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To Ski or Not To Ski – Navigating the Sport With a Non-Skiing Partner

My brother and I used to rib each other about our tick lists for the perfect partner. My brother was adamant that his future wife would have to be a skier. “But what if you meet your perfect partner and she doesn’t ski?” I would ask him. “Well, she won’t be my perfect partner then, will she?” he replied. Harsh but fair.

Anyway, fast forward a few years and I found myself in love with a non-skier. Not sure how (especially as I’d dated a ski instructor for quite a few years before deciding he wasn’t ‘the one’), but these things happen. And several years later my brother also ends up with a non-skier. A-ha, so his tick list wasn’t so important after all. But wait – just a few months into their relationship they’re heading off to the slopes. And, helped by him having his own apartment in the Alps, they’ve gone again and again. By the time I get the chance to ski with my brother’s ‘could be the one’ girlfriend she’s really quite proficient on the planks.

Meanwhile, my now-husband and I had to reach a compromise. After skiing every year, often twice a year, for 30 years I found myself agreeing to ski every other year. And he agreed to try skiing. After several trips away over the next decade enduring private lessons, group lessons, no lessons, he is a good, if tentative, intermediate skier, but sadly still doesn’t see “the point of going up the hill just to come down again”. And paying for the privilege.

family ski photo on a moody day on the mountain, with two kids
Tamsin and the family together on the slopes

Once you add kids into the mix it has the potential for serious challenges! Fortunately, my wonderful husband, when dragged off to the mountains, has always been happy to meet the children after ski school, take them for lunch and let me loose on the slopes for a bit longer. I can understand how some partners might see it as drawing two short straws – having to be somewhere they don’t want to be AND be chief child-minder.

two kids and dad in a gondola, smiling at camera
Husband and kids, before he decided he didn’t get the point of skiing

If, as a skier, you find yourself in this potentially challenging situation of trying to encourage a non-skier to see the light, then here’s my advice to stop your relationship heading downhill a bit too fast.

Choose wisely: Avoid the tiny back-of-beyond ski villages with only a bar, the local drunk and a large hairy dog for après-ski entertainment. Opt for resorts with more than just skiing on offer. Think swimming, ice skating, climbing, tobogganing. That way your dearly beloved can run the risk of actually enjoying some sort of action. If they’re just not the outdoors, sporty type then aim for a cinema, casino or shopping mall. Who knows, they might just discover a hidden passion for ice sculpting!

Baby steps: If they do agree to ski then don’t try to get them to ski all day long. Remember, it’s hard work learning a new skill so shorter days might be needed. While we competent skiers use gravity to our advantage, a new skier is constantly fighting it and will often feel exhausted after just a few hours on the slopes.

Gear up: Remember, they’re not used to preparing for the day so in the nicest possible way you have to treat them like a child – check, double check and triple check they have everything they need for a day on the slopes. All while showing a mountain of patience and avoiding being condescending. And yes, even carry their skis for them if they’re struggling (or at least show them the easiest way to carry them!).

Freedom to fly: We’ve all had the dilemma when skiing with someone whose skis don’t seem to slide as quickly as ours – do we stay or do we go? At what stage is it acceptable to abandon plans to stick together? And if cutting loose might be OK when it’s a vague acquaintance you’ve been lumbered with, the rules definitely change when it’s your dearly beloved. But with careful planning and thoughtful words, you can still be on the first lift having arranged to meet them for a mid-morning coffee “when you’ve had a bit of a lie in”.

Let love lead the way: As it’s a massive compromise for them to even be in the mountains with you, at least let them choose where you’re going to eat/buy a crepe/shop for souvenirs.

The more the merrier: If it’s your thing then holiday with friends so there’s a mix of abilities and always someone else to share the ecstasy or agony with.

Scenic route: Point out the scenery at every available opportunity – the beautiful mountains, the babbling streams, the remarkable cloud formations, anyone with a pulse must surely be impressed by these and realise it’s not just about the skiing.

Après play: If your partner isn’t too exhausted then make sure you make the effort to do something together in the evenings, even if all you feel like is a hot bath and a lie down. They might be up for hitting the town, some live music or even cosying up by the fire together. If skiing isn’t their thing then you don’t want to add to their annoyance by falling asleep after a day on the slopes. Snooze you lose.

Alternative activities: Perhaps your partner could consider joining you in the mountains but not even get near a pair of skis. For our last holiday my husband came along but didn’t ski, instead enjoying mountain walks, swimming, reading and relaxing. He also enjoyed being able to avoid uncomfortable ski boots all week.

Skiing solo: And finally, be prepared to holiday separately. Now my children are teenagers they’ll cope in the Alps without Dad, and he would definitely enjoy the peace at home without us. Absence makes the heart grow fonder so they say. Or maybe that should be, absence makes your ski days longer…

I’m pleased to report that I didn’t have to compromise on my wish list for a tall, dark and handsome husband. All boxes ticked there. Some things go to plan!

Check, check, and checkmate.

mum and two tall teenagers pose on the hill for a photo
Tamsin and sons on the slopes without Dad

About the author

Tamsin Robinson

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