1. Pick your resort. Sounds blindingly obvious, but it is important to find a place where you can stay within your comfort zone. If you’re an experience skier, then you may have favourites you know very well, but if you’re heading for a new destination, or you’re a novice of any age, then do ask for advice. Don’t go to a place where you could end up scared to death and can only cope with a couple of the runs… even if you’re an expert, choose a place with plenty of easier runs to play on and with lots of local atmosphere for any days when you might want to give skiing a rest.
2. Take time to study a piste map and take a good look around. Whether you’re a novice or a veteran in an unfamiliar region, learn your way about, so that if you do get a twinge, feel tired or decide you’ve had enough, you’ll be able to call it a day and get home without the risk of getting hopelessly lost or ending up in the wrong village.
3. Be prepared! It’s not the Olympics or the World Cup, but get yourself as reasonably ski fit as you need to be, because the fitter and more flexible you are, the less likely you are to injure yourself or cause lasting damage if you do take a tumble. And take extra, extra care getting off the ski lift for the first time at the start of your trip… it’s all to easy to catch an edge and embark on a slo-mo forward fall that could wreck your knees before you’ve even reached the slopes.
4. Make sure your insurance is up to the mark to cover EVERYTHING; and also ensure it’s up-to-date, along with your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which has replaced the old E111 form many of us still have tucked away. This is free on www.ehic.org.uk.
5. No wish to be too negative or labour the health aspects, but put together a basic first aid and medication kit, including suitable painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen (check with your GP or pharmacist), plus maybe a pain-relief spray and an elastic knee/ankle support. Your hotel or chalet should be more than capable of supplying an ice pack, or ice cubes for the necessary drinkie-poos, should you come to grief.
6. Carry some high-factor sunscreen for high-altitude protection, as well as a dry-oil spray if you’re a bloke with a pink solar panel to expose when you take off your ski helmet or woolly hat. And don’t forget to put cream underneath your nose and chin – snow is very good at reflecting harsh sunshine upwards!
7. Do make sure your boots fit properly. If you don’t have your own, take plenty of time in the rental shop and make the most of their expertise to get them snug and comfy – ill-fitting boots and sore, cramped feet miles from anywhere could turn into a nightmare and easily ruin a holiday.
8. We often lose muscle bulk, and prominent shinbones can soon become chafed and raw even with the best-fitting boots, so put a good shake of talcum powder or a dollop of Vaseline (really!) into a small polythene sandwich bag, smooth it out flat, then tape it to the front of your sock, thereby cutting friction with the boot tongue and preventing your leg being rubbed to bits. An oldie but goody – and it really does work!
9. Drink lots of fluids – but take it easy with the booze. It’s easy to get dehydrated when you’re high in the mountains, so take on lots of water or juice; and if you’re on skis, don’t get even higher on alcohol. If you’re planning a largely-liquid lunch, or are led into temptation by the ambiance and sunshine on a restaurant terrace (oh, the temptation!), then back off from skiing and, if need be, take the lifts back down to base. Booze might make you more relaxed, but it can also make you more reckless, and mixing that with slowed-down reactions and possibly-fragile older bones is not a good cocktail.
10. The most important tip of all… have a great holiday! Life IS too short, so make sure every precious day on the snow really counts; and try not to be on a downer and think about all the ski resorts you would never have a chance to visit even in two hedonistic lifetimes. Strangely enough, the three letters in the word SKI can also be an acronym for Spending the Kids’ Inheritance – and if that’s the way it has to be, then so be it! Enjoy!