest brewery in Europe if you believe their menu. Either way, both beer and food are great there!
As for the (in)famous apres-skiing part, I would say Livigno has just the right amount. There are some places down town and they usually fill up around the afternoon, but it isn’t a place bustling with night life, which I personally prefer because a) I’m really not into the kind of music these places play and b) I sincerely don’t understand how people are physically able to party after a day of skiing. What I usually ended up doing was going back to the appartment around 3 or 4 pm, take a shower and collapse into a nap (but still go to bed at like 10 pm later, that’s how tiring it is).
Also, there’s good places to rent out your skiing gear, no need for a newbie to buy all of that stuff. I actually went with a skiing jacket, pants and a helmet, all of which I had borrowed, and the rest was easy to rent out in Livigno. The accomodations usually have arrangements with certain places to get you cheaper prizes there, so I’d always go with these ones obviously.
One thing I would invest in though, even as a beginner, might be some good and long skiing socks. It might sound funny, but it’s actually really important that your socks fit properly because the shoes are so tight that you’ll end up with blisters otherwise. Also, don’t forget your sunglasses, because Livigno is one of the skiiing areas with the most hours of sunshine (at least according to everyone there).
Have you ever tried skiing before? What was your experience? Thought it was scary or that I’m a little sissy? Let me know in the comments!
Like this? Pin for later!