The Olympic legacy should also focus on snow and ice sports
By Emma Bird. Last Updated: 04/10/12 12:14pm
So I have done it. My first ever experience on a snow slope and I fell over just once. Once! Do not be surprised if I mention this again later on, as to be quite honest, this was nothing short of a miracle in my opinion.
Upon arrival at the SNO!zone in Milton Keynes, I was a tad apprehensive as I was immediately a very small fish in a rather large pond of experienced skiers, snowboarders and staff.
However, once I spotted a young boy who, like me, was a complete novice, I relaxed slightly, and headed for the kitting-out area. This was, I should add, after reading on the day's itinerary that I would be having a masterclass with James Webb - a professional GB skier who did not know what he had let himself in for having to guide me on the slopes.
The area with all the gear was also like a complete new world - I needed help to buckle my boots, find a helmet (fluorescent yellow they told me was the best option!) and then to fit my skis. Thank goodness for my instructor, Nick Lark, even if he was to learn to laugh his way through the lesson he was about to teach me.
Kitted out and already starting to swelter in the main changing area, we plodded out onto the snow in boots that felt as though I was dragging another person along with me. That was nothing though. When the skis were on too, I felt I was controlling three people and none of them would listen to what I was saying!
We began with a relatively simple side step up the slope to learn how to grip the snow and not go floating all the way back down again. Looking like a cast of crabs, (with the baby one glowing from beneath the snow due to its beaming fluorescent head!) I eventually picked up the basics.
I then had my first few attempts at skiing downhill in a position called the 'snowplough', a braking technique which is all about leaning forward, never backwards, and with your heels apart so that you have the correct balance.
This art form was feeling slightly better and then it happened. I fell at the bottom of the slope and had the embarrassing few seconds where, no matter how hard I tried, I just could not lift myself back up again!
I rose from the depths shortly after though and I was determined not to say hello to the snow so closely anymore during my lesson. I progressed to learn to turn to the right, fairly well, and left, not so well, whilst trying to remember never back, always forward. Knees slightly bent, hands out in front and eyes forward.
By this point, I had also realised, due to the slight pull in my leg muscles, that this skiing malarkey was actually very good exercise and I had a feeling I would ache somewhat the next day!
The photographer was also now present; luckily he missed my fabulous waltz downhill earlier! After a few shots of instruction and downhill skiing, some snaps of me using the lift were also needed, which for me, was one of the things I found most difficult.
When on the lift you are fine, it is getting off that proves problematic! The timing was crucial and on several attempts I had to rely on James catching me so that I did not end up doing the splits half on, half off the elevating slope.
After a few more attempts, my time on the snow was over and I can honestly say I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. The entire process was incredibly smooth and simple, from collecting my waterproof kit, getting out onto the slope and actually feeling like I was learning something; it was all much easier than I had anticipated.
Having lived close to the snow dome for so long, I definitely found myself questioning why it had taken me this long to give it a go. Yet I was to discover that this was not a rare occurrence. With the winter sports receiving far less media attention, funding and understanding, many people feel it is out of their reach compared with the mainstream sports.
Following the London 2012 Olympic Games, the emphasis on legacy has always been of paramount importance - with Lord Seb Coe and his team aiming to get as many people as possible into sport.
Yet, it is not only the summer events that this legacy is aimed at; it is the entire spectrum of sports, including those held on snow or ice.
The governing body for English skiers and snowboarders, 'Snowsport England', provides a wide range of information on finding slopes and clubs, coaching and training courses and funding.
With numerous snow slopes now located across the UK, people can get onto the white stuff in areas including Milton Keynes, Hemel Hempstead, Tamworth and Castleford.
However, this information is mainly found through research, sometimes extensive, as the mainstream media rarely cover these sports in Britain - something which needs to change if there is to be a lasting transformation in the way snow sport is received.
For people, regardless of age or ability, wanting to get a taste of winter sport, 2014 Sochi snowboarding hopeful Jenny Jones advises finding your nearest snow dome and giving it a go.
She told Skysports.com: "It is really accessible, just come down and have an hour or two lesson and it gives you an idea of what it's all about and whether it's for you or not.
"It is a long-term sport, compared to going to the gym; it is more of a lifestyle thing."
Despite the popular belief that snow sports are significantly more expensive than regular sports such as swimming or cycling, they are far more accessible than they have been previously and snow domes regularly offer special offers and discounts to encourage people through the door.
It may well be that after watching Greg Rutherford leap his way to gold back in August that you wanted to find your nearest pit of sand, yet in two years' time, the likes of Jones and many of her GB teammates will be hitting the slopes in Russia for the world to watch.
Snow sport may not be for you, but if you never attempt it, you won't know how good you could have been.
Although I fell over only once (see, told you!), I can't quite see myself being a GB contender in the near future, but one thing I know is that I am very glad I had a shot at it. I will definitely be booking myself another lesson at the snow dome, and even though I looked like a beaming side-ways walking wannabe, I would do it again in a flash!
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