I thought I’d start with an easy one – there’s no technique required, right? Wrong. Toboggan runs in the Alps aren’t just longer than any hill I ever sledged down as a kid – think 2000m, not 20m – but they come with bends, which took some getting used to. Still, a whole lot of fun.
Now this one is straightforward – the signposting is good and the snow is flattened, so no trudging through knee-high snowdrifts. The map even showed where all the restaurants and cafés were! The only hard part was picking a trail (there are lots).
This turned out to be more akin to the sledging of my childhood, in a hang-on-tight-and-enjoy-the-ride kind of way. You might end up going sideways or even backwards, but the slope’s banking and the design of the rubber ring that you sit in mean that you can leave it all to gravity, while your inner child has a whale of a time.
Our day of cross-country skiing busted three preconceptions of mine. First, even hopelessly uncoordinated people like me, who, in aerobics classes, are invariably two moves behind and/or facing the wrong direction, can quickly master the basics. (Thank you, whoever thought of cutting 5cm-deep grooves to ski in.) Second, doing loops of a meadow is not boring when said meadow has a 2km circumference and a postcard-standard mountain backdrop. Third, you can turn up to a restaurant for lunch in tracksuit bottoms, a fleece and hat-flattened hair and no one bats an eyelid. Just leave your skis outside by the entrance.
Forget the frenzied sweeping you’ve seen at the Olympics; the only household implement used in the layman’s version is a tape measure. Once I’d got my head around the lingo and scoring system (only the team which got closest to the ‘button’ (target) scores for that ‘end’ (round), earning a point for each ‘stone’ that is both in the ‘house’ and closer to the button than the other team’s nearest stone), I really got into it. What’s not to like about a sport in which, traditionally, the losers are treated to hotdogs after the game?
The romantic in me had one goal for the week: to explore a silent, snow-laden forest. Winter walking and tobogganing didn’t quite scratch that itch, but snowshoeing did. The narrow trail – gratifyingly impassable to walkers, skiers or vehicles – zigzagged through the trees to give us our own mini Amundsen moment when we reached a spindly waterfall that no one had visited since at least the last snowfall. OK, so it wasn’t in quite the same league as being first to the South Pole, but the stillness and the solitude did make it my favourite activity.