Saturday, March 01, 2014

The joy of skiing?

My sister said, "You must enjoy skiing as you're going three times a week?"

On reflection, I can't quite agree. Since completing my beginner course last week I've been twice more. I can get down with a fair-to-good confidence of neither crashing nor accelerating out of control down the fall line. My ability to do stem turns (skis parallel on the traverse and snow plough on the turn) is kind of getting there. I look with envy on those who swish down the slope doing stylish parallel turns. I wonder how long it will take for me to emulate them .. and I have no idea.

The experience feels much the same as when I was learning to drive. I knew then that it was a necessary stage, and that driving would be fun when it was effortless. But while you're learning it's rather desperate stuff with the odd moment of pleasure and achievement when something (rather unaccountably) works well or at all.

Yes, as I ski for the twentieth time down the slope, doing my turns, sometimes it unaccountably goes rather well.

It's incredibly useful to have Adrian accompanying me. As a ski instructor, he gets to offer hints and stop me falling into bad ways every session. I've seen a skier coming down, wrenching his body from left to right as he jumps into parallel turns. It looks a sweaty, desperate business and precarious at that: I don't want to end up stranded there.

Oh, and perhaps my impact pants will arrive today ... !

In the car on the way, we discuss the business model of the Mendip Snowsport Centre. The slope is longer and more interesting than most dry ski slopes, with a pleasant setting in the woods. The course starts narrow at the top with some bumps on the right, then turns sharply to the left onto a wider section (there's a quarter pipe on the right at the bottom of that run), before veering right through a steep section to emerge onto the lower slope where all the teaching gets done. The surface is that old-fashioned bristle lattice, which is both hard and slightly dangerous to fall upon.

An investment programme to use a more modern, carpet-like synthetic might allow them to develop a snowboarding park section with halfpipe and maybe some jumps. If they've got access to land, the investment might well pay off.


I'm reading Gregory Clark's "The Son Also Rises" which is a new look at social mobility across countries as diverse as Sweden, the United States, the UK, Chile and China. Surname records go back a long way and can be used to track the composition of elites in society. Most people believe that social mobility has increased in recent times, especially in the 'egalitarian Nordic countries'.


I'm still working through his country studies, and looking forwards to the reasons he suggests for the persistence of elites.