‘Skiing’ (Sk-ee-ing) verb; 1. sliding down a mountain, strapped to two planks made of fibreglass. 2. A questionable hangover cure; popular among students.
Yes, it’s that time of year when everyone has to make agonizing small-talk with half-pal-mates-from-halls about ‘What you did over break?’. For a fair percentage of the social student population, that talk will be about the legendary St Andrews University ski-trip. A long standing winter blowout, known for all mannerism of snow-sliding-activities and debauchery (sometimes at the same time), fuelled, of course, by plentiful supplies of booze.
This year I was a ‘ski-trip fresher’ and had been warned by friends that went on last year’s trip that it was unlike any other holiday experience and that it’s a must for anyone who enjoys a rampant boozer. I would venture they weren’t wrong. But the 100% perfect trip is surely impossible to achieve, so to book onto one of these trips expecting perfection (I probably did) is to prepare yourself for disappointment.
This year’s trip was set in the beautiful Tignes in the French Alps. For anyone who has never experienced a ski-holiday before (and I would urge you to bucket-list it if not) I found that a huge part of the enjoyment was just being in such a breathtaking environment. You can take a day to walk up a hill to get a nice view, but if there’s a chairlift, up you can raise yourself hundreds of metres in minutes so that you get dozens of different vistas to marvel on each day.
You can stare out over the endless rows of mountains and let the adrenaline flow through you as you fling yourself over the edge and cruise down the hill. Tignes had a variety of slope gradients to suit all tastes. From scenic blue-runs for beginners like me right up to break-neck black runs for people who probably wouldn’t miss their left arm’s functionality anyway.
The trip organisation was mixed: a culmination between the student committee of the St Andrews Snowsports (SAS) and a holiday organiser called Wasteland Ski. I appreciated later in the holiday that some of the disorganisation was due to a prior booking falling through, which obviously can’t be helped, and we made the best of it. The St Andrews party was split up into at least 3 hotels, one of which was a 10 minute trek through the snow from the others. Also, the proximity to other residents meant that sadly we had to be well behaved. With high expectations of big pre-partying, this was less than ideal.
The biggest outrage of the trip was the infamous ‘Mountain Meal’, a pre-paid dinner and drinks occasion at a bar/restaurant on top of a mountain which we had to take a funicular tram to get to. Sounds great on the face of it. In the past it has had a reputation for more bottles of wine than people and spontaneous nakedness. But this year for 40 pounds we got food on plastic plates with plastic forks, no-where to sit and one free drink which amounted to a small glass of wine or a HALF pint of beer. HALF A PINT!? Again, out of the control of our committee and they did manage to recover it later in the evening. But I still left feeling like I’d paid a fair bit of cash for a rather damp squib.
So, if you’re looking to try something new next winter, get a group of mates together and try the ski-trip, but don’t let yourself get carried away by unrealistic expectations. For what you get, it’s great value. If the bonkers-boozing isn’t up your street, then maybe the ski-trip isn’t for you. See if you can convince Mum and Dad to dig out their 70s bright purple waterproofs and take you somewhere nice in the snow. Skiing can be relaxing as well as a thrill ride. And if you end up in hospital, at least you can say you tried.